|The history of motorsport abounds with stories of careers falling short of milestone achievements, tales of drivers on the brink of greatness, measured by statistics rather than bravery or valor.
The truth is that numbers paint only a partial picture of a driver’s story. They show no evidence of a driver’s outstanding skills, they offer no testimony to his passion or devotion.
Interestingly, the majority of the reactions to the announcement of Fernando Alonso’s retreat from Formula 1 reflected a sense of waste. Here was a man considered after all by many as one of the brightest talents of the sport’s modern era and viewed by some as the greatest of his generation, but deprived of the opportunity to prove it, at least statistically.
Alonso’s poor career choices are well chronicled. But they are judged in retrospect, and hindsight is always 20/20. From his five-year spell at Ferrari to his most recent cataclysmic shift at McLaren, it was all too often a story of being in the right place at the wrong time for the Spaniard. And results falling well short of expectations.
As ill-inspired as they appear today, Alonso’s past decisions were still brave and bold. And linking up with teams on a downward trajectory took nothing away from his phenomenal talent.
Last week, almost every major F1 outlet undertook the exercise of revisiting the 37-year-old’s career, and asking the inevitable question of ‘what if?’. It’s a useless task however which serves no practical or intelligent purpose.
By the same token, Alonso’s talent should not be considered as “wasted” as many pundits often imply. The numbers may not correlate, but the extraordinary gift bestowed upon him is always there for all to enjoy, regardless of where in the field he is racing.
These past few years Alonso has been stuck in the doldrums. Yet at every outing, with each effort, he offers at some point a scintillating move, a spark of genius, a flicker of greatness. Rarely for his own benefit, often for ours.
Misguided perhaps, but wasted the talent of the great Fernando Alonso is not.
Phillip van Osten