Alonso, Vettel rivalry lights up F1
By Sandip G | ENS | Published: 28th October 2012 10:17 AM |
At the heart of almost every sporting episode is the subtext of an engaging rivalry. Some are just meant to be, triggered by reasons beyond the reach of sports. Some others exist untold, and the latter for all its virtual haziness, can be the nastiest.
For example Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, the frontrunners for the F1 championship, haven’t a smidge on of apparent enmity, despite being thinly separated on the points table. Though either of them is fated to occupying the rear-view mirror of the other, almost permanently this season, instances of racetrack flare-ups (verbal or otherwise) are too scarce to recount.
Sure there have been the odd skirmishes or two, as proved when Vettel squeezed by on the outside of Curva Grande at Monza last year and when Alonso attempted to return the favour at the circuit this year, resulting in FIA slapping a drive-through penalty for Vettel.
But their rivalry isn’t quite as heated as those of James Hunt and Mario Andretti, Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, or Michael Schumacher’s with Damon Hill first and Mika Hakkinen next or more recently between Lewis Hamilton and Felippe Massa, and the former’s in-house dislike of Alonso in the latter’s McLaren days.
This isn’t to say that Vettel and Alonso are the best of mates, submissive enough to be pleased with each other’s success. Not the least with speculations of Vettel’s prospective move to Ferrari next season. Not the least with the championship on a knife-edge.
They are as ferociously competitive, but there is no undercurrent of animosity. Their rivalry is based on mutual respect and not on confrontational loathing.
There is no explicit mudslinging. They abstain from verbal volley wars in press conferences. The singular instance of Alonso making a judgmental opinion was when he said he reckoned Lewis Hamilton a better driver than Vettel. Nonetheless, the streak of brashness Alonso had displayed in his Renault days has been displaced by a word-perfect cadence.
But it’s a rivalry with immense possibilities, and it’s a rivalry that can enhance the sport’s box-office appeal.