By Kunal Shah and Mithila Mehta | By the time you read this column, Fernando Alonso would’ve probably made up his mind about his future in Formula 1. It’s strange that the sport’s most complete driver, also the sport’s unluckiest double World Champion, was struggling to find a competitive cockpit for the fourth year in a row. Would Formula 1’s loss be Indy Car’s gain? Here are five reasons why we would most definitely miss Alonso.
- Fernando Alonso 2.0 – let’s admit it, like most 1.0 versions, the Fernando Alonso 1.0 wasn’t most likeable. Yes, he was a double World Champion, super fast, hungry, but there was a certain arrogance about him that we just couldn’t love; or maybe it was because he beat Michael Schumacher in his prime. But the tough days with McLaren-Honda seem to have softened Alonso: he seems far more relaxed, joyful and humorous, qualities that absolutely make us adore him these days.
- The Radio Jockey – call it the advent of social media journalism or what you may, but recent Alonso’s radio messages have been epic. In fact, when he instructed the team with a “no radio till the end of the race” message at Spa, we were disappointed. Formula 1 should launch an Alonso-only radio channel with guest appearances by Kimi. Imagine having a feed of just Alonso and Raikkonen’s radio chatter! Fernando has been funny off-radio too, ask Johnny Herbert!
- The Joker – we would’ve never imagined Alonso retiring from a Formula 1 race to sit on a deckchair and soak in the sun. We would’ve also never imagined Alonso to have retired from a race and taken the nearest cameraman’s chair to try his hand at filming a fast-moving Formula 1 car. Also, we would’ve never imagined Alonso re-living his deckchair moment under the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix podium wishing Formula 1 fans happy holidays. And of course, we would’ve never imagined Alonso partnering with Button and pretending to be podium finishers during McLaren-Honda’s debut season a few years ago.
- The Marketer – 2017 was supposed to be Honda’s season of revival, but it has been an absolute damp squib. But this hasn’t stopped Fernando from using this season and the unexpected lack of good performances to market himself to the other teams. He’s used the superlative terms “best race ever”, “best finish ever”, “fastest ever” and the likes to no end to remind the world of Formula 1 time and again that he’s there for the signing! Unfortunately, neither Ferrari nor Mercedes fell for his charm, or speed, or marketing gimmicks.
- The Racer – finally, there’s no denying that Formula 1 will be poorer on talent quotient if Alonso was to leave the sport. The most recent occurrences in our memory would be the qualifying sessions at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the opening lap at the Belgian Grand Prix and several other races that repeatedly served us a reminder of Alonso’s capabilities and talent. If nothing else, Fernando’s tackling of Pouhon (one of the fastest corners of the Belgian Grand Prix circuit) was proof enough that the Spaniard has out-driven the McLaren-Honda package more often than not.
While much of Alonso’s current situation could be blamed on his team choices in the last few seasons, Formula 1 must take partial blame too. As a business, the hybrid turbo era of the sport has skewed the political balance towards Ferrari and Mercedes, the fastest of the four manufacturers on the grid, and they’re controlling the competitiveness of the current grid. It’s only silly for the business of Formula 1 if arguably the fastest driver on the grid is unable to find himself a decent car.