Ferrari get their act together to promise much for Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso will never be everyone's favourite - but he keeps winning people over; on top of that, he keeps winning races. Indeed, it may well prove that the Spaniard's victory on home soil at the weekend is the one to get his title challenge in full swing.
Built on some tasty first-lap overtaking and his customary nerves of steel, Alonso underlined a comfortable afternoon that Felipe Massa happily added to.
And while Sebastian Vettel has always been a man most likely for the drivers’ crown (again), Ferrari have always seemed best placed for a tilt at the constructors’ title.
That would of course please Alonso – but it will never be the one he really wants.
Alonso has had a tough time off some British F1 fans ever since he in turn had a tough time alongside Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.
But since breaking out of Woking the Spaniard’s racing style, attitude and box office ability mean there should be few people who tune into Formula One every fortnight without huge respect for the two-time champion.
So much so, I bet a few fans who weren’t rooting for Alonso have found themselves willing him to bag title number three.
Whether that happens this season will come down almost entirely on the team around him – a pressure Maranello has not always handled very well, be it in past seasons or so far this. But with Vettel and Alonso now on two wins apiece in 2013, while Kimi Raikkonen keeps up a truly relentless level of consistency, we could have an epic battle ahead.
Sadly that battle is a million miles away from McLaren, whose Barcelona form seems to suggest Woking will be nowhere near challenging for silverware come the end of the term.
They will already be turning their attentions to picking up race wins here and there, while hoping to see a change in fortunes come 2014.
Barcelona is traditionally the point at which you can start to genuinely see a team’s prospects for the season. That will be bad news for the likes of Mercedes, while Caterham can wear the broadest smile they’ve tried since the season began. But Ferrari’s will be widest of all, keeping Red Bull at arm’s length with the prospect of even more to come.
“For me, this weekend was important to understand what was the jump in performance due to the steps made by the other teams,” said team boss Stefano Domenicali.
“Some teams will be forced to start work on the 2014 car…it is really a crucial part of the season.”