Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015

2015 F1 driver rankings #14: Fernando Alonso

2015 F1 season review

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Fernando Alonso

Beat team mate in qualifying7/14
Beat team mate in race4/9
Races finished11/18
Laps spent ahead of team mate313/663
Fernando Alonso 2015 form guide

Fernando Alonso was second in the rankings last year and there’s no question his lower place this season is almost entirely because his car rendered him incapable of competing with his rivals this year.

His season began with a crash which ruled him out of the first race and ended with him telling his team he’d rather park the car than press on in vain. Although he insists McLaren represents a better bet for the long-term than Ferrari, by the latter stages of the season it was clear he’d had enough of being passed with ease by drivers in more powerful cars.

The number 14 McLaren could frequently be spotted in some unrealistically high position at the end of the opening lap, courtesy of one of Alonso’s blinding starts (he gained more places on lap one than anyone), only to inevitably slip behind most of the other runners once the DRS zones were activated – if not before then.

In between repeated retirements due to car problems – in Malaysia, Spain, Monaco, Canada, Italy, Singapore and Mexico – there were occasional high points. Hungary was vintage Alonso, producing the team’s best result of the year with a fine fifth place. His qualifying lap in Japan was exceptional and he briefly got up to ninth at the start before the inevitable ‘regression to the mean’ and, on this occasion, pointed radio calls about his “GP2 engine”.

As the season came to a close Alonso’s supply of patience had clearly been exhausted, and with more than just his car. Jenson Button proved a more testing team mate than he has had at any time since he last drove for McLaren, and there were a few costly errors along the way – his lap one collision in Abu Dhabi, for instance – but it wasn’t hard to understand why Alonso felt his efforts were wasted in 2015.

View race-by-race notes on Fernando Alonso

Malaysia – In his first race back after injury Alonso seemed to have a pace advantage over Button during practice, though he was pipped by his team mate in qualifying. Although an ERS failure ended his race well before the chequered flag, there was some consolation to be drawn from the fact he ran as high as eighth before then.

China – Beaten by Button in qualifying to start 18th, but jumped his team mate at the start. Benefitted with a couple of positions after Button and Maldonado collided, but was too far off from the top ten to have any chance of points. Seeing the chequered flag for the first time this season will have been the main target achieved for this weekend.

Bahrain – There was a sharp contrast between the two sides of the McLaren garage in Bahrain. While Button toiled in vain, Alonso gave cause for cheer by taking the MP4-30 into Q2 for the first time, then finishing 11th in the race. Superficially that was no more than Button achieved in Melbourne – but this time there were six cars running behind the McLaren instead of none.

Spain – Had an inconsequential spin at the end of first practice. In qualifying he got his car through Q1, but his race came to an end with brake trouble – unable to stop his car at his pit box, Alonso’s front jack man had to dive for cover as the car missed its marks.

Monaco – His car broke down in Q2 and the race, but in between the two he managed to pick up a penalty for tangling with Hulkenberg at the start.

Canada – Missed most of final practice while his power unit was changed, but despite the Honda’s lack of power he got into Q2 where he claimed 13th on the grid. However he lost places to several rivals early on and was clearly unhappy when told he needed to save fuel. Capping his misery, the car failed soon afterwards.

Austria – Both McLaren drivers accumulated comical 25-place grid penalties. But Alonso, running the team’s new aerodynamic kit including a heavily revised and shortened nose, got into Q2. The upshot of that was he only had to take a drive-through penalty in the race as he could only serve a small portion of his grid penalty. He started well enough that he was up with Raikkonen turn two – unfortunately the Ferrari driver then dropped it into the barriers, taking Alonso with him.

Britain – Both McLaren drivers made it to the team’s home race without incurring more penalties for changing power unit parts, though Alonso came close as the team was reprimanded for accidentally fitting one of Button’s tyres to his car. He spun trying to avoid the Lotus drivers at the start and inadvertently ended Button’s race. The high rate of retirements helped him salvage a point, however.

Hungary – At a track which minimised the McLaren’s shortcomings, Alonso looked set to take full advantage until his car let him down in qualifying. He jumped up to 12th at the start but was passed by Verstappen shortly afterwards. The pair were destined to finish in that order after Alonso made a canny switch to soft tyres during the Safety Car period and muscled past the other, ailing Toro Rosso of Sainz.

Belgium – Having missed almost all of final practice due to yet more technical problems, Alonso lined up behind his team mate. He made the most of the start – rising from last to 14th – and kept in touch with the Saubers for the first half of the race before dropping back, finishing 13th.

Italy – McLaren split the strategies between their two drivers. Alonso kept his soft tyres for the end of the race and was shaping up for a pass on Button when his Honda let go.

Singapore – On Friday Alonso said eighth was a fair reflection of the team’s pace, but come Saturday he was no longer convinced they were quick enough for a place in the top ten, even if Q2 hadn’t been disrupted by a yellow flag. With cars in front hitting trouble points were definitely possible until his gearbox failed.

Japan – What Alonso said during the race received much more attention than how he performed, which is a shame because he drove superbly. He was deservedly proud of a qualifying lap which came within half a second of getting the McLaren into Q3 despite a 16kph straight-line speed disadvantage. A great start got him up to ninth – and then the faster cars blasted past him on the straight. His “GP2” comments were not without justification.

Russia – Ran new engine components on Friday which led to an inevitable grid penalty for the race. Made his trademark speedy getaway – climbing briefly to 13th – before being passed with predictable ease by the likes of Sainz and Grosjean. After the Lotus driver crashed Alonso put on a set of super-soft tyres for an impressive, 40-lap haul to the chequered flag. He took one too many liberties at turn 16 on the way, however, and despite a warning picked up a five-second penalty for violating track limits, which dropped him out of the points.

United States – Running McLaren’s new engine, Alonso started ninth partly thanks to others’ penalties, but his race was ruined by Massa at the start. A long 30-lap run on softs at the end left him vulnerable to those who pitted but it was a developing problem with his engine which finally saw off his chance of points.

Mexico – Pointed to McLaren’s promising second and third-sector times after being eliminated in Q1. There was no positive spin to be found for his race, however, which ended after one lap. “We had an MGU-H rotation speed problem,” he explained afterwards. “We didn’t have enough time to replace it, so we were left with two options: to race or not to race. We went for the first option, and tried to do as much as we could, out of respect for the amazing fans here in Mexico.”

Brazil – Headed to Brazil hoping for an end to his recent reliability problems – and got the exact opposite. His car broke down in practice and again during qualifying, before he could set a competitive time. Frustrated by his team’s strategy during the race, he at least saw the chequered flag this time.

Abu Dhabi – Ninth in second practice may have raised expectations too far – they came crashing down on Saturday when he dropped out of qualifying in 17th place with a puncture. Alonso was very unhappy with the penalty he received for his lap one collision with Maldonado, triggered by an incident with Nasr, but the replays appeared to support the stewards’ view that Alonso caused the contact with Nasr in the first place. A late switch to super-softs brought some cheer – and the third-fastest lap time.

Over to you

He clearly is too good for this car, but he has mostly himself to blame and some complaints were out of place.

What’s your verdict on Fernando Alonso’s 2015 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on “2015 F1 driver rankings #14: Fernando Alonso”

  1. Alonso in 14th?

    Alonso ranked lower than his teammate?

    His end-of-the-season rankings since 2005 were: 1st, 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 5th, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 2nd.

    *Expecting barrage of complaining comments in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…*

    1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      10th December 2015, 12:58

      Not complaining, just as the article itself mentions, hard to assess if his car was parked more time than racing.

    2. As financial advisors tell you when you are making investment decisions: “Past performance is no guarantee of future returns.”

      Alonso did his best, but the car was woeful, so he can’t really be much higher up the list.

      1. @geemac, but is this list not meant to be a reflection of the ability of the driver that is meant to at least try to take into account the relative performance of the car?

        1. It’s also an opinion piece…so we don’t have to agree with it.

        2. You can only measure the reality.

    3. I think that for this year, Button certainly did the better job of the two, yes. I do admire Alonso (and Ron Dennis to an extent) for coping with the immense frustration of the situation as well as he did. And I doubt he has lost any of his skill.

      But he has slipped up, tripped and just not quite been on it too much this year to even get close to being rated in the top 10 of drivers IMO.
      Whether it should be down as far as 14th, I guess the car just not offering much didn’t help (behind him we see the 4 drivers driving for the weakest teams and two clear underperformers).

      1. Alonso was the quicker of the two in Malaysia, China, Spain, Canada, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Japan, Austin and Mexico. Button was quicker in Monaco, Russia, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. People may disagree, but I think its a combination of the fact that Button is British, and the fact that the end part of the season is the one people remember the most. Until Russia, Alonso was basically the quicker of the two besides Monaco, and even then we wouldn’t know entirely for Alonso retired while 5 seconds behind Button on the faster of the two tyres. And that is while getting considerably less miles in pre-season.

    4. Alonso ranked lower than his teammate?

      Because of the constant mechanical DNFs and the overall pace of the car, it must be pretty tough to call who was better. That being said, I think the silly errors in Monaco and Russia which cost him points is probably why Alonso is ranked lower.

    5. His end-of-the-season rankings since 2005 were: 1st, 1st, 3rd, 3rd, 5th, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 2nd.

      I like that you looked that up! Very interesting to see.

      1. It’s showing, i think. Alonso’s never been rated lower than 5th in the end of the year by you, @keith, and i think if we excluse 2008 and 2010, where he was 8th at the first and 6th at the second (i think), now he’s down to 14th.
        And this year, at mid-term, he was.. 8th, i think?

        And.. i agree with your opinion. Maybe, if it was down to me, i would’ve put both Mcca drivers a little bit higher, but 14th and 13th (for JB) is perfectly fine for me. I’m sure others will agree ;)

  2. er… i think BUT was marginal better, a little more consistent at times… but it was pretty even all the year

    1. Well he was, that is why he is in 13th place.

  3. I don’t disagree at all, but this is bold.

  4. I do think Alonso’s been overdriving at times this year, but frankly, what else do we expect him to do? After it became evident that the MP4-30 had the racing properties of a grey bathtub, and that the SF15-T was a race winner, the only possible reaction for the grid’s most determined man was to drive harder, faster, better. And on a number of occasions the urge to do the impossible saw him overstep the mark. Often this year we have seen Fernando drive beautiful practice laps and be top 10, before other teams turn up their powerunits, and Alonso feels it necessary to look for laptime elsewhere.

    He is probably also the grid’s most demanding driver on the rear axle, and on many occasions the MP4-30 simply couldn’t meet his expectations. On the rare occasions when the teammate comparison at McLaren was remotely valid, Alonso generally, quite comfortably, had the upper hand.

    For the counterfactualists among you, do you think Alonso would have beat Vettel’s points tally of 278 had he remained at Ferrari? It is difficult to say. Of course Alonso’s qualifying pace has eroded over the years, but he is probably still as wily then ever on Sundays. Ferrari probably had a sufficient gap to the Williamses and Red Bulls to put Alonso P3 even without Vettel’s one lap pace. But then again, other than a messy Sunday at Mexico, what more could Vettel have done this year?

    1. @william-brierty, perhaps Bahrain is one of the few races where he should have done better, given that the reason why he ended up behind Bottas was because he made a mistake (running wide and damaging his front wing in the process).

  5. Interesting. I can completely agree for Alonso to get lower rank than Button this year even if I always thought Alonso was far superior than Button before. Bit seeing Alonso at #14 is a big surprise.

    1. Fully agree that Button should be ahead of Alonso.
      And even though I’ve got him a tad higher at 12th, it is not too far off. Especially since IMO the places 5-14 are extremely close; they all had some good ups and a fair amount of downs over the season.

  6. Deserved, due to his whining unbecoming of a driver of his stature. You made this bed, you lie in it! He may be a great driver, but a great decision-maker he is not.

    1. If you believe that the greatest decision-makers are the ones who win the lottery.

  7. I don’t like Alonso at all, but he is surely one of the best (maybe in whole F1 history). So I respect him a lot. But through his behavior this year I can’t lose the feeling he has lost a lot of respect (at least for me). Which F1 driver wants retire his car?! All the time even if it’s working? I know, the car was slow as hell, but still there is a chance! All the time. Like Kvyat said in Hungary.

    1. Which F1 driver wants retire his car (…) even if it’s working?

      @andycz Hamilton springs to mind, on a couple of occasions I can’t remember specifically.

      1. @tony031r Indeed I remember a couple of instances when Hamilton was pushing for a retirement. In fairness it was more to do with car preservation for subsequent races, eyes on the championship type decision. As opposed to Alonso’s “I’ve had enough of this” attitude. Although also understandable under the circumstances.

      2. Yeah, as @Psyngr said above, it was for example Belgium 2014… For preservation of engine. It’s more understandable but stilll… And that’s why I don’t like Hamilton either… :-)

  8. I can understand his ranking because he wasn’t always performing at his best. Still one the best drivers on the grid who had some good performances too this season, but not always due to lack of motivation.

  9. Alonso, Button was better than you.

  10. Wow, Alonso had 2 more DNF’s than Button, didn’t start the first race, had the best race result (5th) and was in 5th in Austin until his engine broke and he places 14th behind Button.
    To even attempt to judge the drivers and Sainz under this years circumstances is laughable.
    Of course Button, being a Brit, had nothing to do with the decision:)

    1. Of course Button, being a Brit, had nothing to do with the decision:)

      And smilety to try to hide an insult. Very funny

      1. I should have left the smiley out. Is that better?

    2. Agree with your comment.

  11. About correct.. Coped with furstration poorly… Spirit was low… But hard to judge… But then again he did not seem like relemtless racer that we know FA for. He was more a drama queen.

  12. Alonso retired from 5th in Austin, 7th in Barcelona, 8th in Malaysia, and 9th in Monaco. To have him this low and behind Button is simply objectively incorrect.

  13. Put Alonso in a competitive car and it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

  14. With the super-reliability of F1 cars today as well as the high level of competence of all drivers, both qualifying and race seems to see the cars arranged according to their relative merit of engineering excellence, plus or minus one or possibly two positions, mechanically-related penalties ignored. The one exception in 2015, the one driver to produce Senna-like performances of wringing a second per lap out of a car that was not in the engineering specifications, was Fernando Alonso. His 5th place in Hungary and his Japanese GP qualifying (Singapore and USA weren’t too shabby either) represent the stand-out performances of 2015. The fact that his team-mate was a comfortable second in the “doing the impossible with the materiel at their disposal”-stakes tends to obscure this fact.

    That said, there were perhaps too many weekends in 2015 when Alonso just went through the motions.

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