At McLaren, Alonso’s the Rookie

When you think of it, Lewis Hamilton isn’t the rookie everyone is describing him as. So it should be no surprise he’s doing so well. After all, he’s been with McLaren in one way or another for ten years! He knows the personnel, he knows the way they work, and he’s learned his craft under their tutelage. Arriving in Formula 1 when the Formula itself had just gone through so many rule changes levelled the playing field a bit too.

Alonso on the other hand came as the reigning 2-times World Champion. He came from a different team, from not just different tyres but from a different manufacturer of tyres, and tyres that gave a lot more grip than this years tyres do. His previous team was French, led by an Italian; McLaren is a British team led by a Brit – a totally different way of thinking.

No wonder Alonso’s complaining he doesn’t feel at home. Of course he doesn’t. He’s moved from the Mediterranean to Northern Europe, and the difference must be as stark as the weather change. He’s compensating by overdriving the car, and that’s costing him. He’s making mistakes. And Lewis doesn’t.

If Alonso wants to start winning again, he needs to stop thinking he’s the World Champion, because this year he just won’t be if he continues driving the way he is. Instead he has to realise that he’s the rookie at McLaren, and start learning the ropes. We all know he’s got the Cajones, but does he have the brains?


6 comments on “At McLaren, Alonso’s the Rookie

  1. I’m not sure about some of your points – Alonso’s not moved from the Mediterranean to Northern Europe – he lived in Oxford last year and is going to live in Switzerland.

    But I completely agree that he’s been overdriving. He needs to find a way of getting ahead at the start – and that’s going to mean carrying less fuel in qualifying.

    I wish they’d get rid of refuelling so strategy no longer had a role to play. I want to see the drivers battle – not some obscure competition between team strategists.

  2. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough – his move is from a Mediterranean style of thinking to a Northern European way of thinking. His last boss, the demonstrable Italian Flavio Briatore is clearly a very different man to the rather cooler English Ron Dennis. His last engine supplier and engineers were French, his current ones are German. Alonso himself was born in Spain.

    Where he is physically located is immaterial – you carry your home country in your head with you wherever you are in the world. For instance, as an expat of 10 years I find I still convert prices to pounds to see how much things are worth.

    In addition to all that, it is well known that a “Hot blooded Mediterranean temperament” is completely different to a “Cool European way of thinking”. That comes from our genes and early upbringing.

    As for the lack of overtaking nowadays, I agree it needs to be improved. Damon Hill said a long while ago they need far less downforce and much wider stickier tyres, with wide tarmac run off areas. Well, so far we have two of those, but still no sticky tyres, and perhaps not enough work has been done to get rid of downforce.

    If cars cannot follow each other closely around corners, we’ll get no overtaking whether there are pit stops or not.

  3. I certainly agree with you last point – it seems that for years now they’ve cut the amount of grip the tyres can generate (first using grooves, then using a spec compound) while the amount of downforce steadily increases.

    So the importance of downforce has become proportionally more important and, as you say, makes it harder for cars to follow each other in disturbed air.

    The FIA now want to try to fix this by letting teams use flexible or moveable wings. I’m not sure whether that would work or not?

  4. I suspect the moveable wings idea is more a case of leveling the playing field because they know some teams cheat at this and already use these, but it’s impossible to catch them so they might as well make them legal for everyone.

    They should also get rid of circuits on which overtaking is difficult. Some of them hold very boring races on account of the lack of overtaking. This year seems worse than last for this though. Thank goodness for Lewis Hamilton!

  5. With overtaking I think it’s almost entirely down to the cars. Look at the GP2 races – they can pass at Magny-Cours, Silverstone and even Barcelona and Monaco. It’s all down to the aero-sensitivity of the F1 cars.

    What baffles me is that when they’ve got one racing series where they’ve cracked it (i.e. GP2) they can’t just apply the lessons learned there to Formula One – which is, slash the aerodynamic grip and bring back slick tyres.

  6. Yes, but where would Bernie put all the advertising if there were no wings? 😉

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