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Vettel and Alonso – will patience allow for winless seasons?

Vettel and Alonso – will patience allow for winless seasons?

F1 News

Vettel and Alonso – will patience allow for winless seasons?

Vettel and Alonso – will patience allow for winless seasons?
Ewan Gale & Will Knight

With a combined tally of six titles and 85 victories, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are two of F1’s best talents. But will midfield machinery in 2022 be able to satisfy the veteran pair?

Alonso rejoined F1 with Alpine last season after leaving the sport in 2018 following a miserable end to his time with McLaren as the team's partnership with Honda failed to match expectations.

Vettel, meanwhile, moved to Aston Martin after Ferrari announced early last season it would not be renewing the German's contract into a seventh year.

Both drivers encountered mixed fortunes last year with their new teams, with Alonso enjoying by far the better campaign of the two, although Aston Martin was hit in pre-season by a change to the regulations that hampered its car.

The champion duo at least stepped onto the podium again, with Vettel runner-up in Baku and Alonso third in Qatar.

The question is, with both out of contract at the end of this season, will either opt to continue, or have the chance to continue, for a third season if Alpine and Aston Martin cannot provide them with the car and opportunities to deliver more regularly this term?

Will patience run out?

Alonso is not shy when delivering criticism towards a team for underperforming given his chastening put-downs of the McLaren-Honda operation.

The Spaniard was promised a competitive car when rejoining the Woking-based outfit for 2015 after struggling during a difficult final year with Ferrari.

Whilst he could have been forgiven a bedding-in year, the continual doom and gloom that led to the "GP2 engine" tirade was ultimately too much.

It forced Alonso away from F1 and towards other forms of motorsport and another world championship success in endurance racing.

Now with Alpine, Alonso was fully aware his first season at the end of a regulation set that was barely altered from 2020 into 2021 would be middle of the road, and with the focus fully on this year's revamped aerodynamic rules.

The expectation for many teams up and down the paddock is that the clean sheet of paper will offer chances of victories and a championship tilt. That is what Alonso will certainly have set his sights on.

If Alpine fail to deliver, you then have to wonder where he will summon the motivation to continue into 2023 when he will be 41.

The same can be said of Vettel, whose form with an underperforming car has been less dramatic, although on both occasions the German switched teams.

When Red Bull's form dipped in 2014 after its title success from 2010 to 2013, Vettel moved to Ferrari which at the time appeared to be the right one for the German, with his old team a declining force.

There were title challenges, at least up to a point, in 2017 and 2018 but after a six-year partnership, it was Ferrari that opted to call it a day and head down a different route.

Whilst Vettel is now less vocal about team issues than in the past, he is seemingly in the twilight of his F1 career, with long-overdue success surely an immediate rather than a long-term goal.

Aston Martin has set a realistic target of 2025 for a championship challenge but is Vettel willing to wait around that long? What he will surely be wanting to see this year is that the car is competitive and fighting for podiums.

Will management changes have any effect?

Both teams are currently experiencing management shake-ups which could have a bearing on how each feels in his environment.

Otmar Szafnauer was a crucial part of Vettel's decision to join Aston Martin, although the latter's first chief engineer in F1 has returned to the sport to take over as team principal.

Mike Krack worked with the German at BMW Sauber ahead of his debut at the US Grand Prix in 2007.

For Alonso, however, things are very different. He agreed to return when Alpine was still Renault and under the stewardship of Cyril Abiteboul. Yet before he had turned a wheel in anger, the Frenchman was gone.

In came Marcin Budkowski and Davide Brivio to form the final two parts of a three-pronged management structure along with Laurent Rossi as CEO.

Yet in early January, Budkowski's departure was announced after rumours surfaced at the end of 2021 there would be more upheaval behind the scenes, while four-time champion Alain Prost has also exited from his role as an advisor.

Alpine has also confirmed a new technical structure, with Pat Fry becoming chief technical officer and Matt Harman stepping up to become technical director.

If Alonso is in need of instant success, the constant changing of personnel points to a long-term strategy, particularly given Alpine's 100-race target to be title challengers. As with Vettel, is Alonso really prepared to put up with this?

What both drivers will have noticed of late is a number of racing legends quitting their forms of motorsport to either relax and have fun in other series, or try and conquer their new categories.

Alonso has already tried this given his successful WEC run, but elsewhere WRC legend Sebastian Ogier has switched to the endurance series.

Valentino Rossi has switched from two wheels to four after spending the last years of his career in the midfield.

NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson has moved to IndyCar whilst various F1 drivers have switched to Formula E and competed for wins and podiums.

Alonso still has an eye on the Indy 500 to complete the triple crown. Vettel, however, is six years younger and would surely find competition in any series in which he wanted to try his hand.

With a record-breaking 23-race calendar for the upcoming season, and potentially 25 next year, if there is little to no chance of competing at the front of the grid, why would these two great champions put themselves through such a sacrifice to home and family life if there are no rewards to reap?

In all likelihood, we will see Vettel in 2023 no matter the circumstances but for Alonso, previous struggles dictate he will move on if results are not up to scratch.

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