Since the first half the Formula One season has come to a close focus has shifted, slightly, to a different kind of podium, one concerned with flowers and medals rather than trophies and champagne. Although they do share one striking similarity, the individual fight for victory on a global stage in one moment, Olympians have one chance every four years to cement their destiny; Formula One drivers go at it year after year.
When a season starts there are natural favourites, those who prospered last time around naturally float to the top, and for 2012 Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing were the ones to beat. It was a fair assumption, money well spent if you’re of a gambling persuasion, but at the halfway point there is only one man who has proved he’s worth his weight in gold. And what a considerable weight it is.
Currently, the highest paid Formula One driver, Fernando Alonso, has left the field in his wake but it has been far from an easy ride since Australia. Looking further back the oft mentioned ‘trouble with Ferrari’ stories from the opening races started in testing when the F2012 was initially unveiled. Their version of the platypus nose was much ridiculed, and with testing giving the critics more ammunition the 2012 season looked like another year of damage limitation.
However as the season dramatically unfolded, it soon became clear that someone out there who wanted to be man over machine would be making headlines this time around. When Vettel took his titles, his superb driving ability shared column inches with Adrian Newey’s design genius, when Alonso has taken the flag his victories are in spite of the car.
That is not to say he’s done it alone, a helping hand from the weather in Malaysia helped his cause in the second race of the year, especially when it contributed to a slip from a punchy Perez in the closing laps. As the season continued to fly away and the results fluctuated in line with getting to grips with the tricky Pirelli rubber, Alonso quietly hung in there to consistently score points and he continued to do so right up until the summer break.
Examining the top five scorers at this point in the championship, only one of them has yet to touch that bottom line, and it’s Alonso naturally. Those in the chasing pack have all felt the sting of a pointless race, and apart from the two races following his first win the Spaniard has been in the double digits ever since. Adding another two wins, Alonso is demonstrating that consistency is an instrumental element to the 2012 season; his rivals have been in cars judged to be superior at varying points ahead of the Ferrari yet it’s that scarlet hue making the moves.
The only time the F2012 has looked the sum of its parts was in China and Bahrain, where before the former Alonso voiced his concerns about making it into the final qualifying session, as we saw he just squeezed in. The prestigious team have repeatedly highlighted that aerodynamics are a weakness for them, and a long term plan, headed by Luca di Montezemolo, will focus on ensuring future success in the area to reflect previous dominance.
Putting the spotlight on Alonso’s magnificent form has naturally put others under a microscope, and under the harshest lens comes his team mate, Felipe Massa. With the aforementioned Ferrari president announcing that 2012 will be an important year for his career, the Brazilian has spent the first half of the season firmly in the shade, being defended and defending his performance. Piloting the same machinery, Alonso has soared and Massa has struggled, and although a recent upturn has lifted the spirits his last taste of champagne is archived under Korea, 2010.
Throughout the unpredictability of the season Alonso has so far been able to hold his nerve and navigate a route that has led him to the front of the grid, with a healthy margin of 40 points between him and his closest rival of Red Bull Racing’s Webber, his team mate Vettel is another two points behind. Hamilton and Räikkönen are chasing hard with just a point between separating them, and with the revitalised Finn getting increasingly agitated spending Sundays on the podium without winning, Alonso will have some eager company in Belgium.
This season may defy logic at times, but there is a constant Alonso will grasp on to; wins will be the surest means of securing his third title and that is something he is finding easier than his rivals. However, as much as this is true, behind him line up five champions and one vying for his first. Tough company, will his golden touch be enough to keep him ahead?
Photos courtesy of Octane Photographic.