x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Points win prizes in F1 for Fernando Alonso at Ferrari

The Spaniard has shown himself to be Mr Consistent this year, finishing in the points at every race to take his run of consecutive points finishes to 23.

Ferrari's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso finished fifth at Hungary, his 23rd consecutive finish among points.
Ferrari's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso finished fifth at Hungary, his 23rd consecutive finish among points.

A fifth-place finish is not usually welcomed so warmly in the Ferrari camp.

Yet, as the wind around the Hungaroring picked up after the race and the teams began deconstructing their monolithic motorhomes, there was more than one self-satisfied smile in the Italian manufacturers' plush hospitality quarters on Sunday.

Stefano Domenicali, the team principal, said it was "definitely a case of the glass being half full" after watching Fernando Alonso, his indefatigable Spanish driver, extend his lead at the top of the world championship by six points, despite being in a car that proved uncompetitive all weekend.

Alonso has shown himself to be Mr Consistent this year, finishing in the points at every race to take his run of consecutive points finishes to 23.

If he finishes in the top 10 at the next race at Spa, he will equal Michael Schumacher's remarkable run that spanned two seasons between Hungary 2001 and Malaysia 2003.

Finishing fifth should have been no cause for celebration, but Alonso benefited by the competitiveness of this year's field.

Five world champions finished in the top six at the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest and the 31 year old appears to have not one, but four drivers challenging him for the title - a scenario that plays into his hands. It is little wonder he called Sunday "a positive result, no doubt about it".

So long as his four rivals - Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen - keep fighting among themselves, taking points off each other and never managing to make a sustained challenge, Alonso, with a 40-point lead, is well positioned to finish the season as a three-time world champion.

Hamilton spoke following his win on Sunday about how the title is "all to play for", but he had managed only four points from his previous three races. He now sits 47 points behind Alonso, which is not an unassailable gap, but it will be a tough ask to catch Alonso.

Raikkonen is one point behind Hamilton in the standings, but was the most impressive performer at the Hungaroring, climbing from fifth to second.

He has now finished on the podium in three or the past four races and, on this form, is Alonso's greatest threat.

Lotus are clearly fast, but the question remains whether their rival marques will be able to close that pace gap over the five-week summer break.

The second half of the year is threatening to go the way of 2009 when no one could string a sufficient run of results together to topple Jenson Button.

Alonso does not hold the same substantial lead as Button did.

However, so long as the advantage continues to swing from track to track and no team is able to build any real momentum, Mr Consistent will be quite content sat in his plush Ferrari motorhome counting his points each week.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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