A couple of months shy of his 42nd birthday, Fernando Alonso has been around the block a few times.
He has rarely shied away from a battle, even if it destroys his relationship with his own team. After all, he skedaddled out of McLaren after just one season of partnering Lewis Hamilton back in 2008. More recently, he couldn't wait to leave Alpine at the end of last year after falling out with Esteban Ocon.
But the spirited Spaniard knows when he needs to toe the line and is fully aware of the politics within his current team. He may be the top driver at Aston Martin in terms of both results and reputation, but the fact Lance Stroll is the team owner's son means Alonso doesn't have the power he is used to being at his fingertips.
Hence the scepticism whenever the double world champion has spoken highly of his team-mate this season. There is no doubting their relationship is good – Stroll was a member of the Ferrari driver academy when Alonso raced for the Scuderia and that is where their bond first formed.
Still, though, it's hard not to be suspicious of some of his claims. Before the season began he crowed about how Stroll is "a possible world champion" and followed that up a couple of months later by declaring the Canadian will lead the team "for the next 10 or 15 years".
A cynical man might suggest Alonso has been currying favour with the top man at Aston Martin by going out of his way to help Stroll Jnr at every turn. So that same cynic might take the Spaniard's claim that Stroll is being unfairly criticised after failing to score points in Monaco last weekend with a pinch of salt also.
"He has been very unlucky the last two events," said Alonso of his team-mate. He later added: "What I don't like in Formula 1 is that we see always the negatives... This is just the mentality of Formula 1. The unlimited search for perfection, which is not possible to reach sometimes."
He has a point. There's no denying Stroll needs to improve and he will no doubt be among the first to say it. Alonso has scored 77.5% of Aston Martin's points this season (93 out of 120) and the Canadian's struggles mean Mercedes, whose results have been more evenly split, lie just one point behind heading into the Barcelona race weekend.
But, while the numbers are useful, the context needs to be taken into account as well. Firstly, there is no shame in being outperformed by someone of Alonso's ability in itself. Stroll needs to pull his weight a little more and contribute more than just under a quarter of the team's points, but being outperformed by his double champion team-mate is no indicator of underachievement in itself.
Especially when the circumstances of Stroll's season are taken into account. It seems to have been forgotten by many of the Canadian's critics that he didn't take part in any pre-season testing this year after a cycling accident just two weeks before the first race of the campaign.
He drove through the pain to finish sixth in that Bahrain race and was looking good for another decent points haul in Saudi Arabia until he suffered a car problem. Fourth place in Australia followed before seventh in Baku. But in the two most recent races Stroll walked away empty-handed, leading to some criticism of him in comparison to what Alonso has achieved.
The 24-year-old is an easy target because he is the boss' son. But we have seen evidence already this season alone that he is capable of delivering in a competitive car. Stroll must do it more often, but fans should give him the chance to prove that he can instead of jumping on his back after two poor results in a disrupted season.2023-06-02T05:04:25Z dg43tfdfdgfd