Comment: Fernando Alonso has become used to taking the walk-on role - he and Ferrari need a change of script

Alonso was supposed to be the one racking up the titles in a career among the best

“Excuse me, Fernando,” Martin Brundle said as he eased the two-time world champion out of camera shot to get to the winner of the Chinese Grand Prix. Brundle would be back to Alonso in sequence after he had spoken to Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, the lucky boys at Mercedes galloping away with the season.

Alonso is used to the walk-on part. It hardly matters that he is picking over the bones left by Mercedes after four years feeding on the scraps discarded by Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull. That was supposed to be his fate, the youngest driver to win a World Championship racking up the titles in a career that might rank among the very best.

It must make Alonso smile to listen to Vettel’s ill-humoured bellyaching after successive reverses to his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Not to mention the allowances made for him by team principal Christian Horner, Vettel has four consecutive world titles to console him.

He is, of course, a marvellous driver, a fierce competitor and a sharp manipulator of the political space within a team, just as Alonso was at Renault when he was the one smashing the stranglehold on Formula One held by Michael Schumacher and Ferrari.

Alonso was the driver identified by Luca di Montezemolo to return the Scuderia to the dominance of a decade ago. Both are still waiting.

Alonso’s contract at Maranello runs until the end of 2016. There was talk of an extension last year when speculation linked him with an unlikely return to McLaren. You wonder in which direction his private thoughts are taking him as he ponders what will almost certainly be the last big decision of his career.

Alonso is in his fifth year in red. A third world title already looks beyond him in 2014. The season is only four races old yet just one team has tasted victory, the margin of conquest dispiritingly huge. The account he gave of his race weekend when Brundle eventually made it to the end of the podium walk has become the soundtrack to his Ferrari experience.

“Good weekend. We improved the car a little bit. We were more competitive. The race pace was a nice surprise. We didn’t have the start we wanted but we are fighting,” he said, effectively running off a series of bullet points attending failure.

Ferrari have recognised the need to do something by allowing Stefano Domenicali, the team principal, to fall on his sword. In comes Marco Mattiacci, yanked from his bed before the hour had struck 6am by  Di Montezemolo, who began the telephone exchange with a line that might start a novel: “This is my idea.”

Figures as powerful as the Ferrari president do not do introductions. Within hours the head of Ferrari North America was running a grand prix team in China, not surprisingly behind the veil of Raybans. Will Ferrari see the light under his command? The answer is unlikely to be revealed on this year’s asphalt. The gap to Mercedes is too great even for a team with as much financial grunt as Ferrari.

The best hope is that the brains trust at Fiorano come up with a solution for 2015 that gives Alonso the chance to resurrect his career and Ferrari to retain his services until the end of his racing days. At 32 he is not done by any means, yet nine years have passed since the first of those consecutive world titles that seemed to presage a future of far greater import.

Alonso was a groundbreaker, raising Formula One to a new level of significance in his native Spain, a country in thrall to love on two wheels, be it automotive or pedal power fuelling the romance. With grand prix meetings in economic retreat across the rest of Europe, Spain added a second race in Valencia to the staple in Barcelona, such was the euphoria that greeted Alonso’s rise.

The McLaren launch in 2007 in Valencia was the last of its kind in Formula One, a lavish affair on the Valencia waterfront featuring the Cirque de Soleil paid for by Spanish money from the vaults at the Bank of Santander. This was all made possible by the brilliance of the kid from Oviedo.

Had Alonso and McLaren’s owner, Ron Dennis, managed each other better then greater control of debutant Lewis Hamilton could have been had and, who knows, the World Championships of 2007 and 2008 might have been the Spaniard’s, too.

That was certainly the idea. The failure of that association proved catastrophic, costing Alonso two further wasted years treading water back at Renault before what appeared the perfect match with Ferrari. It would be some second marriage were Dennis to persuade Alonso to return to McLaren. Don’t dismiss that out of hand. Dennis outmanoeuvred the great Formula One song-and-dance man Flavio Briatore to land him in the first place when the champagne corks were still popping after his first championship success at Interlagos in 2005.

Needs must, and as things stand both Alonso and McLaren are in need of something.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game