Like the Samurai warrior that he has tattooed across his back, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso goes into Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix refusing to give up and ready to fight tooth and nail for victory.
Report by Reuters
“If the sword breaks, attack with the hands,” the Spaniard declared on his Twitter feed after last Sunday’s race in India left him 13 points behind Red Bull’s Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel with three rounds remaining.
“If they cut off your hands, push the enemy with your shoulders, even with the teeth.”
The Spaniard, who has long been an admirer of Japanese culture, has not won a race since Vettel’s home German Grand Prix in July but has been the driver of the season for some paddock insiders.
Consistent and relentless, getting the absolute utmost out of a Ferrari that is not the fastest car on the grid, he said he feels he is battling the genius of Red Bull designer Adrian Newey as much as Vettel.
That may be partly mind games, belittling his rival, but Red Bull can win the constructors’ title on Sunday and become only the fourth team to do it three years in a row.
Alonso needs more from Ferrari if he is to halt the seemingly unstoppable and have a chance of taking his own title.
There have been reports, swiftly denied, of the driver losing his temper with the team after he finished second behind Vettel last weekend in a race that earned him considerable praise.
What has become noticeable, with Vettel stringing together four wins in a row and chasing a fifth at Yas Marina, is the Spaniard’s increasing use of oriental philosophy in the latter half of the season to express his state of mind.
“If the enemy thinks in the mountains, attack by sea. If they think in the sea, attack by the mountains,” he declared after seeing his lead over Vettel shrink at this month’s Japanese Grand Prix.
“Only a warrior can handle the road to become unbeatable,” he had Tweeted after Singapore last month. “His life is a challenge, and challenges are not good or bad, they are simply challenges.”
“There are no victories in the war without a scar, no rainbow without the rain,” Alonso said after Frenchman Romain Grosjean shunted him out of the Belgian Grand Prix in September.
If Alonso can overturn the deficit and deny Vettel a title hat-trick by taking his own third, the Ferrari driver will have shown his true warrior credentials.
The alternative is to end up sounding more like the Black Knight in the comedy film ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’, a man refusing to accept he is beaten until — no more than a limbless torso — he can only impotently threaten to bite his tormentor’s legs off.
It will not be for want of trying but Alonso, one of the toughest and most talented drivers in the sport, needs more than luck on his side.
Memories of 2010 are still painful. Alonso led the championship into the final race in Abu Dhabi only for Vettel, who had been 15 points behind, to win the race and seize his first title after a strategic error by Ferrari.
Vettel has triumphed in two of the three Abu Dhabi Grands Prix to date and only he and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton have won there — as well as being the only ones to have started on the front row.
The German was on pole last year, after he had already clinched his second title, but his hopes of a third Abu Dhabi win in a row ended when he had a first lap puncture that forced his first retirement in more than a year.
He has a similarly remorseless momentum now that he is going for a third title but Ferrari believe they can still be the last ones standing.