Fernando Alonso has jumped to the defence of his struggling Mclaren teammate Stoffel Vandoorne by reminding everybody that he isn’t easy to beat – just ask Kimi Raikkonen
The Spaniard was joined by the Iceman at Ferrari in 2014 in what was the first time in 60 years that the Scuderia had fielded two World Champions in the same team following the struggles of Felipe Massa in comparison to Alonso over their four seasons alongside each other.
But, much like his former Ferrari teammate, Raikkonen fared no better against the ever-dominant Alonso and could only manage to out-qualify him three times over 19 Grands Prix, while being on average half a second slower throughout the year.
The Finn also finished a staggering 106 points behind in a distant 12th-place finish in the Driver’s Championship standings.
Based on this, Alonso feels that it is harsh to judge Vandoorne on his performances against him following the Belgian’s failure to out-qualify him for the past 17 races in succession.
“I think it’s difficult to beat me,” joked Alonso on the official Formula One website.
“He always has to be a little bit behind. But if you see previous teammates, they were a lot further behind than Stoffel. Like in 2014 or something like that, it was six or seven-tenths to Kimi every race. He’s less than that now.”
Following an impressive debut outing for Mclaren at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, as a stand-in for the injured Alonso, and having been crowned GP2 champion later that year after a dominant campaign, Vandoorne arrived at F1 in 2017 as one of the most exciting emerging talents in motorsport.
But his struggles to get to grips with his Mclaren, while being comprehensively out-performed by the 37-year-old Alonso, in the past year and a half has seen Vandoorne’s once glowering reputation dimish with rumours now emerging in the paddock that Mclaren could replace him with 18-year-old test and reserve driver Lando Norris as early as the upcoming Belgium Gran Prix in two weeks time.
However, Alonso feels that dropping the 26-year-old is not the answer and insists that it is up to Mclaren to provide a car that will enable him to fully demonstrate his talents.
“I don’t think his reputation is going down. The car is what it is. The car is underperforming,” said the two-time World Champion.
“We as a team are trying to find the problem and to have both cars in the same conditions, with the same performance. He has shown his talent already. There’s no need for proof.”
He added: “Being a champion in every series before Formula 1, right now in a difficult car with some difficulties last year – and this year as well. He’s OK. He will be very close in performance as soon as the car is delivering the normal performance.
“There’s nothing I need to say to him. For his reputation for you guys, you need to wait and see, or see the result before Silverstone or last year in terms of qualifying.”
Vandoorne currently lies in 16th place in the drivers’ standings with eight points following his three top-10 finishes in the first 12 races of the current season.
Meanwhile, Alonso is in ninth-place with 44 points having amassed eight finishes in the top-10.