Fernando Alonso vs Kimi Raikkonen: Battle of the Veterans

20-04-2021 15:30 | Updated: 20-04-2021 15:31
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Fernando Alonso vs Kimi Raikkonen: Battle of the Veterans

After an exciting race weekend in Imola, we return to our driver battles ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix next weekend, but this week it’s not a teammate battle. Instead, we have the battle of the veterans. Fernando Alonso vs Kimi Raikkonen. Alpine vs Alfa Romeo.

Joining Formula 1 in 2001, both Alonso and Raikkonen were rookies dipping their foot in the sport before starting their illustrious careers we see today. 20 years on, we’re seeing them battle once again but this time, it’s at the bottom of the midfield.

The return to F1 hasn’t started as hoped for Alonso with only 1 point in the first two races of the season, down to only misfortune from Raikkonen in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last weekend, but he still seems to have the upper hand on the Alfa Romeo driver at the moment.

However, we still have 21 more races and can’t speculate too early, so who will end up on top at the end of the season?

Battles of the past

Despite joining in the same 2001 season, Alonso found himself as the test and reserve driver for his first two seasons in order to acclimatise himself to Renault before driving in the 2003 season. Raikkonen, on the other hand, was able to prove himself enough in his rookie season and make a move to McLaren and had a very successful second year in F1. The Finnish driver ended the season with four podiums, his best coming in France where he finished second behind only Michael Schumacher, and sixth in the Drivers’ championship.

When thinking of the battles in the past between the two drivers, two years come to mind. 2005 and 2007. The first being one of Alonso’s World Championship seasons and the latter being Raikkonen’s.

In only the Spaniard’s third year driving fully in F1, he beat out all competition to win the World Championship, ahead of Raikkonen in second. The Renault had the upper hand on the McLaren come the end of the season but in fact, both drivers won on seven occasions. However, more consistent performances throughout the season gave Alonso the opportunity to extend his lead over Raikkonen, which he did and finished 21 points ahead.

Alonso was as dominant next season, thus winning back-to-back championships, as he beat out the Ferrari duo of Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa, whilst Raikkonen struggled and could only finish sixth.

2007, however, was Kimi Raikkonen’s year. He made the switch to Ferrari and won the championship. A constant battle all season between both McLaren drivers, Alonso and Hamilton, came down to the wire and was won in the final race of the season at Interlagos. Starting P3, the Ferrari driver needed to pass Hamilton in P2 and hold off Alonso in P4, which he did. He eventually overtook his teammate, Massa, ensuring the World Championship title was his if he was able to hold onto his lead and did so, finishing a single point ahead of both McLaren’s who finished on 109 points each.

Alonso and Alpine ahead on paper

This season hasn’t started particularly well for the 2001 rookies. Only one point in both races so far this season sums up the start both have had, but it is still very early. At the moment, Alonso is on top on paper, with the one point coming last weekend but only because of a 30-second penalty handed to Raikkonen because of a rolling start infringement.

Although Alonso finished behind Raikkonen in Imola (before the penalty post-race), the Spaniard had a faster lap time of 1:19.396 compared to 1:19.422, 0.026 seconds faster for the Alpine driver, but this was only as track conditions dried up and allowed the race pace to increase in the final laps.

In Bahrain, it was a different situation. Alonso was running in the top ten for the first half of the race and was showing a very strong pace in his return to the sport until he had to retire his Alpine on Lap 34 due to a sandwich wrapper causing overheating issues on the car. It seemed as though, he was on pace for a points finish, which would have kick-started his season. Raikkonen was also able to find some pace from his Alfa Romeo but it wasn’t enough to get ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and steal a points finish from the Canadian.

With both drivers and cars looking to be on the cusp of a top ten finish in every race this season, it will be interesting to see who will be ahead come Abu Dhabi in December.

Which of the 2001 rookies do you think will finish on top? Let us know in the comments!

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