2022 F1 Drivers Ranking #4: Alonso RaceFans

Why would Aston Martin invest in a 41-year-old driver who hadn’t won a race in nearly ten years and whose last world championship came before Lewis Hamilton made his Grand Prix debut?

But with Fernando Alonso still racing at such a high level in Formula 1, the valid question to ask is “why not?”.

Alonso’s reputation as one of the elite drivers in the field was influenced as much by Alonso himself and his army of adoring fans as by his genuine prowess on the track. But given Alonso’s results in 2022 on paper, it can be hard to see why he deserves such a high rating – especially so far higher than his team-mate. However, Alonso’s second and final year as an Alpine driver was one in which the regular regrets over the misfortunes that had become his trademark were more or less justified.

Jeddah was the first of many encounters with teammate Ocon

It wasn’t the strongest opening of the season for Alonso. Despite heading to Bahrain taking advantage of Alpine’s first set of upgrades before his teammate did, he couldn’t match Ocon’s pace in the race and was fortunate that Red Bull’s retirement enabled him to pick up any points at all.

In Jeddah, Ocon outqualified by less than tenth and then proceeded to fight hard to keep Alonso behind him in the early laps of the race as if the pair were fighting for the championship. After his teammate’s eventual vindication, Alonso suffered his first car failure of the season when the Alpine temperature soared, forcing his retirement.

In Melbourne, Alonso was fast. Finishing in the top five of each session from the second practice onwards, he moved into Q3 before laying a purple middle sector on his first flying lap of the final stage. Then, his hydraulics failed him under braking for turn eleven, ending his session in the gravel trap and leaving him tenth on the grid. In the race, his ambitious hard-tire strategy was seriously compromised early on, as the safety car squandered his chances of recovery and he was forced to pit for second, dropping him to 17th.

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Alonso was comfortably faster than Ocon through Imola but dropped from fifth on the sprint grid to ninth in the Grand Prix. When the Grand Prix started, Mick Schumacher bumped into him at the first chicane, injuring his car so badly that Alpine recalled him to retire.

Alonso breached his power unit allowance in the sixth round

But after three weekends of bad luck, he was entirely responsible for missing points in Miami. After missing Q3, he took four places off the line, crashing into Hamilton along the way. After being stuck behind Pierre Gasly for over 20 laps, Alonso lost patience and made a reckless dash at turn one, hitting AlphaTauri and earning a five-second time penalty. Then late in the race after the Safety Car restart, Alonso double-crossed the back of the circuit twice in an inaccurate attempt to stay out of DRS’s range of chasing cars. He was investigated and penalized for one of those incidents, and had his score demoted after the race.

At home in Barcelona, ​​Alonso struggled with being the first driver to suffer an EV penalty of the season – just six rounds in the 22-race season. Despite starting from the back of the grid, he did a commendable job in the race to move up the points with ninth, despite a slight delay on his final pit stop. At Monaco, Alonso crashed from the third quarter but almost got away without anyone noticing because all eyes were on the scrimmage on the road. In the race, he again showed his disregard for convention by deliberately backing off after the restart to effectively hold one half of the field at will. After finishing as “best of the rest” in seventh place, he later claimed to be trying to help set up a blocker for his teammate to nullify a penalty, which proved unsuccessful if that was the case.

Alonso’s on-track weirdness was on display again in Baku, when he made a suspicious mistake in qualifying after a red flag that just happened to make sure the cars behind him had to fall back under the yellow flags. He finished seventh in the race, ahead of McLaren and his teammate on home runs.

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As F1 slammed into Montreal, Alonso turned back the clock by storming the front row of the grid with an impressive qualifying effort in the wet in which he finished second on all three stages. It was inevitable that he would be passed by the faster Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr. in the race, but Alonso was cursing his misfortune when he began to suffer an ERS failure 20 laps into the race. Despite losing straight-line speed, he fought hard to keep himself in contention for the points – perhaps too aggressively, as his apparent weave on the backstretch on the final lap to keep Valtteri Bottas behind cost him two places after the checkered flag. Again, he scored fewer points than Ocon despite driving better over the weekend.

Alonso was a titan in the wet weather in Montreal

In another wet qualifying session at Silverstone, Alonso was again several rows ahead of Ocon on the grid. In the race he took advantage of the late safety car to jump in front of Norris and then held him off in the closing laps to claim the “Best of the Rest” fifth-place finish. But there was more frustration in Austria when an electronics failure before the sprint race left him rooted to the back row of the grid for the Grand Prix. Despite this, he battled back into the field, beat an extra pitstop due to a loose wheel and ended up taking the final point by passing Bottas on the last lap to salvage some bonuses from a tight weekend.

When things beyond his control weren’t going down, Alonso would constantly beat Ocon. But his teammate offered him no concessions on the track, sparking a second big breakout of the season between them on the opening lap in Hungary. Alonso was furious that a teammate had not treated him in the right way as Ocon did, but he retaliated by immediately announcing that he would be leaving the team at the end of the season to race for Aston Martin in 2023.

Alonso had rare luck at Spa, as he escaped contact with Hamilton on the opening lap and inherited fifth place after Ferrari made a mistake late on his fastest lap. He was stronger than the rest at Zandvoort to finish sixth, but then car problems started to strike again. He retired with a water pump failure at Monza and another power unit problem forced him out of the Singapore Grand Prix while running sixth.

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His performance on the Circuit of the Americas was one of his best championship drives. Without the updated floor offered to his teammate and receiving another power unit grid penalty, Alonso made it comfortably into Q3 over Ocon to start 14th and was as high as 7th before the safety car was deployed. At the start of the second period, he made the foul of not leaving “Stroll space” while his receiving teammate was in, and was sent bouncing through the air and hitting the wall. Despite the scare, Alonso managed to make repairs and retook the flag all the way to seventh, with his right wing mirror flapping and eventually dropping back later in the race. (It seemed for a while that the details would cost him the result, though he eventually avoided a penalty.)

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2022
Retirees keep coming for Alonso

In Mexico, he suffered his penultimate retirement of the season within a few laps of the end. Then at Interlagos, his on-track rivalry with Ocon reached a boiling point as the pair battled twice on the opening lap of the sprint race. While Alonso could have been irked by the lack of space he was offered out of Descida do Lago, running into Ocon in the pit straight was his fault. After stern telling from his soon-to-be former team, Alonso rose from 18th on the grid to finish a solid fifth and a vital ten points in Alpine’s battle with McLaren for the Constructors’ Championship.

It was almost fitting that Alonso’s final race at Alpine in Abu Dhabi ended with his car failing – the fifth time he’s been forced out of the race early through no fault of his own. In addition to all the other troubles he has had during the season outside of race day, he can be forgiven for being more anxious than most to put 2022 behind him and look forward to another fresh start at Aston Martin.

While his final standings position did not show it, Alonso was one of the standout drivers of the season. Aston Martin may have lost the four-time world champions whom they admire so much from their squad, but based on Alonso’s performances over the past season, they should have a pretty good feeling about who they will replace next season.

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