Fernando Alonso’s performance in today’s Japanese Grand Prix was further proof – if it were needed – that the Spaniard is at the very peak of his powers behind the wheel. On a weekend where his chances of victory were supposedly slim he drove a stunning race to quietly sneak in to the hunt for the win late on. That he crossed the line just over a second shy of victor Jenson Button is an achievement on a par with the McLaren driver’s.
Alonso compromised his qualifying pace in favour of greater race performance. It was a risk that would pay off brilliantly in the grand prix, though it did leave him behind team-mate Felipe Massa on Saturday afternoon. You can be pretty sure he didn’t like that.
Come the race he held position off the line, running fifth early on behind Massa, before the Brazilian allowed a very easy pass in to turn one. From there he upped his pace, allowing him to capitalise on Hamilton’s puncture and rise to third.
He would then leapfrog Sebastian Vettel at the final stop and held off the champion-in-waiting with some robust defensive driving. As the German backed off to seal the title Alonso went in pursuit of Button.
As the race entered the final five laps Alonso looked capable of challenging for the win, cutting the Englishman’s lead by a few tenths a lap to get tantalisingly close to the DRS activation zone. Button was equal to the charge though, pumping in some quick laps to ensure he took a well-deserved Japanese win.
But Alonso deserves credit too. He is relentless at the wheel of the Ferrari, his head never dropping during the grand prix. Today’s was an almost perfect race for the Spaniard, with no mistakes, lightning pace and as an intelligent approach as you’re likely to see. Button was the star, Vettel will make the headlines, but Fernando will leave Suzuka hugely satisfied with his own performance. If Ferrari can put together a car equal to his abilities in 2012 Alonso will be right back in the hunt for the world title.