Alonso: Best driver of 21st century

Fernando Alonso and Michael Andretti watch the start of the final warmup for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama -- Photo by: Joe Skibinski, INDYCAR

It’s a debate that fans around the world often have regarding who the best Formula 1 driver of all time is/was. It’s also a very difficult topic to view outside of the decade-by-decade view with technology advancement, safety advancement, number of races per year and many more factors.

When pressed, I’ve been know to offer Jim Clark, Nuvolari, Rindt, Schumacher, Prost and Senna. That leaves out such incredible talent as Stewart, Moss, Fangio, Peterson, Villeneuve, and many of today’s drivers such as Hamilton, Vettel, et. al.

One name that will often come up in conversation is current driver Fernando Alonso and while some question the idea of McLaren jettisoning their Honda engine partner to keep Alonso happy, others believe when you have a talent like Fernando, you do have to make choices and keep that bottled lightning at your team.

On such person is veteran F1 reporter and historian Nigel Roebuck. I’ve always had a lot of time for Nigel and consider him the Jenks of our era. His prose is spectacular and his insight singular.

He know writes for Autosport but sister publication,, ran a video with Peter Windsor interviewing Nigel about Fernando. No surprise that he reckons Alonso is the greatest driver of the 21st century. What do you think?

You can watch the video here.

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A great driver isn’t just quick or talented; they have to be able to motivate those around them, to ensure they get the right support, to get into the right cars at the right time.

Alonso is truly talented, but as he’s shown in the last decade, hard to deal with and spectacular at choosing the wrong team. Schumacher is the polar opposite – less complete as a driving talent, but a far greater driver.

Talent alone isn’t enough; what you can make of it is what matters, and on that measure Alfonso is truly lacking.


So there’s another problem, what’s the measure of ‘the best’?
You’ve chosen some criteria, when you watch the interview with Roebuck he has a different set, then there are the two links in the posts to ‘scientific’ assessments.
I have no idea which criteria would be the most objective, or if objectivity has any relevance to such a discussion, probably not.


Exactly – If he’s so dominant, why do the principals of Merc, Ferrari, and RBR shun him when an opening is available? In addition to his undeniable speed, he brings a host of negatives and baggage with him. And those drivers around him aren’t exactly standing around – his advantage, if any, is measured in thousandths of seconds.

The market determines worth in this case, not a journalist. Whoever is the best, it isn’t Fernando.

Johnpierre Rivera

its what i have been saying for many years…BTW this is the second vote of confidence in “the best driver of his generation” category this year. the first was from James Allen, no novice to F1 in a series this past summer when his readers wrote in questions for the pundit to answer. here is the exact quote: Hello: “James, in equal cars, pit crew,…etc. If you had to, which driver would your bet the house and life savings on to winning a championship against the other drivers? Maybe an answer for the current generation and an answer for all… Read more »

Meine Postma

Funny. Schumacher 9th if you count his Mercedes years and 3rd if not.

That gives you an indication how much statistics can tell you :-)

Max Johnson

I’m more likely to not click on that link because it have the letters ‘c n n’ in it.

Johnpierre Rivera

understood and agree, I happen to think Stewart and Clark are on a different level. in the doc “1” Emerson Fittipaldi and Michael say Fangio when asked who is the best, so when i say I think Alonso is the best it is very specifically in this era of drivers: Seb, Ham, Button, Kimi… drivers such as Danny and Max I think belong to the era.

Johnpierre Rivera

@NC – you know I just could not stay away from this one… ;-)


Yes, except for the guy who won 5 championships in the first 5 years of the new century.


Read my comment above. Sorry but Schumi was not.


I always believed he is the most complete & compatitiv around…and his life is centered around performance & winning….though luck hasn’t been kind to him, but he always spices up the grid with his magical talent & his serious personality…he makes almost no mistakes and will extract the max limits performance out of his car from the very first run like no other driver….


Luck hasn’t been kind? Nothing to do with luck

Remember Spygate and Crashgate and consider whether big teams need that sort of hassle. McLaren are on the skids and have been constantly humiliated by Alonso since his return, but they have little choice.

Can you see Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari hiring him for 2018, were there a seat? No, and neither can I.


What did Alonso have to do with Spygate and Crashgate? Please enlighten me.


Is that a faux-naive comment? On the assumption that it’s a genuine question, try the following: Spygate Alonso threatened to blow the whistle on McLaren during a row with Ron Dennis on the morning of the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix. He told Ron Dennis that he had information that could bring the team down and would use it unless Dennis agreed to him leaving the team on his own terms. Because of the threat and the probability that Alonso was going to blab anyway, in the end it was Big Ron who rang up Spanky in FIA headquarters and ‘fessed… Read more »


Try this: Ron Dennis was responsible for Spygate, not Alonso. Alonso was justified in threatening Ron after getting backstabbed by him over their No.1 driver agreement. As for Crashgate, there is no way Alonso would have agreed to letting another driver crash willingly. He is an F1 driver and knows the risks, especially the risks to other drivers at a tight track like Singapore. Flavio and Simmons were the architects of that fiasco. They knew what Alonso would have said, so they just kept him in the dark, of that I’m sure. Now if you want to talk about other… Read more »


thanks for explaining again & again & again…a never ending false accusations…cheers

Mike Van de Buren

I do enjoy your articles and do not want to appear rude or disrespectful here. Nigel’s work has been very enjoyable, however he has returned to Autosport a company under the umbrella of Motorsport Network. The chairman is Zak Brown, so choosing Alonso as the best driver in the 21st century should be viewed with scepticism. Journalism now is just advertising at best and at its very worst it is biased agenda fulfilling propaganda.


Of course he’s the best, but so are Schumacher, Hakkinen, Massa, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Vettel, and all the rest.
I certainly respect F1 journalists like Nigel Roebuck, who have been embedded in the sport for decades, and think very deeply about such comparisons, but there is no objective measure of ‘the best’, so its all opinion no matter how thoughtfully justified.
Not to say that that that kind of speculation isn’t lots of fun, so to jump on a current bandwagon, I’m going to say it’s Kubica.


Let the facts do the talking. Alonso ranked #3 all time in this study:
And in updated annual studies he was #1 in 2014:
In 2015 he’s #2:
In 2016 he’s #1:
These studies started in 2014, but I’m pretty sure that they would rank him #1 from 2010 to 2013 with Ferrari, so YES, he’s the greatest of this century, and by the time he retires, he will be ranked the No.1 All-Time Greatest.

Johnpierre Rivera

I saw that wordpress blog a few years ago and of course I was thrilled by it and shared it with anyone who would listen – but the author does get a bit technical. I find it is a bit more convincing by referring to JA or a well known jorno, not to mention when he was voted the best driver via Autosports survey/poll from the team principals in those Ferrari years…

Max Johnson

Alonso is the better driver, but Schumacher is better at bringing together a team that empowered and allowed him to dominate. Alonso’s downfall is sometimes controversies follows him, and being bad at choosing the right moment to move to the right team.

Johnpierre Rivera

I would have to agree with this and really what the conversation should be focused on. Max you hit it the nail right on the head….


Yup, Alonso might be the best out on the track but that isn’t all there is to being the best of the best. Schummy worked with the team, and picked the right moves (at least initially).


Being beaten in the WDC by Hamilton in an identical car in Hamilton’s 2007 rookie year does not seem to support the case for Alonso being greatest of all time.


Hamilton was a rookie & was officially racing F1 in 2007 after winning Championships in other categories…he is an outstanding driver, but then: Wasn’t he signed in with Mclaren since he was 14 years old? Didn’t he test drive for Mclaren F1’s prior to 2007? Was he getting the same treatment from the Mclaren team as Alonso? Didn’t Ron promise Hamilton to ‘give’ him a unique Mclaren classical racing car if he wins the championship that same year? Wasn’t Alonso sharing his data & setups with the team and the same was passed to Hamilton? I recall Mclaren that year… Read more »


At best they’re equal based on points, wins, retirements over the season

Roger Gomes

I think all round ability, Alonso is the most complete driver on the grid. With the exception of having your own team working against in 07 and still being able to level off with LH (no doubt that LH is the fastest over one lap – no one can deny him that) that year on points, he’s still not been beaten over the season by a team mate. Jenson has said it, Massa has said it – he’s the toughest team mate you can get. Regardless of whether his career moves are unquestionably poor, or whether his people skills within… Read more »

Johnpierre Rivera

tell it like it is Roger, tell it like it is…… GO ALONSO!!!!!!!!!!

Roger Gomes

Here is hoping the McLaren Renault is a bit pacey and reliable in 2018 and we may see him shine again. No one here denies that LH or SV are accomplished drivers, their abilities speak for themselves, but is anyone really going to sit there and state that LHs or SVs accomplishments are amazing considering the dominance of their respective championship domineering cars when in all reality they only had their team mates to beat. Are you really going to compare their ability to adapt to a car that isn’t to their liking (SV in 2014, LH in 2013 –… Read more »

Johnpierre Rivera

you speaking my language….. ;-)


I find this an interesting comparison….

Just remember, you can make numbers support any argument out there…

Paul KieferJr

Best driver? Well, if the components include “able to put a car in a position better than what it’s worth”, then he certainly ranks right up there. If personality is also a component, then, yeah, he’s right up there. There are plenty of arguments in favor of Alonso, and I’ve yet to hear anything against the idea.


i wonder what that Noddy guy thinks of this?
Alonso ’08!

Peter Riva

That interview was SO damn enlightening… why the hell can’t we have that on NBC?

Guy Fawkes

I’d be overjoyed if NBC would simply show the races with no commercials. Univision manages to stay in business by doing so.


Lolz, I just spit bourbon all over my computer screen, damn that burns when it comes out of your nose…..thanks for that…