Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2008, 12:00am


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It didn't take long for Fernando Alonso to revert to scheming and whining. The new season is only two races old and yet the Spaniard is already piling up the column inches after a decidedly mediocre start to the season by Renault.

How about this quote after the Malaysian Grand Prix: 'I always try to be in the best car. I'm at Renault because we won in 2005 and '06 and I want to do that again, this year or next. But when the option of leaving exists, I will try to be in the best car possible and it's clear Ferrari is one of the best.'

Here we go again. Remember last season when Alonso wanted away from McLaren? It wasn't a secret that he coveted a seat at Ferrari. As he says, he always tries to be in the best car. Philippe Massa must have felt a chill when he shared the podium with his teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Alonso at the last race in Brazil.

Make no mistake; with Ferrari sticking with their drivers and their contracts, Alonso is a refugee at Renault. It might be the place where he won two world titles, but it isn't a place he wants to be right now. When he rejoined Renault on a two-year contract, the team rubbished suggestion that he had a break clause that would enable him to jump to Ferrari for next year. After all, they pointed out Raikkonen and Massa would still be under contract.

Of course, this fails to recognise that Formula One is unlike any other business. It's more ruthless and teams have more than enough money to buy out any contracts, rendering them not worthless, but certainly not watertight either.

This knowledge must worry Massa. The season has not started well for him. No points after two retirements has had the paddock awash with rumours that he could be replaced not at the end of the season, but any time soon, forcing the Brazilian into a public denial.

Should it happen, it would be terribly unfair on Massa. It would also reflect badly on Alonso, who, as we saw at McLaren last year, has a very strong selfish streak.

But the fact of the matter is he's a racing driver. The very instincts that help him win races drive him in his decisions off the track. He's only concerned about number one, and being number one. If that means stepping over a couple of colleagues on the way, so be it. It may not be the prettiest of human traits in life in general, but in Formula One, it's the way it is. We can criticise people like Alonso for a lack of loyalty and of arrogance, but without it, the sport would be a very boring affair indeed.

I've been pondering recently what makes a real F1 fan. Is it the amount they read on a subject, the number of circuits they've visited, or the amount they're willing to spend on eBay? For me I think it might be the extent to which the F1 calendar becomes your calendar, the amount that events in your life are tied to events on the track.

Let me give you a personal example. My daughter was born over the weekend of the British Grand Prix of 2003. She arrived on the day of the race, which rather ruined any chance of watching the race, but I still remember it as the race when my daughter arrived (oh and the nutter ran down the straight, and Barrichello won for Ferrari).

One other date sticks in my mind, May 3, 1994. I was travelling in the Australian outback and in the evening I popped into an isolated store. In the corner a TV has the news on, and I caught the end of a report about Ayrton Senna. It took a while to realise that they were talking about the aftermath of his death a couple of days before at Imola.

Just two personal examples of how the sport we love becomes entwined in our lives in a way that can never be forgotten. I'm sure most of us would have it no other way.