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Warrior Alonso bides his time

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Andrew Benson | 12:15 UK time, Sunday, 7 October 2012

Almost Fernando Alonso's first act after what must have been the huge blow of seeing Sebastian Vettel slash his world championship lead to just four points at the Japanese Grand Prix, was to quote that country's great swordfighter and philosopher Miyamoto Musashi.

"If the enemy thinks of the mountains," Alonso wrote on his Twitter account, "attack by sea; and if he thinks of the sea, attack by the mountains."

That the Ferrari driver can reach for the words of a 17th century kensei warrior and strategist in a moment of such strain reveals a lot about the manner in which he combines an indomitable fighting spirit with a status as possibly the most cerebral Formula 1 driver of his generation.

But it will take more than relentlessness and clever strategy for Alonso to hold on to a lead for which he has struggled so hard this season, but which has now dwindled to almost nothing.

The 31-year-old, who spun out at Suzuka with a puncture after being tagged by Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus on the run to the first corner, has carried his Ferrari team on his back this year.

Alonso has won three races and taken a series of strong points finishes to establish what was until recently an imposing championship lead in a car that has never once been quick enough to set pole position in the dry.

He did so by driving, in terms of consistency and lack of mistakes, one of the most perfect seasons there has ever been - a feat made all the more impressive because it was done in not the best car.

Fernando Alonso leads Sebastian Vettel in the Championship by four points. Photo: Getty

Yet now, through no fault of his own, Alonso has failed to finish two of the last four races and in that time Vettel has made hay, taking 37 points out of his rival's lead.

Heading into Japan, it was already beginning to look as if Vettel was going to be hard to resist.

While the Red Bull has been a forbiddingly quick race car all season, the team did not in the first half of the season find it very easy to get the best out of it in qualifying.

But since mid-summer they have found consistency, and started to qualify regularly at the front of the grid as well. At the same time, luck has deserted Ferrari and Alonso.

More than that, Red Bull also appear in recent races to have made a significant step forward in the performance of their car.

Vettel looked very strong in Singapore two weeks ago, trading fastest times with Lewis Hamilton throughout the weekend and taking victory after the Englishman's McLaren retired from the lead with a gearbox failure. And in Japan the Red Bull looked unbeatable from as early as Saturday final practice session.

How much of this is to do with the new 'double DRS' system which came to light in Suzuka is unclear.

Team boss Christian Horner said he thought it was more to do with the characteristics of the track suiting those of the Red Bull car. Perhaps, but the 'double DRS' certainly won't be doing any harm.

Unlike the system that Mercedes have been using since the start of the season, which uses the DRS overtaking aid to 'stall' the front wing, Red Bull's works entirely on the rear wing.

What it means is that they can run the car with more downforce in qualifying without the consequent straight-line speed penalty caused by the extra drag, because the 'double DRS' bleeds off the drag.

This does bring a straight-line speed penalty in the race, when DRS use is no longer free. But as long as the car qualifies at the front, this does not matter, as it is quick enough over a lap to stay out of reach of its rivals.

It is not clear how long Red Bull have been working on this system at grand prix weekends, but to the best of BBC Sport's knowledge, Japan was the first time they had raced it. Coupled with a new front wing design introduced in Singapore, it has turned an already strong package into an intimidating one.

Vettel used it to dominate the race in the fashion he did so many in 2011 on his way to his second-consecutive title. As he so often does in the fastest car when he starts at the front of the grid, he looked invincible.

Alonso, though, is not one to be intimidated easily and will take solace from the fact that Ferrari's pace compared to Red Bull was not as bad as it might appear at first glance.

Alonso may have qualified only seventh, but he reckoned he was on course for fourth place on the grid before having to slow for caution flags marking Raikkonen's spun Lotus at Spoon Curve.

And judging by the pace shown by his team-mate Felipe Massa in the race, Alonso would have finished in a sure-fire second place had he got beyond the first corner. He might even have been able to challenge Vettel, given how much faster the Ferrari has been in races than in qualifying this year.

Alonso's problem for the remainder of the season is that salvaging podiums is no longer enough - he needs to start winning races again. Which means Ferrari need to start improving their car relative to the opposition.

Meanwhile, spice has been added to an already intriguing final five races by a seemingly innocuous incident in qualifying in Japan.

After slowing as he passed Raikkonen's car, Alonso continued on his flying lap, but when he got to the chicane, he came across Vettel, who blocked him.

Ferrari reckoned this cost Alonso somewhere in the region of 0.1-0.2secs, which would have moved him up a place on the grid. The stewards, though, decided to give Vettel only a reprimand.

They justified this on the basis that they believed Vettel had not known Alonso was there - and they let him off not looking in his mirrors because they felt he had reason to believe no-one would be continuing on a flying lap following the Raikkonen incident.

But some would see that as flawed thinking. Alonso was one of several drivers who had at that point not set a time in the top 10 shoot-out, and all of them were likely to be continuing their laps because whatever time they did set was going to define their grid slot.

Although there is no suggestion Vettel held up Alonso deliberately, the Red Bull driver is a sharp cookie, and almost certainly would have known this.

Even if he did not, his team should have warned him. And on that basis, it can be argued that Vettel's offence was no less bad than that of Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, who was given a three-place grid penalty for delaying Williams's Bruno Senna in similar fashion earlier in qualifying.

Ferrari were distinctly unimpressed by the stewards' verdict, but Alonso being Alonso, he has not mentioned any of this publicly. Alonso being Alonso, though, he will have lodged it away for the future.

In the meantime, before heading to Korea for another potentially pivotal race next weekend, might he be studying Musashi a little more?

You must "know the times", Musashi wrote. "Knowing the times means if your ability is high, seeing right into things. If you are thoroughly conversant with strategy, you will recognise the enemy's intentions and thus have many opportunities to win.

"If you attain and adhere to the wisdom of my strategy, you need never doubt that you will win."


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  • Comment number 1.

    This is now realistically Vettel's championship to lose. The Red Bull has the advantage and arguably Webber is a better wing man. Alonso has performed well this year in an inferior car, but ultimately this doesn't matter as Vettel always finishes off strongly - remember 2010?

    Vettel is slowly becoming the ultimate driver, and surely a third consecutive WDC will finally dispel the myth that Vettel is only champion because of the car - he has battled hard this season and whoever wins does deserve it. I wish Vettel good luck and hope he won't run into 'Red Bull unreliability'...

  • Comment number 2.

    Looks like Vettel now but who knows? - great season this is.

  • Comment number 3.

    I have to add I don't like Andrew Benson's blogs. They never seem fair and balanced - always attacking drivers, and I feel he is taking a swipe at Vettel here:

    ''Although there is no suggestion Vettel held up Alonso deliberately, the Red Bull driver is a sharp cookie, and almost certainly would have known this.''

    Why suggest that Vettel is happy to impede and 'do a Schumacher'? I certainly won't be happy with Formula 1 blogs on this site until someone fair and with actual knowledge of the sport (perhaps Gary Anderson) writes them. I've been quiet all year about this but I seriously feel your two-bit journalistic fodder is ridiculous.

  • Comment number 4.

    Bit of hyperbole there, Andrew. What's so brilliant about cut'n'pasting something & posting it on your phone. More shades of Eric Cantona and his seagulls, if you ask me. Nobody could touch Vettel all weekend, & he had plenty in reserve if he had been pushed, so it's wishful thinking to say Alonso could have pushed for victory. The momentum is now with Vettel. Congratulations to Vettel on equalling Fangio's win record, also to Massa & Kobyashi for their podium places, two drivers needing a good audition today for race seats next year.

    Nice drive from McLaren's No 1 driver today, despite his gearbox woes, & a great opportunistic overtake by Perez on Hamilton.

  • Comment number 5.

    "Yet now, through no fault of his own, Alonso has failed to finish two of the last four races"
    Not sure what race you were watching Mr Benson but the Japanese grand prix I watched Alonso pushed Raikkonen off the track.

  • Comment number 6.

    why a 'sure fire' second place for Alonso. What about Webber??

  • Comment number 7.


    I agree. Raikonnen was effectively pushed onto the grass with little room. He moved back because he knew he would be out if he spun and went into traffic - a la Alonso.

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree with 5. Alonso was not blameless today with his Kimi incident

  • Comment number 9.

    i don't like alonso but i would rather he won the title rather than vettel, it was Ferrari's fault in in 2010 as it is now if they throw away the title.but Hamilton was good in a solid drive with the wrong set up.overall a pretty boring Grand Prix and mclaren got a little taste of things to come in the future,with perez making a stunning move on lewis then trying it again and beeches it,and button cant even get close to kobayashi,Hamilton would of nailed him.good luck mclaren you will surely need it.great drive by kamui and massa.vettel is going to coast to the championship which in some ways deserve it with their car,but alonso deserves it with his a hamilton fan i would rather alonso earn it with wins and not scraping 4th-5th really sends a message out to ferrari improve the car or you might even finish 4th

  • Comment number 10.

    i dont like alonso but i would rather he won the title rather than vettel, it was Ferrari's fault in in 2010 as it is now if they throw away the title.but hamilton was a good in a solid drive with the wrong set up.overall a pretty boring grand prix and mclaren got a look in the future,with perez making a stunning move on lewis then trying it again and beeches it,and button cant even get close to kobayashi,hamilton would of nailed him.good luck mclaren.i would rather a team/driver earning the title with effortless drives like vettel than alonso cashing in on everyones bad fortune.i hope hamilton can get 3-4 race wins before the end to make it interesting

  • Comment number 11.

    lol i thought it didnt post,sorry.cheers bbc not even telling me i posted it

  • Comment number 12.

    Wasn't a bad race, though I think any chance of another driver challenging Vettel was evaporated in the first two corners. despite looking a little distant at the start, Hamilton came through well in the end. Though, it would have been nicer if Perez had not retired, I feel he really could've spiced things up amongst the middle-points places. Button did well though the Sauber didn't show unbelievable pace, it's a little concerning that the McLaren struggled to match it. Well done Kamui for what is, to me, a long deserved podium, and could to see Massa finally starting to get his groove back.
    Was also impressed with Daniel Ricciardo, manging to hold off the faster Schumacher with some clever defensive maneuvers.

  • Comment number 13.

    Excuse the number of typos, the fatal one being 'good to see Massa*'

  • Comment number 14.


    Surely Alonso's oportunistic nature to this season doesn't mean he SHOULD win the WDC? That is like saying West Brom deserve to win the EPL because of the way they play football...

  • Comment number 15.

    What. Utter. Rubbish.

    You would of thought Alonso was the messiah reading this guys articles, not going to stay around as the usual rubbish of Jenson V Lewis will rear it's ugly head on here

  • Comment number 16.

    Andrew Benson wrote:

    "Yet now, through no fault of his own, Alonso has failed to finish two of the last four races"


    Blameless in Spa, certainly. But I don't know quite where Alonso expected Raikonnen to go. He was all out of racing track as it was, and then Alonso came back over again.

    Leave a cars width. Alonso did not.

  • Comment number 17.

    After seeing the comments on Andrew's writing above, all I can say is that I think he's one of the best F1 journalists today.

    If you don't like what he writes, if you think you're going to be upset or enraged, then why read it, and why comment? The answer lies within you.

  • Comment number 18.


    Hamilton didn't do anything today apart from get mugged by Perez, so your assertion that he would have nailed Kobayashi is wishful thinking in the extreme, he struggled to even shake off Hulkenberg in the Force India.

  • Comment number 19.

    Agree it looked liked Alonso's mistake.

    Red Bull also showing how to make having the fastest car count unlike McLaren. Can't say I like Vettel much, but have to respect him for battling it out this season and now showing his class.

  • Comment number 20.

    Altough I was happy for Massa today I was also dissapointed by the bad luck Alonso had. I´m not so sure Alonso has a chance to win the championship. The Red Bull is a rocket. I´m afraid Alonso needs external help like rain or a problem in Vettel´s car to win. There is little Alonso and his car can do to win the championship.

  • Comment number 21.

    Totally agree. Grosjean pushes Hamilton wide at Spa - causes a huge pile up and gets a ban, shame on you Romain. Alonso does the same in Japan and is LUCKY to avoid taking anybody else out with him - and it's Kimi's fault? Alonso was not "taken out" of the race as the report headline suggests, he made a mistake and crashed out.
    "luck has deserted Ferrari and Alonso" Lady luck has been with Alonso this season far more than any other driver. I'm not one for Benson-bashing, but his unfaltering love of Alonso is beginning to grate.
    Fantastic home podium for Kamui. I really hope Vettel doesn't make it 3 consecutive titles.

  • Comment number 22.

    While i agree that Alonso is a very good driver, the fact that Sebastian has had his share of bad luck is ignore. Alonso too has capitalised on vettel's bad luck.

    In 2010 it was not just Ferrari's mistake which lost Alonso the title, the fact remains that Redbull unreliability brought Alonso closer to the title.

    All in all i am looking forward to the next five years which is going to be very close. PS I am not a fan of any one driver.

  • Comment number 23.

    Minor Correction "Next Five Years" should read as "Next Five Races"

  • Comment number 24.

    "All the time you have to leave the space!" - Fernando Alonso, Bahrain Grand Prix.

    How anyone can think that was anything but his fault I do not understand. A little unlucky to get the puncture, I suppose, but he created the situation in which it happened.

  • Comment number 25.

    Vettel's title to lose now unless he has a run in with Grosjean/Maldonado or his alternator packs up again can't see any other winner.

  • Comment number 26.

    Andrew, you may as well give a clear written warning at the top of your blog about how you are pro-Alonso, so at least we know for certain as to the reason for your quite obvious bias.

    The Red Bull car has is not been the fastest car all season by any stretch. The McLaren has bee the fastest, but it has escaped the attention of pundits and commentators alike that the drivers wasted their opportunity at the start of the season to dominate.

    This article feels like an attack on Vettel for having the cheek to catch Alonso's lead. You must have been absolutely distraught when Alonso crashed out, knowing that for the next 53 laps, Vettel was driving along laughing at him.

    There also always seems to be a mention of comparison with the drivers, "... the finest of his generation", "...considered by many to be the fastest in the world", "...thought to be faster than anyone in history". Sorry, who is this "many" may I ask? Or is that just YOUR opinion?

  • Comment number 27.

    The way Coulthard so prejudice and dislike Hammy is disgrace for beeb. First he said he would rather seeing Diresta on Ferrari rather than Hulk only cos hes Scottish as he is when it's clearly Hulk is so much better driver and more exciting to watch than Diresta which is for me is so mediocre and more he said on how defensive is Hammy on Perez move which is ended him self accident,when it clearly there is no way you can pas another moving car at Suzuka hairpin from outside unless if he is just extremely lucky. I just wish for a good analyst with their fair comment and not taking aside on their favourite drivers.

  • Comment number 28.

    go back to Singapore. Lewis Hamilton in a comfortable lead and then gets gear-boxed out of a certain win. He loses an easy first place finish to put him 25 points behind leader Alonso. If he were to reapeat a podium finish at Suzaka, today he would have come out a co-leader, or within 10 points. We would have had a 3-person race to the finish.

    Thanks MacLarren for making a mince meat out of a fantastic WDC chance for Lewis Hamilton. I hope 2013 will be a more interesting year, durign which MacLarren wallow in their customary error-prone race management.

    And today, we got a glimpse of the prized signing Sergio Perez trying to pull a fast one on Lewis Hamilton and taking himself out of the race. What dumb move. Fool me once shame on me, try to fool me twice shame on you. Sergio was tryting a repeat takeover Lewis Hamiton for the second time, thinking he could simply drive all over the fastest driver in F1. I reckon Sergio Perez had Ron Denys and Martin Whitmarsh in his head when he was trying to overtake Lewis.

  • Comment number 29.

    You wonder what Alonso must be thinking....minds turn to 2010 when he lost the title on the last race of the season and he will be kicking himself if Vettel becomes a triple World Champion before he does...all he needs to do is finish a race....which Ferrari havent seen to give weeks race will give us an indication.

  • Comment number 30.

    @1 VettelDRFC90 ... "Vettel is slowly becoming the ultimate driver, and surely a third consecutive WDC will finally dispel the myth that Vettel is only champion because of the car - he has battled hard this season and whoever wins does deserve it. I wish Vettel good luck and hope he won't run into 'Red Bull unreliability'..."

    Besides prejudice on your behalf, in what sense did Vettel dispel the "myth" that he is only a champion because of the car? I will not go as far to say that he is not a good (quick) driver (not the ultimate driver)... but he never out-drove the car... and this year he had the chance... (as the car was amongst the quickest at the start, but not without competition... and he did not particularly shone, did he?).

  • Comment number 31.

    I'm trying to understand the logic, or rather lack of it in the comment pasted by 1.Vettel DRFC90.

    Unlike Alonso, the young german does needs a fast car to get podioums and consequently victory. I would hardly agree that Vettel is fast becoming the "ultimate driver". A title that would be better reserved for any driver that can basically perform on all tracks, despite the limitations of the car. I would not even regard Alonso as being the ultimate driver, though would agree that he is closer to deserving of such a title, as opposed to the younger Vettel.

  • Comment number 32.

    Lol, this video having a go at Perez's failed over take on Lewis.

    Vettel is fully back into the title and can take it unless Alonso maintains his consistency. Reliability problems with others as well as his brilliant driving has got Alonso to his current position but may be luck is running out now. Lewis still has an outside but he needs a race where Vettel and Alonso fail to score or score low points because time is running out.
    As for McLaren, they better start focusing on Lewis if he has any small realistic chance of winning. Making Jenson equal priority is very silly management at this stage

  • Comment number 33.

    100% agree with Need4Speed

  • Comment number 34.

    Once again it seems the Red Bull are advancing whilst both Ferrari and Mclaren
    (as usual) are falling back.

  • Comment number 35.

    Looks like Vettel is in prime position to win the championship now but I think there are a few more twists and turns yet this season.

    I had to laugh at Webber's comments about Grosjean needing another holiday!

  • Comment number 36.

    Vettel is only coming good in the latter part of the season thanks to changes made to the car. In the early part, Mark was outperforming him all the time, because the set up suited him better. Until Vettel can do what Alonso does, and get a good performance out of a pig of a car, then he will only be a good driver, in my opinion.

  • Comment number 37.

    As for the debate on Vettel I don't think many neutral observers would say he is as good as Alonso yet but he is fast becoming the 2nd best driver currently in F1. It's looking very likely that we will have a triple world champion at the end of this year.

  • Comment number 38.

    @5 and few others,
    it's ridiculous to say the victim (Alonso) of a race incident is guilty. Kimi should have lifted off and avoid slashing Fernando's rear tyre. Also I couldn't understand how Vettel didn't get a penalty yesterday, probably it wasn't in purpose, but at the end he influenced the qualy result.

  • Comment number 39.

    On the Alonso-Raikkonen accident I would say that is very much a racing incident. Alonso didn't give Kimi enough space but he should have lifted off to avoid a collision.

  • Comment number 40.

    I like how as soon as Fernando tweets a wise sentence, Andrew puts it in one of his first paragraphs in a column. Lewis has tweeted many, nowhere to be seen...

    Anyway, that's just trivial. I would like Fernando to win this year, I don't think I can stand Vettel's number one finger for a third year running. Hamilton and Raikkonen are now just outside shots.

  • Comment number 41.

    Alonso had plenty of space to his right. Kimi kept his line. Alonso misjudged it, hit Kimi and paid for it.

  • Comment number 42.

    @ 30 How Vettel perfoms in the rain? Alonso and Hamilton are better tham him in that case. How Vettel perfoms when he is not in P1 at the start of the race? It´s harder for him to win a race when facing adversity. However Alonso and Hamilton can deal with adversity a lot better than Vettel. When it comes to overtaking Vettel has improve a lot recently but he is not as good as Alonso and Hamilton.

  • Comment number 43.

    Andrew Benson, we know you love Alonso but is it really necessary to try and tarnish Vettel's reputation over it. Did you actually watch the "blocking" incident before you decided to write your ludicrous accusations??

    We all know you hate Schumacher and have tried your utmost to slander him at every oportunity but is really necessary to now move unto a slander campaign against Vettel now that the great Schumacher is retiring??

    Why does the BBC put up with this rubbish??

  • Comment number 44.

    Imperious drive from SV - fully in control the whole race a la JB @ Spa & LH @ Monza. FA will need a couple of wins & difficult to see where they will come. Benson is right - main encouragement for him will have been FM's race pace but Ferrari need to find some qualy pace if he is to compete for the wins - exactly what Red Bull have done with their 2X DRS system. Though can't see Ferrari delivering now they are having to use the Toyota windtunnel.
    Have been impressed by SP's racecraft this year & thought it was a shrewd move by Mac to get him for 2013, but a poor drive from him today - two ridiculous moves on LH ended in tears as it should. Over-eager to impress his new bosses by rubbing LH's nose in it no doubt. Bad day at the office for LH - the Mac title challenge now truly dead & buried. All this talk of the Renault alternator woes but what about the Mac gearbox issues? 3 failures in 2 races - not good.

  • Comment number 45.

    >"While the Red Bull has been a forbiddingly quick race car all season, the team did not in the first half of the season find it very easy to get the best out of it in qualifying."

    Poppycock. Was the Red Bull a "forbiddingly quick race car" in Germany, where they qualified second and third but finished fifth and eighth? Or Canada, where they qualified first and fourth but finished fourth and seventh? Or Spain, where they qualified seventh and eleventh and finished sixth and eleventh? On the contrary, the RB cars for much of this year have been as bad or worse in the race than in qualifying, and they haven't been great in qualifying.

    It looks like being one of those seasons where the "least bad" car and least unlucky driver will win. Tough to speculate as to who that's going to be at this stage, though Vettel is showing ominous signs of regaining last seasons form. But it's been such a topsy-turvy year that you get the sense something will go wrong for him next.

  • Comment number 46.

    I have rarely seen such an one sided article like this. Specially someone so experienced. Whats the fault of Vettel , to become youngest f1 world champion. I think F. Alonso is good no doubt about it but people just over rate him. May be british press dishearted to see a German winning the world championship third time in row.

  • Comment number 47.

    This has been a good championship. Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso have been at peak performance throughout and any of the 3 deserves to win the WDC. They haven't put a foot wrong and most of the dropped points have been out of their control (Ham with team stops and retirements, Vettel with Alternator failure and Alonso with a rubbish car).

    As an aside, why is it that the F1 journalists claim almost every track is "the ultimate test of a driver".. They say it when Monaco comes round, then Spa, and now Suzuka. just make up your mind!

  • Comment number 48.

    Just a couple of points:

    Last time out, Lewis caused his own retirement by pushing too hard on his last qualy lap and nerfing the wall with his osr tyre, causing the oil leak which damaged his gearbox.

    Alonso wasn't taken out today, he left Kimi no room and ran over his front wing as he moved left and presumably lifted off for the upcoming turn 1.

  • Comment number 49.

    What the hell are Ferrari doing? they are so crap and slow at developing their cars. Its annoying seeing Vettel's win all the time and now hes going to get his 3rd title now. The one whos deserves the title is Adrian Newey, that man is a genius which give Vettel those championship titles. And who says Redbull did not have the fastest cars, they and Mclaren had the fastest cars most of the times, only Ferrari had the featest cars in Monza. Dont get me wrong i like Vettel, his a very nice person and knows whats his doing, but i dont feel he deserves 3 world championship titles.

  • Comment number 50.

    Ferrari have let down alonso by not providing him a fast car vettel was very good RBr is very fast why didn't vettel get a penalty for blocking alonso some driver blocked Bruno and got three place grid penalty massa had a good race lol at Perez thought he could take Lewis at the same corner twice

  • Comment number 51.

    I don't think Alonso's retirement today was Raikkonen's fault. He kept his line off the start and Alonso moved from right to the left across the track to join him. At this point Raikkonen's front right wheel was alongside Alonso's rear left wheel. Alonso continued to move left and Raikkonen took to the grass to avoid him. Tried to correct what seemed like a loss of traction and clipped Alonso's tyre.

    Why should Raikkonen submit a place easily simply because he is duelling with the championship leader and had he lifted off the accelerator, could that not present the risk of someone running into the back of him. Raikkonen is contesting this championship too.
    This incident wouldn't have happened if Alonso had been more aware of drivers at the rear of his car. I think he was too preoccupied with drivers in front of him.

    However, if you are going to apportion blame to anyone then it is slightly Alonso's fault but more of a racing incident to me, Raikkonen was blameless and probably the first error Alonso has committed all season.

  • Comment number 52.

    @42- It's kinda hard to rate vettel in the rain seeing as how we rarely see a full wet race these days. You can't really say he's poor in it though. A win in torrential rain in Monza, leading in 2010 in Korea in heavy rain and being in 3rd before running into Webber at Fuji Speedway should say enough. Alonso and Hamilton are great in the rain also but you can't just say he's no good in the rain just like that. In terms of how many races Vettel wins from off the front row it is quite rare not to see him their. Over 1/3 of his career has started from pole position. In terms of qualifying speed I think Vettel is second to none on the grid bar Hamilton who is probably very similar. Vettel rarely makes mistakes in qualifying which means most of the time when he has the fastest car he puts it in the fastest positions. He may not have won any races from 4th or below but he rarely starts down there and if he does it's quite often down to car performance. I think your comment on how Vettel faces starting further back is also wrong as this year alone he has started from places like p8 in Melbourne to p2. P6 or 7 in China to 5th and P11 in Spa to 2nd. I think you'll find that if Vettels car is the quickest more often than not he will win the race. Saying this I have great respect for Alonso but feel that although Ferrari are a great, prestigious team there on track performance has not been good enough.

  • Comment number 53.

    A strange race I thought it felt like it finished a bit fast. The thing about red bull is that they are so focused and consistent when the car has speed. Wattching the mechanics through the pit stops they are always a perfect 3 second stop vettel is the best pole to flag raacer ive ever seen although I have only been watching f1 since 98. shame about lewis' setup he arguably would have been the man to take the fight to rb I think that this is vettels title now not because hes the best driver but because red bull define the word team. Hard to stomach from a mclaren fan but I dont think im wrong on this one. Also lews overtake on raikkonen out of the pits was fantastic a huge respect between the two of them both showing they can race hard within the laws of the game. Roll on korea lewis and jenson should bounce back with the first sector of korea suiting their car.

  • Comment number 54.

    I am not one to criticise the journalism on the BBC and normally it is of a high standard. However, after the race today, Mr Benson posted a report of the race and I don't believe I have seen such biased journalism on the BBC before.
    This report was titled "Vettel wins as Alonso taken out". The report stated that Alonso was, "hit from behind" by Kimi Raikkonen.
    Firstly, Alonso was not taken out. He caused his crash.
    Secondly, the description "hit from behind" would lead me to believe that there was significant damage to both cars involved and the incident may have been similar to Schumacher's in Singapore. However, I seen the race and the incident and I can safely say that Kimi didn't do anything wrong nor did he "hit" Alonso. It was quite the opposite in fact. Alonso moved his car after pushing Raikkonen off and this movement resulted in his left-rear clipping Raikkonen's wing.

    I thought this was fairly biased and then I read this blog/report above.

    Again, Alonso was mentioned first and the initial paragraphs are rather excessive in praise for a man who crashed at this GP. I would have thought the winner would be mentioned first and praised for his rather outstanding (although slightly boring) drive. Then the championship battle would be mentioned.

    Then, further down the article, Mr Benson says Alonso, "through no fault of his own" has failed to finish two of the last four races. If I argue against this, I would simply be repeating myself...

    Thank you for the article Benson but this is ridiculously biased journalism and is evidently in favour of Alonso.

  • Comment number 55.

    Interesting race though predictable result - Vettel & Red Bull now look certain for the title as ever down to Adrian Newey's engineering, but there is a large slice of luck due to Raikanen's causing Alonso to drop out on the first lap, all beyond Alonso's control. I have a fairly indifferent view of Ferrari (all the bad sportmanship & crashes involving Scumacher will not be forgotten for a long time), but on balance Alonso has been outstanding entirely down to being the complete driver . . . hopefully the season will have a close climax. Do you remember Coventry Climax? - a different era . . .

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    Vettel is excellent at what he does, which is qualifying well and holding on to that first position throughout the race. We have seen what happens when his car is not quick enough to qualify first. Does anyone seriously think he would have leading the championship at any stage had he been driving the Ferrari? I am not saying he is not a good driver. He is very, very good, but Alonso is in my opinion the better driver and has shown so this season.

  • Comment number 58.

    hahahahaha...I could see this one coming from Andrew today...Alonso the messiah....everyone except Alonso and Andrew Benson, saw today's incident as completely Alonso's fault, as can be easily seen from the comments above....

    not convinced? here's what other F1 observers thought:

    and here's what James Allen thought:

    there should be a "complain about this article" button for all of Benson's blogs. The only immature poster on this page is not a visitor.

    Sad that the BBC's website is manipulated by an Alonso worshipper for selfish reasons. Write a personal blog abt it Andrew!

  • Comment number 59.

    I showed this article to a couple of friends on Twitter who support Alonso and even they are embarassed by the praise poured on Alonso here. Andrew, if Alonso is your personal favorite, then thats fine. Just dont mix your personal emotions and likes with your professional responsibilities.

    This is the worst blog EVER!

  • Comment number 60.

    for those saying that its best not to read the blog if we dont like it...well, thats not why we come to the website...we are looking for insight and some debate, not for a complete waste of space, worshipping a personal favorite of the author

  • Comment number 61.

    this is not for Andrew but for any other readers (who I respect) who feel that Raikkonen was at fault. Observe this and please be objective.

  • Comment number 62.

    Mr. Benson is pro-Alonso is known for years, it is actually surprising that some are realizing it now while it is more surprising that BBC keeps up with this kind of reporter for so many years. This whole article is more about Alonso than the race itself. No other driver is ever given any mention in his articles - not even the race winner. Alonso has been given a messiah status - what about Kimi who is also struggling with a poor car? If you want real unbiased F1 racing articles, read James Allen or ESPN-F1. If you think James did not do a good job, then just come and read BBC articles here and you will immediately change your opinion about James' article. Everywhere else on or JA blog, Alonso has been blamed overwhelmingly as the culprit by th fans except the 5% or so biasedd fans and no surprises that this BBC reporter belongs to that small category.
    Regarding someone asking many of us why we come here when we don't need to and why also leave a comment: we do so, so that BBC gets a feedback about its reporting and will make necessary changes. It appears they don't care about the standard of reporting and thereby losing readership to other credible websites. I did not read this blog entirely as the messiah's quote in the beginning set the tone for the rest of the article and I knew what would come later as it is so predictable.

  • Comment number 63.

    I think the puncture in Alonso´s car today was a racing incident. On the other hand, the incident between Vettel and Alonso at qualy deserved a penalty. The FIA report says literally "The driver of car 1 impeded car 5 at turn 16". Having seen the on board lap from Alonso´s car it´s clear that Vettel has aborted his lap so has no speed, but when Alonso comes close he stays on the racing line and Alonso has to take the inside line. I don´t get "the reprimand" idea. If he impeded another driver (more suspiciously when it´s his major contender) he deserved the penalty.

  • Comment number 64.

    >"Vettel is excellent at what he does, which is qualifying well and holding on to that first position throughout the race."

    Rather like Ayrton Sena, in other words.

    Or Lewis Hamilton. When Hamilton takes pole and then wins the race, as he did recently in Hungary and Italy, we don't see all the whinging that is directed at Vettel. When Hamilton does this, it shows that he's the "fastest driver in F1".

    >"Does anyone seriously think he would have leading the championship at any stage had he been driving the Ferrari?"

    Well, yes, I do seriously think that.

    >"We have seen what happens when his car is not quick enough to qualify first."

    Yes, we have seen that. And what we have seen is that he's still a driver competing for the WDC.

  • Comment number 65.

    @ 52 What happened this year in Malasya? Alonso won and Hamilton was at the podium. Vettel crushed Kartykayan and we saw his middle finger that time. What happened this year in Silverstone? Havy rain during qualy. Alonso pole and Webber P2. Dry during the race and yet Vettel didn´t win. And a similar situation in Germany. In fact when Vettel overtook Button he did it from the outside breaking the rules and he was penalized after the race. I think it´s harder for Vettel when facing adversity than it is for others.

  • Comment number 66.

    Some interesting points of view here. Sure, the blog is a little pro Alonso, but what's wrong with that? In my view, Alonso has done more to enhance his reputation than any other top driver this season.
    Regarding the Alonso/Raikonen collision, I don't recall Alonso pointing the finger and accusing Raikkonen of anything, he moves on. I understand everyone is harping on about leaving space for other cars, but the start of a race is a bit of a different situation, hence why weaving is looked upon more leniently. Sometimes, with so much traffic around at the start, it is easier for the trailing car to drive defensively. That said, it was clearly a racing incident.

  • Comment number 67.

    >"What happened this year in Malasya? Vettel crushed Kartykayan "

    Your bigotry is showing. The stewards found Kartykayan to be at fault there.

  • Comment number 68.

    The only one good factor about Ferrari team is Fernando Alonso. Period. Hopefully Fernando can get over his misfortune and get back on track double quick.

  • Comment number 69.

    @65 "What happened this year in Malasya? Alonso won and Hamilton was at the podium. "
    This was very much down to strategy. Ferrari got it perfect aswell as having a very decent car in the wet. Hamilton on the podium- he had the fastest car in the dry(Which half the race was.) if vettel and Karthikeyan hadn't come together Vettel would have had a good chance of passing Hamilton.

    "What happened this year in Silverstone? Heavy rain during qualy. Alonso pole and Webber P2. Dry during the race and yet Vettel didn´t win. And a similar situation in Germany."
    -Vettel didn't win because Webber and him were on the same sort of speed but Vettel had a poor start and lost position to Schumacher and Massa. In Germany yet again Alonso stopped for new tyres in Q3 aswell as probably having a car that prefers the wet.

    "Vettel overtook Button he did it from the outside breaking the rules and he was penalized after the race."
    -As a driver Vettel or not they're are racing and looking to push boundaries. It doesn't always pay off.

    I think Alonso has great race-craft and is a deserved double WDC but I'm yet to see Alonso blitz the field in qualifying whereas Vettel has, also Hamilton. Any one of the 24 drivers out their are incredible. Not just at driving cars but also physically and mentally.

  • Comment number 70.

    Alonso was blameless today. Like Hamilton at Spa Raikkonen SHOULD HAVE lifted. These drivers need to start realising that you cannot just keep your foot in it when somebody shuts the door, you have to lift off, its motor racing.

    Mr Benson your hate for Schumacher seems to have transcended to Vettel. He did NOTHING wrong in quali and Charlie confirmed that he cost Alonso NO TIME. He was ahead and didnt move but far enough ahead not to interfere. Alonso is probably the best in F1 he is good enough not to be distracted by this.

    It's fantastic that this years title is between the two best in the world in Vettel and Alonso but you have to hand it to Vettel he was simply awesome all weekend. Credit where credit is due in you unintelligent blogs please. Vettel was SUPERB and in a class of his own when it came to driving at Suzuka this weekend.

  • Comment number 71.

    #9: Anyone who writes rubbish English like this:"...would of nailed him...", cannot be taken seriously.
    Congrats to the 3 podium finishers, particularly Kobayashi, who skilfully held off a hard-charging Jenson Button. One of the best F1s for ages.

  • Comment number 72.

    @ 70
    These drivers (GRO & ALO) need to start realising that you cannot shut the door on somebody if you're not fully ahead of them, you have to leave a car's width, its motor racing.

  • Comment number 73.

    Alonso can talk of mountains and seas all he pleases, the F1 championship is decided on racetracks.

    Fernando's had his share of bad luck in the last four races, which was only to be expected to happen eventually.

    Vettel capatilised and asserted the RB8's dominating speed. The other drivers in contention for the title will now not be concerned with catching Alonso in the next 5 races, instead they'll be worried if they can keep up with Vettel.

    Excellent first 7 paragraphs by the way, I presume the full novel; 'Fifty Shades of Red' will be out before Christmas?

  • Comment number 74.

    @69 That´s exactly what I´m talking about!!! One thing is Vettel starting from the pole and another thing is Vettel without the pole. He finds himself in unfamiliar territory without the pole and the race gets very complicated for him. It´s also complicated for others not having the pole. But people like Alonso and Hamilton are more capable than Vettel to deal with rain or some other situation that may come up during the race.

    I don´t think all the 24 drivers are incredible. I believe that Grosjean and maybe Maldonado, Vergne or Bruno Senna are far from being incredible.

  • Comment number 75.

    I cannot believe this blog and also the race reports. To say Alonso was taken out is incredible. I love the BBC sport website and think it does a great job but this blog and it's attacks really rile me - I just don't see the need.

    I far prefer Joe Saward and James Allen and really recommend other F1 readers follow these sites.

  • Comment number 76.

    23. You don't need to correct it: the next 5 years will be v. exciting!

    As for the article, glad to see a benson article that doesn't mention lh. I think all the talk about him has quietened down after he signed for merc

  • Comment number 77.

    #64 >"Vettel is excellent at what he does, which is qualifying well and holding on to that first position throughout the race."

    Rather like Ayrton Sena, in other words.

    No, not like Senna at all. Senna outdrove the Toleman which was a donkey of a car. Got more out of a fairly average Lotus, provided the world with the best single lap of racing at Donnington andon numerous occasions came through the field when others could not.

    Senna was an outstanding talent, a fantastic reader of a car, able to provide superb information to his engineer to tune the cars handling. Senna did not have to have a good grid position to ensure a race win. Senna was idolised by his peers, and so highly thought of by Honda he had a significant input into the design of the NSX.

    Vettel, as good as he is, is none of these things to the same degree. A man who does not deliver from mid grid positions also drives in an era where the vast majority of car development info comes automatically from the car. Newey is a much more significant factor in Vettel's success than any of the designers of Senna's car ever were.

    Not to decry Vettel, but Senna he ain't.

  • Comment number 78.

    Vettel's incredible luck this season continues. Alonso has led the WDC for some time, in spite of his Ferrari rather than because of it. Hamilton has lost somewhere between 80-100 points this season through the errors of his team, mechanical failures and the actions of the erratic duo of Maldonado and Grosjean.

    To be clear, Alonso and Hamilton have both far out-performed Vettel yet it is now the Red Bull driver who is looking favourite to secure a thoroughly undeserved WDC in 2012. Vettel has been a bit found out this season now that he no longer has the advantage of the blown diffuser. Until the last two races Vettel has been relatively unimpressive in qualifying, has collided with Karthikeyan (of all people!), drove an error prone (and angry!) race in Germany, illegally forced Alonso of the track in Monza and inherited a race win through the latest installment of Hamilton's misfortune in Singapore.

    In short, IF he wins the WDC this year it will because of an ultimate lack of top-end performance of the Ferrari and the blunders and weaknesses of the McLaren team and car rather than because of his own performance in 2012. But then Vettel is without equal in terms of enjoying the incredible fortune of the best car - mid 2009 to the end of 2011 - at such a young age. And it is beginning to look as if the real star of Red Bull, a certain Mr.Newey, has made the Red Bull the best car yet again with the implementation of a double DRS. Seb is a very, very lucky boy indeed.

  • Comment number 79.

    I see I'm not the only one disappointed with the quality of these articles.... are there any other writers available?

  • Comment number 80.

    Too much hyperbole. Didn't enjoy this at all.

  • Comment number 81.

    >"One thing is Vettel starting from the pole and another thing is Vettel without the pole. He finds himself in unfamiliar territory without the pole and the race gets very complicated for him."

    Like at Spa, where he started eleventh and finished second? Or Monaco, where he started tenth and finished fourth? When Alonso has results like this - and he does have results like this - it's seen as a sign of what a good driver he is, "driving better than his car".

    Vettel is not in a virtual tie for the WDC with five races to go because of his ability to win from pole, as impressive as that ability is. He's in a virtual tie with five races to go because he kept picking up a decent points haul throughout the first half of the season, during a period when the RB car was distinctly mediocre.

  • Comment number 82.

    #81 At Spa where a large number of drivers in front of him had their races ruined or severly compromised at the first bend?

  • Comment number 83.

    @64 Twirlip,

    I doubt you ever saw Senna race. Afterall, Senna and Vettel are NOTHING alike whatsoever. ALL good drivers can win from lights to flag. But it doesn't follow that Senna and Vettel are therefore alike as drivers. That's a mind-numbingly stupid leap to make, not least because you are confusing the basis of success with driving style.

    Senna's brilliance was also proved before and after his most successful spell at McLaren. He had a brilliant reputation BEFORE McLaren signed him and had some brilliant results pre-McLaren too. But AFTER McLaren's dominance ended - courtesy of a certain Mr.Newey at Williams - Senna was still massively competitive and at times beat Newey's brilliant title willing Williams cars in 1992 and 1993.

    By way of contrast, as he drives for Red Bull, Vettel has yet to prove that he can take on and beat Newey designed, or similar standard, cars. Vettel also has routinely shown that he cannot win from the chasing pack, unlike Senna. Afterall, Newey's Williams' of 92 and 93 rountinely took PP yet Senna still won eight races across those two seasons. Seven of those victories were from outside PP.

    Even comparing Vettel and Hamilton is daft. The only similarity those two have is blistering one lap pace. But Hamilton has shown far more frequently than Vettel, that he doesn't need to be on PP to win a race. Until Vettel can prove otherwise or can show he can be successful without a massive performance advantage, then there will always be doubts about his true level of ability.

  • Comment number 84.


    "Vettel is not in a virtual tie for the WDC with five races to go because of his ability to win from pole, as impressive as that ability is. He's in a virtual tie with five races to go because he kept picking up a decent points haul throughout the first half of the season, during a period when the RB car was distinctly mediocre."

    No, no, no. Vettel is only in with a chance of the WDC because the Ferrari isn't good enough and McLaren have cost Hamilton many points. Even if one of these teams had got it right this season, Vettel would be nowhere to be seen.

    In short, Vettel is in with a shout only because he is the major beneficiary of Alonso's and Hamilton's misfortune.

  • Comment number 85.

    Man the amount of hatred for Alonso in these comments is unreal. I don't know whose mistake it was but by qualifying in the 3rd or 4th row, Alonso will run the risk of such incidents. Vettel looking good for WDC now but with Alonso's talent, you can never say never. Btw, the Renault drivers are really working hard to make friends on the grid.

  • Comment number 86.

    @83 to do with Hamilton and Vettel. The thing is if Hamilton wins from outside pp or front row it's generally because he made an error in qualifying, or conditions were well suited to his car or he had great race pace. In contrast if Vettel has the car he will put it on the front row because he's so damn consistent at doing it. Even when it shouldn't be on the front row it seems to pop itself up. (e.g. Japan and Korea and Abu Dhabi 2011.)

  • Comment number 87.

    With the luck that Vettel / Red Bull are having and the bad luck McLaren and Ferrari have, they may as well give Vettel the 2012 title and save some of the money they all say they need to save. There is no way that Alonso can now win, with a slower car and having lost a possible 50 points in 2 races through no fault of his or his team.

  • Comment number 88.

    Nothing beats seeing Brits choking on Vettel`s finger hehe

    Best of all they know themselves the guy is impeccable, they just hate him for reducing their idol(s) to chronic obscurity.


  • Comment number 89.

    Me also agree with@30 Need4speed and @84 rn
    Vettel is far from being complete ultimate driver. I certainly do not dismiss his talent, but he is not that. He has only come to notice in the latter of the season once A) the car has improved and faster and B) capitalised on mistakes and bad luck of others. This is necessary for any champion but esp for SV. He needs a fast and 'perfect' car with a sprinkle of Newey genius! This is why he is in this position. McC numerous cock ups too long to list and Alonso's DNFs! FA's early performances this season were dragging an average car to podium places! Not SV.
    Number of championships do not necessarily mean the best! LH in 2009 and FA this season are prime examples of 'outperforming the car' as such. SV hasn't done this yet not even close I'm afraid. I suspect we'll get more of this next season with LH and Merc!

  • Comment number 90.

    Ok, regarding the Vettel-Senna comparison, I got from the comment that it was their qualifying ability being compared..... Also, this coming from a Senna fan, Ayrton never won a race from lower than 5th on the grid. So those who say he fought through the pack to win, aren't really right; instead he had to go up against Prost in 4 of the greatest contests motorsport has seen (1988, 89, 90, 93). He also had a car regularly a second quicker than the pack from 88-90 and the 1st half of 91, which happen to be the years he was in real title contention. Though to me, Senna will always be the greatest, as he went up against the most successful driver of his era and went toe to toe.

  • Comment number 91.

    All seem to forget performances such as that in Belgium. 11th to 2nd anyone?

  • Comment number 92.

    >"Senna did not have to have a good grid position to ensure a race win."

    Senna enjoyed his success in as far more dominant car than exists today, or that CAN exist today. The elaborate rules of modern F1 controlling every aspect of the car, the use of just one tyre manufacturer, mean that F1 in the modern era is a lot closer to something like Formula Ford than the F1 of old. When you have a far more dominant car it's a lot easier to do thing's like go from twelfth to first in a race.

    >"Newey is a much more significant factor in Vettel's success than any of the designers of Senna's car ever were"

    You don't know what you're talking about. John Barnard played at least as big a role in Senna's success as Newry has in Vettel's.

    I'm not singling Senna out here, just pointing out the difference between F1 now and then. The Williams FW14B (also designed by Newry, incidentally) in which Mansell cruised to the 1992 WDC was vastly superior to the competition. Mansell would qualify several seconds faster than Senna, and Senna was very quick in qualifying. This didn't mean that Senna had turned into a rubbish driver overnight. By the same token the fact that Mansell was driving the best car on the grid by some distance did not mean that he was a poor driver.

    I'm not saying the great drivers of the past weren't great. They certainly were. But they accomplished their great deeds in great cars, cars which were frequently much, much faster than the competition. By comparison all the cars of today, including the Red Bulls, are much closer to one another in performance.

    So it's hard not to snort with derision when people come along trying to argue that Vettel's successes should have an asterisk next to them in the record books on account of his supposedly unfairly fast car. Such people only illustrating their ignorance of history.

  • Comment number 93.

    can that cry a baby alonso get over himself. he crashed himself out kimi did nothing to him alonso left him no space. and he has the audacity to say that kimi ruined his race, its bizarre how much alonso moans when things dnt go exactly his way, he said that he was unlucky this weekend when he has been seriously lucky in 2005, 2006 and this year. alonso said in bahrain you have 2 leave the space and yet at the start and in fact in all grand prix he goes into the first corner like he is the only 1 on the track and does what he wants to do, today was fully his fault he was happy 4 kimi 2 go on the gravel and push him off the circuit even though they were side by side. hence why the stewards never even investogated the incident and knew that alonslow took himself out. all the drivers know kimi is 1 of the fairest race driver there are his not going 2 put his car in the wrong place and take someone out its not in his nature. example lewis said today i only did the move because i no i can trust kimi not 2 take me out, if that were maldonando he wudnt have taken the risk. kimi is a fair driver its his main weakness he would not want 2 risk himself dnfing, alonso overtakes ppl sayin you have 2 options 1 let me through or 2 crash into 2 me and ferraris pull with the fia will get you sanctioned

  • Comment number 94.

    >"Even comparing Vettel and Hamilton is daft. The only similarity those two have is blistering one lap pace. But Hamilton has shown far more frequently than Vettel, that he doesn't need to be on PP to win a race."

    Really? When has he actually shown that? There's this myth about Hamilton that he's this brilliant come-from-behind racer who has frequently come from way down in the field to take the chequered flag. In fact Hamilton, like Vettel, has won all of his races from the first two rows on the grid. Hamilton, like Vettel and like Senna, is very much a "qualify fast and win from the front" kind of driver.

    That's why, if you bother to look, you'll see that all three of these drivers are on the list of top pole winners.

    Proust is from the opposite school - he won 51 races (second only to Schumacher) but only managed 13 poles in his career.

  • Comment number 95.


    Why are you calling Alonso a cry baby? It is not he who has accused Kimi of taking him out, it is others.

    To me it looked like a racing incident, but I guess these days is *has* to be someone's fault...

  • Comment number 96.

    @95 It was a race incident. In Fact if you and others take the time to read Alonso´s statement after the race he NEVER blame Raikkonen for anything.

  • Comment number 97.

    >"In short, Vettel is in with a shout only because he is the major beneficiary of Alonso's and Hamilton's misfortune."

    Depends on how you want to look at things. You could just as easily say "if not for two alternator failures while leading races, Vettel would currently have a comfortable lead in the WDC". It all depends on whose misfortune you chose to emphasize and whose you wish to play down.

    I don't have a problem with acknowledging that LH has had a lot of bad luck, but then I don't have a grudge against any driver. You clearly do.

  • Comment number 98.

    If you read my comment, you will see that I said I thought it was a racing incident, and that Alonso himself never blamed Kimi.

  • Comment number 99.

    ¨@93, When did Alonso say that Kimi ruined his race? Has he sent you a text saying that? Because as far as I know he has not said a peep. Publicly, anyway.

  • Comment number 100.



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