Kevin Garside: Could Fernando Alonso or Lewis Hamilton next wear the F1 crown?

It’s game on again in the F1 soap opera as Vettel’s sudden fallibility opens the door for Alonso or Hamilton to regain the drivers’ crown

The soap opera returns. It is hard to remember a Formula One season starting in quite the same circumstances as this one. The sport’s greatest champion, Michael Schumacher, lies comatose in a hospital bed, its chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, is fighting for his professional life in a German court, the champion of the past four years, Sebastian Vettel, is strapped to a Red Bull emasculated by radical changes; oh, and Ron Dennis is back.

The convergence of Vettel and Red Bull by increments squeezed the life out of the sport. Last season’s procession to a fourth consecutive world championship left even the diehards screaming for mercy. Suddenly great drivers rendered impotent by the steely brilliance of Vettel and the automotive genius of Adrian Newey have an opportunity to resurrect careers.

Who would have thought Fernando Alonso would spend eight years potless when Dennis swooped audaciously behind the garages in Brazil to make the young Spaniard an offer he couldn’t refuse in the post-race frenzy of his maiden world championship?

That was nine years ago. Having ended the unprecedented reign of the mighty Schumacher, Alonso was seen as a Fangio-like figure, a driver of preternatural gifts who would define the post-Schumi epoch. Dennis, demonstrating the same instinctive nerve presently blowing through McLaren, was in like a flash to outmanoeuvre a player of Flavio Briatore’s slippery class.

It quickly turned to mush for both in one of the most compelling episodes in recent F1 history. Dennis has many qualities, stubborness being one, but on that occasion his inflexible adherence to some high-minded principle preserving competitive integrity killed the dream. That and Lewis Hamilton turning up.

Read more: Sabine Kehm confirms Schumacher is 'still in wake up phase'
Dennis says heads will roll unless McLaren sharpen up

The “who’d have thought” game applies equally powerfully to Hamilton. Here was a kid who did what no other had, a boy from a Stevenage council estate smashing Formula One stereotypes left, right and centre. By race and background Hamilton should have been nowhere near the F1 paddock, yet here he was giving a double world champion the hurry-up in his rookie year.

With two races of the 2007 season remaining Hamilton had a 17-point lead over Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. What happened in China, where McLaren left him out on dead rubber for half a dozen laps, defies F1 convention. At the last race, in Brazil, he was visited by a mysterious glitch that came and went at a point on the circuit that would present least danger to cars rushing by and, crucially as it turned out, allowed Raikkonen to put enough space between his car and Hamilton’s to win the title. Most convenient.

Hamilton would rise again a year later only to see his McLaren career crushed under the aegis of Martin Whitmarsh. Had Dennis  reached for the guillotine and lopped the well-meaning technocrat sooner, Hamilton might still be a McLaren driver. Mad as it sounds he might yet be again. So might Alonso. They might even be paired together.

No? I refer you to the opening paragraph. Anything is possible in this sport.

Read more: Vettel admits Red Bull are having a 'bloody difficult time'
Hamilton reflects on his most 'challenging winter'

Hamilton’s move to an uncertain Mercedes a year ago looks inspired now. Perhaps the team’s biggest challenge will be keeping Hamilton and Nico Rosberg from each other’s throats. Rosberg, who showed in draining the romance from Schumacher’s return how hard he is to shift, is a dangerously measured counterpoint to the extravagant speed of Hamilton. 

The potentially explosive dynamic at Ferrari is no less fascinating, with the re-signing of 2007 champion Raikkonen to race alongside Alonso. You would not have bet two bob on that happening when Il Presidente, Luca di Montezemolo, gave him the flick to accommodate Alonso in 2010.

Raikkonen was a revelation in his early days at McLaren, lightning quick and gloriously uncomplicated. He is no less dismissive of the “bullshit” that swirls around the paddock today, just more mature and better equipped to deal with it, which he will need to be if the competition with Alonso gets close. 

How marvellous it is to see Williams looking like a team again, and with the blood line represented impressively by Claire Williams. The old man is no doubt proud of her quiet resolve and savvy marshalling of resources. With that Mercedes machinery underneath him, Felipe Massa has peppered the right end of the time sheets in testing, suggesting there is more to that retro Martini livery than nostalgia.

So the pieces that have been up in the air all winter are about to fall on Melbourne. The big teams will adjust fastest to the new environment and order shall eventually emerge from the chaos. Will it be Hamilton or Rosberg, Alonso or Raikkonen, Jenson Button or Kevin Magnussen – or will fate hand Massa the trophy it stole from him at Interlagos in 2008? In a sense none of it matters. One word from Schumacher that tells the world there is a way out of that tragic and unfathomable silence trumps any outcome on the track.

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
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
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