Klien: Alonso stands out in 2012 F1 field

Even amid the chaos of the 2012 pecking order, the star performer is obvious.vThat is the view of former F1 driver Christian Klien, who confirmed to the Austrian news agency APA that one of his current roles is a simulator driver for the sport’s latest winning team, Williams.

“It (2012) is very open,” he said, “but for me Fernando Alonso stands out.”

Equal with Sebastian Vettel, Spaniard Alonso is at the top of the drivers’ world championship, a full eight points clear of Lewis Hamilton. The Spaniard’s car has been the struggling Ferrari F2012, but he has never finished a race this season lower than ninth (China). He has therefore scored points at every opportunity, even finishing first and second in Malaysia and Spain respectively.

“Alonso has an inferior car,” Klien explained, “but he uses every single little opportunity. He is the most complete driver who gets the most out of the package he has.”

Triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart agrees that, among arguably the most competitive grid of drivers since the late 80s, Alonso is the standout performer.

“Right now we have the best generation of drivers we’ve had for a while,” the famous Scot told the Spanish sports daily AS. “Everyone talks about Vettel, who is a great driver, and also Hamilton of course, but there is also Button, Schumacher, Kimi — all champions.

“There are others like Webber who also have the quality to win, young drivers coming up, many of them are very good, but also it is true that Alonso is fantastic.”

Asked why the Spaniard has not added a title to his tally since 2006, Stewart said: “The explanation is easy — he hasn’t had the luck to get the best car. Now he has one that isn’t good, but it’s in those circumstances that you see even more the quality that he has,” said Stewart.

Given Alonso’s push to the top of the championship with a sub-standard car, therefore, all the talk about Ferrari writing off the 2012 championship has been silenced for now.

“We have to keep developing the car,” Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari’s team boss, said after Barcelona, where significant upgrades were brought to the F2012 package. “We are not yet fast enough to consistently fight for the podium, but that is the only option if we want to be in contention for the title,” he insisted.


Klien working in Williams simulator

An Austrian influence is growing at Williams, the famous British F1 team. The team’s 15 per cent shareholder is Christian ‘Toto’ Wolff, and given Adam Parr’s recent departure he is now tipped as Sir Frank Williams’ natural successor.

Indeed, now a regular presence at grands prix, his influence is clearly growing. The driver he manages, Valtteri Bottas, is tipped to step into the race cockpit soon, while his wife Susie Stoddart is now a team test driver. His countryman Alex Wurz mentors the drivers at Williams, and now it emerges that yet another Austrian is on the books.

Christian Klien, who most recently raced with HRT in late 2010, now spends a lot of time in Williams’ state-of-the-art driver simulator at Grove. The ORF broadcaster reported that, during a race weekend, 29-year-old Klien evaluates setups in the simulator, reporting back his findings to the race team.

“It has become an industry standard,” Alex Wurz confirmed.