Alonso's British Grand Prix win fuels hopes for season

If comeback experts Ferrari can continue to outpace the Red Bull Racing cars, we could be still in for a dramatic finale.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso stood on the top of the podium for the first time this season on Sunday.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso stood on the top of the podium for the first time this season on Sunday.

Whisper it, but we just might have a championship battle for the drivers' title after all when the cars and drivers arrive in the UAE for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.

Ferrari had the fastest car in the race at Silverstone on Sunday for the British Grand Prix and Fernando Alonso made full use of it to claim his first victory of the season.

The former world champion is 92 points behind Sebastian Vettel, the championship leader, but there are still 10 races to go and 250 first-place points to be won.

Momentum can be an important thing in Formula One and Ferrari certainly have it after their most competitive showing of the season. If you had to pick a team and a driver to close down a sizeable points deficit it is Ferrari and Alonso.

Alonso has already won two world titles, at Renault in 2005 and 2006, and has come close to winning two more. He is experienced in championship fights.

I have been impressed with how he has conducted himself this year and we are seeing signs of that paying off now with the Ferrari 150 chassis looking to be a competitive match for the Red Bull.

In the past, certainly when he was at McLaren-Mercedes and teammates with Lewis Hamilton, it was he who would be the one complaining and allowing his emotions to boil over.

It has been interesting that at Ferrari, while things have not always gone well for him, he has kept his cool and been supportive of his team. This is in contrast to Hamilton, who is making outburst after outburst about his McLaren team and the stewards this season, which ultimately helps no one.

I think Alonso has probably grown up a bit from his turbulent time at McLaren, which led to him being released from his contract after just one year, and then being at Renault when the scandal over Nelson Piquet Jr being asked to deliberately crash in Singapore came to the fore.

The Spaniard has always been a terrific racer and makes few mistakes but, like with any good driver, he appears to be able to raise his game when he has a competitive car, and he was fantastic once the track had fully dried at Silverstone.

Ferrari have worked hard since the start of the season and the number of new parts on the car have clearly improved the speed of the chassis.

They are probably the best on the grid at improving a car during the season, and they do have the ability to turn this around and at least put pressure on Vettel.

After last season's British Grand Prix, Alonso was only fifth in the championship and 47 points off the lead, but he enjoyed a strong second half of the season, winning four races so that he was in a position to claim a third title before a poor pit call in Abu Dhabi handed the title to Vettel.

Ferrari's ability to improve goes back further than their time with Alonso. In 1998 and 2006, Ferrari staged fantastic comebacks after being dominated by McLaren and Renault respectively in the first part of those seasons.

They fell short on both occasions, but championships that had looked one-sided at one stage, went down to the final round, largely due to Ferrari's technical ability to improve their car.

I am not saying they can catch Red Bull to deny Vettel a second title, but I think Sunday's race showed they can fight with them and have the ability to make things interesting and put some pressure on the championship leaders.Red Bull have made mistakes this season when the heat has been on. We saw Vettel run wide in Canada on the last lap to give Jenson Button the win, and then on Sunday they botched Vettel's second pit stop, and that lost him track position to Alonso, which proved decisive. Red Bull just need to play it smart, keep doing what they are doing, avoid errors and look to ensure that Vettel scores good points.

They can afford a couple of races like Silverstone due to their excellent start to the season, but a couple of non-finishes would certainly give Ferrari even more hope of hauling them back.

The next race in Germany is going to be fascinating. Ferrari will be looking to show their form at Silverstone was not a one-off, Red Bull will be looking to bounce back, while Vettel has never won his home event and will be keen to change that.

Johnny Herbert is a former F1 driver with three career victories. His column is written with the assistance of staff writer Graham Caygill.

Published: July 12, 2011 04:00 AM


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