LONDON (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso will be missing from Sunday’s Australian season-opener but the Spaniard remains Formula One’s most marketable driver, according to a survey released on Wednesday.
Germany-based analysts Repucom said the double world champion, who left Ferrari for McLaren at the end of last year, had retained top position in their ranking based on domestic perception.
“In Spain, over 98 percent of people know of Alonso, 88 percent of which say they see him as an effective brand endorser and 83 percent saying they trust the two-time World Champion,” the report said.
The Spaniard is absent from Australia on doctors’ orders after crashing heavily in Barcelona testing last month. McLaren expect him to return at the next race in Malaysia.
Alonso’s former Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa, now with Williams, was second on the list ahead of four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel and double world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Repucom said Hamilton’s recognition had grown to 93 percent in Britain, with the 30-year-old now ahead of compatriot Jenson Button after winning his second title with Mercedes last season.
Dutch 17-year-old Max Verstappen, who will become the youngest ever Formula One driver when he makes his race debut with Toro Rosso in Melbourne on Sunday, was listed ninth.
The Repucom ranking is based on public perceptions of the drivers in their native countries, measured against eight metrics to give an overall marketability score.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Sudipto Ganguly