Two-time F1 champion Mika Hakkinen praises fellow title-winner Fernando Alonso for his patience despite the lack of results especially in his last four seasons.
Alonso was on a high after his title wins in 2005 and 2006 F1 seasons with Renault. He soon made the jump to McLaren in the hope to continue on his title run. However, controversy soon caught him up as he was forced to leave the team after just one year.
He returned to Renault but the team couldn’t deliver to his hopes. The Spaniard then switched to Ferrari in 2010 but the rise of Red Bull Racing hindered his title charge, even though he came mighty close twice in the five-year period.
With the relationship only straining, Alonso decided to jump back with McLaren who had high hopes with the return of Honda to start the hybrid era. But the plan hugely backfired as the Spaniard’s quest for a third title started to diminish.
His political nature meant, other teams did not wish to take him in, leaving him with no choice but to move out of the sport even though McLaren changed partners to Renault. He started to explore the idea of Triple Crown where he now just needs to win the Indy500.
For a talent like Alonso, 12 seasons without a title and majority without even a fight left a huge mark. A lot has been said about his reactions – mostly negative – but fellow rival Hakkinen has other ideas.
The Finn thinks that Alonso handled the disappointment well enough all these years. He feels for a driver of Alonso’s caliber, it is hard to not fight for a championship and so his patience said for itself in the last few seasons.
“Fernando Alonso’s departure deserves special mention,” Hakkinen wrote in his column. “He won two World Championships, and yet only eight World Championship points separated him from potentially winning another three.
“His achievements as a driver are not reflected by his titles. He has always been able to perform consistently and to the very highest level, including during the last four seasons at McLaren.
“For me it has been unbelievable to watch how he has reacted to a series of difficult times and disappointing results. You can only be proud of seeing a professional sportsman remaining so positive, focused and professional, whatever the circumstances.
“From a driver point of view it is difficult and frustrating to smile and keep performing when the car is not performing. I have a lot of respect for what Fernando achieved during his time with McLaren in Formula One, as he showed a lot of courage and loyalty to the team throughout this tough period.
“It is great to see that Fernando has a future planned in sports cars and also Indy, with plenty of fresh challenges to come as he aims to win the motor sport ‘Triple Crown’ – winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Indy 500.
“He has already the first two, so I wish him every success in next season’s Indy 500 with McLaren.” While discussing Alonso, Hakkinen also reflected on what has failed for McLaren in the recent times along with Williams.
“I have not written much this year about McLaren, and as many of you know I still work with the team both on the Formula One and road car business,” he wrote. “It’s been a 25-year relationship, and I feel the same pain the team has felt in recent seasons.
“Not being competitive is a tough experience. Looking at McLaren’s performance is not just a question of looking at what’s good and what’s bad. This is a team with a huge amount of experience and motivation, and with a long term plan to return to the front.
“Ultimately they are only interested in winning. It is important to be patient, and recognise that becoming a winner again takes time. It took me seven years to win my first Formula One race, and I well remember the years with McLaren between 1993 and 1997 when I was working hard to get the results I wanted.
“Ultimately our plan worked, and I won my two titles. Personally, I feel that teams such as McLaren and Williams are suffering from the regulations which restrict track testing. Since they are unable to test, it becomes very difficult to figure out the real issues with the cars and put solutions in place.
“No computer system, simulation or modelling technique can exactly replicate what we see on a race track.” It remains to be seen how McLaren and Williams copes up in 2019 with both team opting for an all-new line-up with an experience and rookie pairing.