Place strategy

Fernando Alonso thinks Lewis Hamilton can only ‘drive in first place’. It’s nonsense

Toto Wolff gave an interesting answer when asked about Fernando Alonso’s radio rant at Lewis Hamilton during Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

The Spaniard, furious with his British rival for crossing him at Les Combes on the first lap, resulting in a collision between the two, accused Hamilton of being an “idiot” who “only knows how to drive and start first”. (Or perhaps “starting first” – no one could make out Alonso’s exact words.)

It was quite an allegation. But when asked about it at his press conference an hour or two after the end of the race, Wolff only smiled benevolently. “Lewis started a lot up front,” said the Austrian. “And he won seven world championships. So the strategy worked.

It was a neat comeback, but almost as interesting for what he didn’t say.

Wolff did not reject Alonso’s suggestion, nor offer any examples to show how wrong it was. He almost encouraged such discussions by agreeing that, yes, Hamilton was a very good favorite (although Wolff earlier described it as a “rare” mistake by Hamilton).

The truth is, Wolff didn’t need to refute Alonso. The suggestion was absurd and he didn’t need to honor it by entertaining the idea.

By any rational analysis, Hamilton is one of the best F1 drivers of all time, a driver gifted with extraordinary spatial feeling and awareness, and well able to race and win just about anywhere. on the grid.

Do you think Max Verstappen is the only person capable of winning from 14th place? Hamilton did exactly the same in Germany in 2018. Or what about the seven-time world champion’s extraordinary drive to win the Brazilian Grand Prix last year when he moved from last to fifth in the sprint race, then 10th to first in the actual race? How quickly people forget. Turning the peloton at Silverstone in the wet in 2008? Magical.

Ah, say his detractors, but he always had the fastest car. In fact, not always. Hamilton didn’t have the fastest car as defending champions in 2009. Or in 2010-13 when Red Bull reigned supreme. What he’s always done in those seasons is win at least one race in an inferior car that didn’t start on pole. In fact, of Hamilton’s 103 F1 wins, 42 have come from a non-pole start, 10 more than Alonso’s 32 wins in his entire career.

It rather blows Alonso’s theory out of the water.

No, the Spaniard’s comments should be taken for what they were: the burning words of the moment from a man who has just experienced a life-threatening collision seconds after the start, through no fault of his own. With potentially a bit of top-spin due to their sometimes strained relationship. Even he appeared to backtrack a bit in the mixed zone later, admitting it was a “tricky” corner, and pointing out that Nico Rosberg had done the same with Hamilton when they were teammates in 2013.

At that point, it was too late. Hamilton was clearly hurt by Alonso’s ‘stupid’ jibe, saying he therefore wouldn’t speak to the Spaniard in person, and it remains to be seen if there is any beef between them in Holland this week. But any suggestions that Hamilton can’t drive from further than pole? Ridiculous.

Luke Slater’s point of view: “A Kernel of Truth”

Alonso’s claim that Hamilton only knows how to run from the front is incorrect. Even at the Hungarian Grand Prix last month, Hamilton skilfully swept through the field to finish second.

Still, there is some truth in Alonso’s comment. For the majority of the past 10 years, the Briton has had a car that has helped him claim 103 wins, 103 pole positions and seven world titles. It wasn’t the whole car, but a driver like Alonso would have killed to have a car as good as Hamilton’s for even half a season.