Analysis: Watch Out for Alonso

Giancarlo Fisichella deserves all the accolades that come with being the first Italian in 20 years to lead the Formula One World Championship

Analysis: Watch Out for Alonso

That said, the Roman would be wise to watch out for Renault teammate Fernando Alonso when the action resumes in Malaysia next week.

While Fisichella was a worthy winner in Sunday's weather-influenced Australian season-opener, cruising from pole to chequered flag, the Spaniard's performance in Melbourne was pure dynamite.

Alonso's red-blooded charge through traffic from 13th to third place was the more impressive performance in the circumstances.

"It was brilliantly aggressive," said Renault's head of engineering and chief strategist Pat Symonds. "There were four clear overtaking moves and that's normally impossible around Melbourne.

"He was the driver of the day. Giancarlo didn't need to be, he was so far ahead."

Alonso might have finished second had he not been held up for lap after lap by the Sauber of Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 champion who was a pale shadow of his former self.

Malaysia, where Alonso became Formula One's youngest pole-setter in 2003 before going on to win in Hungary, could be quite a battle between the Renault men even if McLaren or Ferrari prove stronger on the day.

Early Marker

It was important for Fisichella to put down an early marker against Alonso because he is the man he will be measured against over all others.

The 23-year-old Spaniard is a Renault favourite, managed by team principal Flavio Briatore and carefully nurtured since his 2001 debut as a promising teenager with Minardi.

While the French team have no doubts about Alonso's potential, seeing him as the heir to Ferrari's seven times Champion Michael Schumacher, the same could not be said of Fisichella.

Briatore warned last year, after Fisichella signed from Sauber, that 2005 could be make or break.

"You see a lot of drivers with fantastic talent - Jean Alesi was like that - but they never develop it," the Italian said in October. "I think Fisichella still has the chance to do that and I think he understands he must, because it's the last ditch for him, isn't it?

"If he misses this train, in three years nobody will remember him because he's done nothing. Absolutely nothing."

That may sound harsh for a driver who has only once in his career been bettered by a teammate, Austrian Alex Wurz scoring one point more than Fisichella when they were paired at Benetton in 1998.

Yet Briatore had a point. Until Sunday, Fisichella's sole victory was a fluke win in Brazil in 2003 when the race was stopped shortly after he had taken the lead.

He is a supremely talented driver, one of the quickest and smoothest, but there have been doubts about his mental strength in adversity in a career that has seen plenty of wrong moves.

"The biggest problem with Fisi is when he qualifies 10th, that's when I worry about him," said former boss Eddie Jordan this week.

Sunday's flawless performance, making him the first Italian to top the standings since the late Ferrari ace Michele Alboreto in 1985, could be a watershed however.

As Fisichella said on Sunday, the situation is very different now. He has his head up and it is unlikely to go down again in a hurry.

"It is the first time in my life that I drive a car with a lot of potential, a good car which has been quick and consistent from the beginning to (the) end," he said.

Fisichella can also expect equal treatment. Unlike Ferrari, where seven times Champion Michael Schumacher is the clear number one, the Renault men have been given clear instructions to race each other.

"I think the demands from our audience are very simple; people want one thing and that is to see a good race," said Briatore at the weekend.

"Our basic job is to make a car, organise races and then produce a championship where the drivers can overtake, fight each other and compete for the title until the last races.

"And it doesn't matter that those drivers are from the same team if they are allowed to fight each other."

On the evidence of last weekend, it could be some battle.

shares
comments
Analysis: Watch Out for Alonso
Previous article

Analysis: Watch Out for Alonso

Next article

Zonta Sets the Pace at Jerez - Day Three

Zonta Sets the Pace at Jerez - Day Three
Load comments
The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race Plus

The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race

OPINION: Max Verstappen has made the 2021 Formula 1 championship. He’s taken the fight to the all-conquering Mercedes squad and its dominant champion, produced driving displays few can match. But he’s been on a controversial course too, and finally crossed a particular line in Jeddah

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

An ill-tempered Saudi Grand Prix made Formula 1 more soap opera than sporting spectacle at times, but there were some strong performances up and down the field on the world championship's first visit to Jeddah

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series Plus

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a race packed full of incident as Formula 1 2021's title contenders repeatedly clashed on track. Lewis Hamilton won out over Max Verstappen to level the scores heading into next weekend's Abu Dhabi finale, as Jeddah turned F1 into a drama series

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance Plus

The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance

Dropped by Red Bull last season, Alexander Albon has fought back into a Formula 1 seat with Williams. ALEX KALINAUCKAS explains what Albon has done to earn the place soon to be vacated by the highly rated George Russell

Formula 1
Dec 5, 2021
How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes Plus

How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes

Mercedes led the way in practice for Formula 1’s first race in Jeddah, where Red Bull was off the pace on both single-lap and long runs. But, if Max Verstappen can reverse the results on Saturday, factors familiar in motorsport’s main electric single-seater category could be decisive in another close battle with Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1
Dec 3, 2021
Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer Plus

Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer

Earning praise from rivals has been a welcome sign that Lando Norris is becoming established among Formula 1's elite. But the McLaren driver is confident that his team's upward curve can put him in the mix to contend for titles in the future, when he's hoping the compliments will be replaced by being deemed an equal adversary

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention Plus

What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention

After a disastrous 2020 in which it slumped to sixth in the F1 constructors' standings, Ferrari has rebounded strongly and is on course to finish third - despite regulations that forced it to carryover much of its forgettable SF1000 machine. Yet while it can be pleased with its improvement, there are still steps it must make if 2022 is to yield a return to winning ways

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations Plus

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations

OPINION: The pressure is firmly on Red Bull and Mercedes as Formula 1 2021 embarks on its final double-header. How the respective teams deal with that will be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the drivers' and constructors' championships, as Autosport's technical consultant and ex-McLaren F1 engineer explains

Formula 1
Dec 1, 2021