On the surface, Alonso and Red Bull makes little sense

2 Comments

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.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
0 Comments

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.