Alonso and Ferrari target last chance to save season - Motor Racing - Sport - The Independent

Alonso and Ferrari target last chance to save season

Driver known as 'Teflonso' for surviving scandals is under huge pressure to win in Italian team's home race

Back in his days of world championship success with Renault, in 2005 and 2006, things seemed very different for Fernando Alonso. He was the popular hero, the plucky Spaniard who finally toppled the great Michael Schumacher. But now that he is Ferrari's team leader, it seems he has adopted the mantle of anti-hero from the German. Controversy courts him, and his ability to emerge from it apparently unscathed has earned him the nickname "Teflonso".

When he went to Ferrari for this year, many expected him to dominate just like Schumacher used to: the best driver in the best team. So what's gone wrong? Why has his season been a litany of modest success interspersed with uncharacteristic mistakes?

It began so well, with a debut victory in Bahrain, then came a brilliant drive in Malaysia as he fought for points despite a recalcitrant gearbox which made the Ferrari a nightmare to drive and led to an engine failure. China saw him jump the start for the first time in his F1 career, then clash with team-mate Felipe Massa as he overtook him in the pit entry lane.

The most significant – and embarrassing – mistake came in Monaco, when he finished only sixth after crashing in practice. But after he had illegally overtaken Robert Kubica at Silverstone his prevarication over letting the Pole back past cost him a drive-through penalty and raised questions over his judgement. Then there was the crash at Spa last time out.

In between came a strong showing spoiled by team strategy in Canada, the controversial "team orders" win in Hockenheim at Massa's cost, and a decent second in Hungary that helped push him into belated title contention.

So he's under big pressure, as if racing for Ferrari on their home ground wasn't problem enough. He denies that this is a make-or-break weekend, but acknowledges that if Ferrari do badly here and in Singapore in a fortnight's time, they will have to abandon their 2010 title hopes and shift the developmental focus to the 2011 car.

"There's no denying that Monza will be very important," he concedes. "At our home circuit we will have to do everything to avoid losing any more points: a good result here would be a great boost. If things go badly, it won't be bye-bye for the championship but it would be a hard knock for team morale. But I have always said that in the season good luck and bad luck tend to balance one another out, so let's hope that from now on it's payback time."

Some say Ferrari have already had that after escaping further punishment earlier this week for the "team orders" affair and Alonso gets snappy when people push that point. "It's in the past for us. All the August break we talked about the Germany incident. I have no special feeling, nothing to say."

It was here four years ago he angrily declared that F1 was no longer a sport after being penalised for impeding Massa's Ferrari, but he seems unwilling or unable to acknowledge the sporting injustice of team orders. Instead he insists that a 2010 title would be as good as his two previous crowns, "Because when you win the title, you win the title."

But if he doesn't succeed this year, will he regard that as failure? "Ah, no," he says quickly. "For sure, every championship you start or every first race you arrive to a new season, you want to become champion at the end. If you cannot arrive to that goal, it's a disappointment for yourself and for the team. But I think the words failure or disaster are a bit too extreme. We are in a very competitive sport, we know our opponents are very strong as well, very competitive and the champion at the end is the one that deserves it most. If we are not champions, it's because we didn't do enough to do it."

He pauses. "This first season at Ferrari, so far, has been incredible. It has been the best of my life and I'm enjoying it. I'm a super-happy man." That's a view, however, that increasingly seems at odds with his scowling expression at races.

Alonso's troubled season

Malaysia, 4 April Problem with Ferrari's downshift leads to the engine blowing up on the last lap. He finishes in 13th.

China, 18 April Jumps start and incurs a drive-through penalty, but recovers to fourth place.

Monaco, 16 May Destroying his Ferrari in practice. Fights back to take sixth in the race.

Turkey, 30 May Car is woefully off the pace as Alonso struggles to eighth place.

Canada, 13 June Long pit-stop costs him dearly and he ends up finishing third.

Europe, 9 May Loses out during a safety car intervention. Finishes eighth and accuses the stewards of manipulating the race.

Britain, 11 July Collides with Massa early on, then incurs a penalty after illegally overtaking Robert Kubica. Later collides with Tonio Liuzzi in a Force India. Finishes 15th.

Germany, 25 July Controversy as Massa slows to let Spaniard past to win. Alonos angers media with turbulent response to suggestions that it has been a hollow victory.

Belgium, 29 August Crashes in the rain.

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week