Despite having not won a title since the mid noughties, Fernando Alonso is fast becoming a motorsport legend. Hampered by an unreliable and uncompetitive car during his most recent McLaren stint in F1, the Spaniard returned in 2021 with Alpine.
|Full Name||Fernando Alonso Diaz|
|Date of Birth||29th July 1981|
|First Race||2001 Australian Grand Prix|
|First Win||2003 Hungarian Grand Prix|
At the age of three, Fernando Alonso inherited a kart made by his dad for his disinterested sister. By the age of eight, the young Spaniard was competing in national karting competitions and, by 1996, was crowned the Junior World Cup champion. It was former Minardi driver Adrián Campos who gave Alonso his first experience in a race car in 1998, and then went on to sign him for the 1999 Spanish Euro Open MoviStar by Nissan series. Alonso won that title, taking six wins over the course of the season, and moved into International Formula 3000 for the next year. Although less successful in that championship, he still managed to take a victory and finish fourth in the end of season standings.
His rise through the ranks had been strong enough to catch the attention of F1 teams, and after being offered a test with Minardi in 2000, he went on to become one of their drivers in 2001. The season gave little opportunity for Alonso to shine, but his qualifying pace against his team-mates was duly noted, and he moved to Renault as a test driver for the 2002 season. He was promoted to a race seat for 2003, where he became the youngest ever pole-sitter at the Malaysian Grand Prix and the youngest ever race winner at the Hungarian Grand Prix – lapping both his team-mate and the World Champion. In 2004, Renault were off the pace, though Alonso managed to finish fourth in the Drivers’ Championship.
In 2005, consistently brilliant performances saw him become Michael Schumacher’s fiercest opponent as Alonso began his reign as World Champion for two seasons. He then moved to McLaren for 2007, which, while it presented him with the opportunity for another title, also presented him with plenty of conspiracy. His tumultuous relationship with Lewis Hamilton came to a head at the Hungarian Grand Prix, where the Spaniard purposefully halted his team-mate from being able to challenge for pole position. The pair eventually finished equal on points, but were both beaten to the championship by one point by Kimi Raikkonen. Alonso also gave evidence in the Spygate controversy, which ultimately led to the team being disqualified from the Constructors’ Championship.
Alonso didn’t continue with McLaren for 2008, and instead went back to Renault where he took two victories in the latter part of the season. Controversy loomed large once again the next year when it emerged that his team-mate had been told to crash in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in order to aid the team to victory. 2009 was a frustrating season with little in the way of results, before one of the worst kept secrets in F1’s history unfolded, and Alonso moved to Ferrari for 2010.
Fernando won on his début for the team, and challenged for the title until the very last race, being hampered by a poor pit strategy. There was further controversy in 2010 as Felipe Massa was given team orders to let Alonso win the Grand Prix. The next years passed by more smoothly and Alonso once again challenged for the title in 2012, but was beaten to the crown yet again at the final race. Having enough of finishing runner-up, and with his relationship with the team deteriorating, Alonso moved back to McLaren for 2015.
The new Honda partnership enticed Alonso back to the McLaren team, though things didn’t get off to the best start when a crash in winter testing in 2015 saw him have to sit out the first race of the season. It soon became clear that Honda’s power offering was far from ideal and a dismal showing over the season gave him his worst finishing place in a championship since his maiden season. He broke into the top ten in 2016, but there were still frustrations, and a large accident in the opening round of the season saw him sit out another round due to injury.
Given an opportunity, Fernando Alonso delivered in 2017; but he was given far too few opportunities. A memorable on-track battle with Hamilton in Mexico proved he still had it, as did the Hungarian Grand Prix, where he set the fastest lap of the race on his way to finishing sixth. Setting the fastest lap in Q1 at Silverstone, albeit due to being on the right tyre at the right time, was also one of the highlights. Another highlight could have been Singapore, where he made his way to third at the first corner, but was then shunted out of the race by an out of control Max Verstappen. Aside from his escapades in F1, Alonso made headlines in 2017 with an appearance at the Indianapolis 500. Though he was competitive, he was ironically forced to retire due to a Honda engine failure.
Alonso ventured into more categories of motorsport between the 2017 and 2018 seasons, competing in the Daytona 24 Hours race. In 2018, he juggled his McLaren duties with a seat at Toyota in the World Endurance Championship, where he ticked off the second goal on his Triple Crown list – the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In F1 in 2018, he recorded nine points-finishes and out-qualified his team-mate at every race. Unhappy with the state of Formula 1 and his lack of results, Alonso quit the sport at the end of the 2018 season. Alonso remained at McLaren as a brand ambassador until the end of 2019.
In his years away from Formula 1, Alonso returned to Daytona and won the rain-affected 24 hour race in 2019. He returned to the Indianapolis 500 in 2019 with McLaren, but failed to qualify for the race. He raced at the brickyard again in 2020, finishing in 21st place. He also competed in the Dakar Rally in 2020, finishing in thirteenth place.
It seemed somewhat inevitable that Alonso would eventually return to Formula 1. After months of speculation, his return with Alpine was confirmed in July 2020. This will be his third stint at the Enstone-based team. Approaching 40 years of age, will Alonso still be as competitive as in previous years during his comeback stint?
FERNANDO ALONSO’S F1 RECORD
|YEAR||TEAM||FINAL POSITION||POINTS SCORED||WINS||POLES||PODIUMS|