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.