2012: The Ultimate Fernando Alonso?

Fernando Alonso approaches his final Grand Prix this weekend, he has won two world titles and deserved so much more. He has proven to be one of the all time greats over the years with each season passing by Fernando shows no signs of slowing but was 2012 the season where we saw the absolute best of Fernando Alonso?

2011 was a disappointing season for Alonso and Ferrari, after narrowly missing out on the title in 2010 they were tipped to bounce back and win the title. Alonso would only win 1 race that season with his teammate failing to score a single point that season, they needed a strong 2012 to keep the dream of winning together alive.

It was clear during pre-season testing that the Ferrari was one of the Scuderia’s worst designs in recent memory, both Alonso and Massa were wrestling with the car and it lacked downforce compared to it’s competitors not to mention an aesthetic only a mother could love.

Ferrari’s fears came true in Australia with both cars failing to make it into Q3 with Alonso and Massa 12th and 16th respectively, a spin into the gravel for Alonso marked the end of his qualifying and raised questions over the competitiveness of the F2012.

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Australia was the first signs of the Ferrari’s poor qualifying pace. Copyright: AFP

In a race of attrition Alonso would find himself back into the points, his race pace proved to be much stronger than his qualifying. Safety cars would help Alonso finish 5th and 21 seconds adrift from race winner Jenson Button but it was good damage limitation in a race that could have been much worse. It looked like 2012 would be a struggle for Ferrari, Alonso was contending with the Williams of Maldonado rather than fighting with the McLaren’s and Red Bull’s at the front.

Come Malaysia; qualifying would once again prove to be a struggle with Alonso setting the 9th fastest time and it was becoming clear that Ferrari only had the 5th fastest car behind Mercedes, Lotus, McLaren and Red Bull. On Sunday rain had hit the circuit and it looked set to intensify, the wet conditions allowing for the driver to make more of an impact. Alonso made one of his trademark starts and made up 3 places of the start, he was enjoying the F2012 more in the wet conditions but the rain got to torrential levels but benefited by making an earlier pit stop. The race was eventually red flagged due to the adverse weather, on the restart Alonso started to make his way passed the Red Bull of Webber before swapping to intermediates. Alonso would spend the remainder of the race battling with the Sauber of Sergio Perez for the lead but his experience would keep him on track and claim his first win of the season, a win that looked very unlikely after Australia.

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Alonso had now won in Malaysia for three different teams (Renault, McLaren & Ferrari) Copyright: EPA

China and Bahrain would bring Ferrari right back to reality, finishing 9th and 7th in both races. The Ferrari lacked grip and straight line speed, Mercedes would benefit from their double DRS system which would give them their first win of the modern era at the Chinese Grand Prix but the Ferrari lacked any innovation that could give them any advantage in any conditions.

Come his home race Alonso was eager to return to the podium, Ferrari had their first decent qualifying of the season with Alonso qualifying 3rd which would become second when Lewis Hamilton would be thrown to the back of the grid for not having enough fuel in the car. Alonso hadn’t won at his home race since 2006 so wasn’t going to let an opportunity like this get away from him, Pastor Maldonado took a shock pole position but come the start it was Alonso who came out in front. He was unable to build a substantial gap to the Venezuelan however and when Williams opted to pit their driver first it allowed Maldonado to get the undercut over Alonso to take their first win since 2004, Alonso would have to settle for 2nd.

Where Alonso struggled with the F2012 teammate Massa has a tougher time, in the first 5 races he only managed to score 2 points with a best finish of 9th showing just how bad the Ferrari was.

Alonso would qualify 6th in Monaco but would benefit from a start line collision between Romain Grosjean and Michael Schumacher, Alonso found that he could manage to keep up the pace with the leaders and crossed the line 3rd and just under 1 second behind race winner Mark Webber. Somewhat surprisingly Alonso now found himself at the top of drivers standings, in a topsy-turvy season Alonso had been the most consistent and against all odds led the championship.

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Monaco would spell Alonso’s 3rd podium of the season. Copyright: Motorsport Images

Canada would see Ferrari’s upturn in pace continue, Fernando was embroiled in a three-way fight with Hamilton and Vettel. In a race of high tyre degradation Alonso and Vettel opted to preserve their tyres in a two-stop strategy but this would prove to be an inferior strategy and both cars soon found themselves being passed by Hamilton, Perez and Grosjean and Alonso would eventually finish 5th.

The European Grand Prix would be Alonso’s second home race of the season, Alonso had never won around the streets of Valencia but with the unpredictability of 2012 after having 7 winners from 7 races then nothing could be ruled out.

Qualifying proved to be a struggle once again however an Alonso would start his home race 11th but would show his class in the race. Alonso made up places on lap 1 while Sebastian Vettel pulled away at the front, Fernando demonstrated the best of his overtaking abilities to the delight of his home crowd, he soon found himself in 4th prior to a safety car caused by debris on track after Vergne and Kovalainen made contact. Alonso jumped Hamilton in the pit stops and was now 3rd, on the restart Alonso made a lunge on Grosjean for second behind only Vettel but he soon ran into problem and retired with alternator failure. Alonso became the first repeat winner of 2012 and took his 2nd ever win at home, furthermore he extended his championship lead and now started to believe he had a chance at the title.

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Fernando was joined on the podium by his old rivals Schumacher and Raikkonen. Copyright: Reuters

The title was swinging towards Alonso, he finished 2nd and 1st in Britain and Germany after starting from pole in both races and had no real challenger in sight, after Hungary Alonso would have a massive 40-point lead in the championship and with the consistency he shown it looked difficult to write him off. Wet weather in qualifying in Britain and Germany and helped Alonso to his pole positions, it hid the deficiencies of the Ferrari but Red Bull and McLaren were starting to get on top of the tyre situation and make things lot harder for Alonso.

Alonso was the only driver to score points in every race but that would all end in Spa, Romain Grosjean had developed a reputation for his lap 1 incidents and made the biggest error in his career. Heading into turn 1 he moved across Lewis Hamilton causing the two to lose control and collect Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi with them. Alonso would see his championship lead slashed in a race where he would have found a way on the podium.

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Romain Grosjean would receive a 1-race ban for his part in the collision. Copyright: Sutton Images

Monza and Singapore would see Alonso score back to back podiums but far from challenging for the win, McLaren and Red Bull had pulled away and were the cars to beat but Alonso knew consistency was key to winning the title. Japan would see him suffer his second DNF of the season when Raikkonen’s front win clipped Alonso’s wheel at the start causing him to spin into retirement meanwhile Vettel took his second back-to-back win which would soon become four.

Back to back podiums in Korea, India, Brazil and USA meant the championship would go down to the final race, Vettel was now leading the championship thanks to his 4 win streak and Fernando’s two DNF’s.

It would take something big to win the title with Fernando needing to outscore Vettel by 15 points to win, Vettel would offer Alonso a glimmer of hope however when he made contact with Bruno Senna causing him to drop to last place. Alonso took the opportunity and made an outstanding double overtake on Webber and Massa for 3rd putting him in prime position for the championship but he made an unforced error dropping him to fourth behind Nico Hulkenberg.

Alonso would be promoted into 2nd place however when Hulkenberg and Hamilton would collide ending the Brits final race with McLaren in retirement. Vettel would make his way back up to sixth which was all he needed to win the championship and would end Alonso’s dream for the title that year.

Considering how the beginning of the season turned out for Alonso it was amazing to think he could even have a chance of winning the title but he took it down to the last race and was without a doubt the best driver that season. For those that had forgotten how talented Alonso was he reminded them that he was one of the best on the grid and arguably one of the best F1 has seen. He took a car that wasn’t fast enough for wins and challenged for the championship, if the car was a fraction faster he would have won the title in a dominant fashion. 2012 was the best performance we had ever seen from Fernando Alonso.

@F1 Brazil
Copyright: Formula One

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