On the surface, Alonso and Red Bull makes little sense

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Despite Sebastian Vettel’s three consecutive World Championships, there are still plenty of people who believe Fernando Alonso is the best overall driver in Formula One. And this weekend, a rumor has emerged that he could be linked to Red Bull, widely considered the best car.

The saying goes that if Alonso was paired with the best car, he’d have added to his tally of two titles by now.

But only once in the last seven years (including 2013), has that been the case. His move from Renault to McLaren for 2007 kept him in the front-running chassis, but ever since, he’s struggled to ring the neck out of the third or fourth-best cars on the grid.

To see Alonso in an Adrian Newey-designed chassis would be a dream for those who feel both are the best at their respective disciplines. And to see Alonso take on Vettel, directly, in equal machinery seems tantalizing when you first hear it.

It also makes little to no sense from a practical and realistic standpoint.

Why, you ask? The last – and really only – time Alonso had a teammate who pushed him an entire season was Lewis Hamilton in that solitary, fracturing 2007 season at McLaren. And that internal battle between the two of them, and alleged favoritism towards Hamilton by the team, cost them the championships.

Vettel has already proven himself a ruthless assassin behind the wheel; a killer driver with his helmet on to counter his childish enthusiasm in interviews and on podiums.

He has Red Bull fully behind him, and in some respects, he almost calls the shots entirely. When Red Bull has made car upgrades, Vettel has consistently gotten them first. When Vettel violated team orders at Malaysia earlier this year, he wasn’t penalized despite superseding management. For that matter, he pretty much drove the stake through Mark Webber’s heart and career.

Red Bull has given everything  it has to Vettel, and like Ferrari, has established itself as a team with distinct number one and two drivers. The model has worked flawlessly because with the best car, Vettel has delivered the goods and Webber brought home enough points on a consistent basis to help secure three straight Constructor’s Championships.

Ferrari is now re-assessing its game to try to help Alonso. The addition of James Allison as chassis technical director reunites them after he and Alonso won the two titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006.

When Ferrari is stronger, Formula One is stronger. Alonso’s done everything in his power to win two of the last three titles despite a strategy muck-up in Abu Dhabi in 2010, and a down-on-performance chassis in 2012. Alonso going to Red Bull would practically write off Ferrari without a proper, top-line replacement.

It would be criminal for Alonso, who is under contract with Ferrari through 2016 and has said before he’d finish his career with Scuderia, not to have earned a title for Ferrari given his efforts since 2010.

And while the thought of him taking on Vettel in equal cars sounds great on the surface, it could deteriorate into toxicity faster than an under-inflated tire crashing over the curbs.  Good for drama? Perhaps. But good for the whole of F1 and more teams having a shot to win? Definitely not.

NHRA: Antron Brown on verge of earning 50th career Top Fuel win this weekend at Phoenix

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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When you’re used to winning championships – like three in the previous five seasons – any other season finish is disappointing.

That’s kind of how NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Antron Brown looked at his fourth-place showing in the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

“At the end of the day, we had a very competitive season last year and made it to 10 final rounds,” Brown said. “But we got into the Countdown (NHRA’s six-race playoffs) and our timing was off.

“We struggled with a lot of problems we don’t usually have. Now it’s time for a new chapter for this team and time to get better. This is a new beginning for us and it’s going to be fun and exciting and we’re coming after them.”

Antron Brown hugs the NHRA Top Fuel championship trophy after winning it in 2016. (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire)

Brown had a good start to 2018, reaching the semifinals before losing to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

“We had a great performance at Pomona and I couldn’t be more proud of what our Matco/Toyota guys did,” Brown said. “Now we are going to Phoenix where we’ve won three times (2009, 2012 and 2014, and was runner-up in 2011) and we’ll just try to hit it hard and get a fourth.”

Next up on the NHRA 24-race national event circuit is the second race of the season, this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix (Chandler, Arizona).

Brown has definite plans to make it four wins in Phoenix. And if he does that Sunday, he’ll set a significant career milestone: it would be his 50th career win driving a Top Fueler and the 66th win overall (he won 16 races in Pro Stock Motorcycle before shifting from two to four wheels).

In so doing, Brown would become only the fourth Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to hit the 50-win mark. The others are Tony Schumacher (83), Larry Dixon (62) and Joe Amato (52).

This will be the second time Brown has been racing in Phoenix this month. He was part of the preseason test there for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock cars a week before the season began.

“Testing went really well there,” said Brown, leaving him optimistic that he can reach victory circle once again. “I love going back to Phoenix.”

Brown has been the most dominant driver in NHRA Top Fuel competition since 2012, winning more than twice the number of races (34) than the next most successful Top Fuel driver (16 by Schumacher) in that time period.

He also has a 71 percent overall win percentage, which exceeds both eight-time Top Fuel champ Schumacher and 16-time Funny Car champ John Force.

“I’m just pumped up, feeling like we’ve got some unfinished business from last year,” Brown said. “We had a good outing but didn’t close the deal, so this year, we’re looking forward to getting back there and getting off to a great start.”

NOTES: Brown will serve as honorary pace car driver for the March 4th Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup race at Las Vegas. He’ll be joined by teammates Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett in a weekend full of activities that they’ll all be involved in.

“I’m really excited,” Brown said. “It’s going to be my first experience as a pace car driver, and I’m just super stoked to go out there and drive the Camry pace car for Pennzoil and start those NASCAR boys off the right way. Throttle down, pedal to the metal. I just want them to get off to a great start.”

Brown has won four times at The Strip, the drag strip adjacent to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity,” he said. “It’s an honor to be out there with such talented drivers, and I know I’m going to really enjoy watching our NASCAR counterparts.”

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