Godspeed - Fernando Alonso

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

August 14th 2018
Halfway through the season break, two time world champion Fernando Alonso has announced his retiremet from Formula 1. The Spaniard is remembered for ending the reign of Michael Schumacher in F1, for being a driver who on many occasions outdrove his machine to achieve way better results than anyone expected. A man who despite the controversy surrounding him, always demonstrated why he was racing among the best drivers in the world. He leaves a great mark in the sport, and in this article I’m going to talk you through his dramatic career.

Unexpected Start

Born on July 29th 1981 at the town of Oviedo in Spain, Fernando Alonso Diaz first got in a kart when he was 3 years old, recieving it from his father who had originally bought it for Alonso’s older sister. After 4 years racing (for which Fernando seemed to be a natural) he started racing in bigger and bigger championships. In 1992 he achieved his first out of 5 national championships, and in 1996 he won the World Karting title.

Fernando Alonso got into karting at age 3, at 15 he was a World Champion.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

After years of winning karting championships, Alonso accepted an offer to race in Formula Nissan, making it his first approach into single seaters. He won the championship on his first and only season. The next year he had a mixed stint at Formula 3000 ending the championship 4th at the same time that he was set to make his first Formula 1 test for Minardi. The Italian team later signing him as official race driver for 2001.

Following his first experiences in Formula racing, Alonso made his F1 debut with Minardi in 2001.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

A backmarker team like Minardi, which at the same time was struggling for money and results, certainly wasn’t the most desired place to make a debut. However, the Spaniard quickly showed what he was capable of doing when taking the wheel, outperforming teammates Alex Yoong and Tarso Marques. He was even capable of finishing a very respectable 10th at the German GP. The performance displayed by Alonso was noticed by the grid, specially by the Renault team, who were making their first return to the cathegory as a constructor. The French squad saw Alonso’s potential and was confident that he could be one of their best options to help them return to the top step of the podium. With this in mind they signed Alonso as a test driver for 2002, later giving him a full time race seat for 2003.

Renault saw the potential in Alonso, signing him as a test driver in 2002 and giving him a full race seat in 2003.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

The Dawn of a New Era

The move proved to be a success, and Alonso was quickly delivering better results each time. At only his second race with the French team, he made history by becoming F1’s youngest ever pole sitter. On the next race at Brazil, Alonso had a massive crash that prevented him from going to the podium despite running 3rd at the time the race was prematurely called to an end. He kept accumulating podiums all through the season and at his home race he finished a career best 2nd. Several races later on that same season, he made history once again when he also became the youngest ever winner of a Grand Prix, beating the 44 year old record of Bruce McLaren, at the same time that he also became the first and as of now only Spanish driver to win a race. Despite Alonso’s brilliant results, he only managed to finish 6th in the standings, at a time in which Ferrari was invincible, and both McLaren and Williams were very competitive.

2003 saw Alonso become F1's newest race winner, he stayed with the team into 2004.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

Alonso showed consistency in 2004, achieving another 4 podiums. Despite not managing to win a race that year, his frequent results within the top 5 allowed him to improve his championship position of 2003 and went from 6th to 4th at the end of the 2004 campaign.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Alonso really showed what he could do when delivered a good enough car. The Renault R25 was just that, He started the race with a podium in Australia, and went on to win 3 consecutive races after that. The entire year was a fierce battle between him and McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen as both teams had outperformed Ferrari. With a total of 15 podiums, 7 of them victories, Alonso ended the year as F1’s youngest ever champion. The Spaniard had ended 5 years of reign from the Ferrari-Schumacher partnership. It was only the beggining for a man who would go on to be regarded as one of the best drivers the sport has ever had.

Alonso fought Kimi Raikkonen in 2005 to become World Champion, ending 5 years of Ferrari dominance.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

2006 was an even fiercer battle for Fernando. Ferrari was back on top, and the new Renault R26 was very evenly matched with Ferrari’s new 248F1. Schumacher and Alonso exchanged the top step of the podium on each race. The two drivers were the protagonists of the greatest battles of the season, as well as daring moves like Alonso’s overtake on Michael through the outside of Suzuka’s 130R. The championship went on to the last race, Alonso won the championship by 13 points. Fernando’s two consecutive titles got people to speculate on him as the new face of F1, this idea was only reinforced when it was announced that McLaren had signed him for 2007.

With a second world championship under his name, Alonso made the jump to McLaren in 2007

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

His season with McLaren was among Alonso’s greatest controversies. A bad relationship with team boss Ron Dennis and fellow driver Lewis Hamilton was one of the most remembered things from that year. Moments like Alonso preventing Hamilton from doing another lap when qualifying for the Hungarian GP as well as openly declaring that McLaren favored Hamilton instead of him. Things got worse with the “spygate” scandal. (Too long to explain here so have a link to wikipedia) When the McLaren team was found in posession of info on the specs of Ferrari’s 2006 and 2007 cars. Some emails involving McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa and Fernando were the ones to condemn the team, since when discovered by the FIA, the British team was disqualified from the championship. The drivers however kept their points, and both Alonso and Hamilton ended the last race tied with 109 points each, losing to Kimi Raikkonen with 110. The situation after that didn’t look great for Alonso, and despite missing two years of contract, he broke out of McLaren and returned to Renault.

A sour relationship with team and teammate alike saw Alonso leave McLaren for 2008.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

Fernando’s return to Renault wasn’t at all what he was expecting. The French team that had once allowed him to fight for championships now struggled to even get into the podium. Still, Alonso fought the car into some positive results, but once again Alonso found himself in controversy at the first ever nocturnal F1 race at Singapore. After pitting, Alonso wasn’t expecting much, however in an unseen tactic, Renault ordered its other driver Nelson Piquet to crash on purpose so that a safety car came out, putting Alonso in the perfect strategy. That was exactly what happened and Alonso went on to win the race. It is believed that despite public opinion, nor Alonso nor anyone on his side of the garage knew about the strategy and therefore he was allowed to keep the win. Alonso won again in Japan, this time without help, he finished the season with a second place in Brazil to end the championship 5th.

Another controversial season saw Alonso finish 5th in the championship, and far from the pace that had characterised him years before.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

If 2008 was dissapointing, 2009 was downright depressing for Alonso’s fans. The suddenly dominant Brawn GP team, and the emerging Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel had completely overshadowed the two giants of the sport Ferrari and McLaren, so the already down headed Renault team was nothing more than another midfielder. Fernando, despite outdriving both his machine and both his teammates that season (Piquet was replaced by Grosjean halfway through the year), was only able to manage a best finish of 3rd, ending the championship 9th overall. The post-season drama with Brawn turning into Mercedes, the withdrawal of both Toyota and BMW, Button leaving for McLaren, and Kimi Raikkonen taking up on rally for 2010, left plenty of expectations regarding Alonso. It was all cleared when Ferrari announced the Spaniard would be driving for them from 2010 onwards.

A dissapointing season with Renault in 2009 threw the unnexpected result of Alonso being signed by Ferrari.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

A Second Chance

Now dressed in red, Alonso started his stint at the Scuderia in a rather positive way, winning the opening round at Bahrain. Ferrari’s car, the F10, was a decent car, but on the hands of Alonso, it was simply superb. Ferrari had bounced back from a rather dissapointing 2009 and was now fighting for the championship with both Red Bull and McLaren. It was a three way battle in which at the end, Ferrari seemed to have gotten the worst bit, ending 3rd in the championship behind its two obvious rivals. Fernando’s side of the story though, was slightly different. After his win at the opening round, his performance appeared to fade. In the following 9 races, his best results were a second and third place at Spain and Canada respectively, while also averaging finishes that were only just withing the top 10. It wasn’t until the 10th round, at Germany that the Alonso the fans wanted to see actually showed up. Having missed out on pole by only 0.002 seconds, he started the race behind local driver Sebastian Vettel. After 67 laps and one controversial radio message, Alonso won the race. He scored another podium in Hungary, Brazil, and Japan. He won again in Italy, Singapore, and Korea. By the last race of the season in Abu Dabhi, many believed Alonso (that only needed to finish second) would win his third world championship. But that didn’t happen. Despite starting 3rd, he got stuck behind the Renault of Vitaly Petrov and ended the race 7th, handing the championship to Sebastian Vettel by a margin of 4 points.

Despite some great performances along the season, Alonso wasn't able to take the 2010 title.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

2011 was pretty much settled at the begining of the season, with the Red Bulls showing a level of performance that was simply impossible to match, delivering with an “untouchable” status for the whole year. Alonso delivered constant points finishes, a couple of podiums and even an unexpected win at the British GP. By the end of the season, he had improved his points total of the year before, and despite positions 2nd to 4th in the championship were only separated by 13 points, it was still almost 150 points away from eventual winner Sebastian Vettel, who dominated the entire season.

Alonso and Ferrari as a whole were left powerless in 2011 against the absolutely dominant Red Bulls.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

In 2012, Ferrari seemed once again to be struggling for pace. Alonso only managed to qualify 12th for the opening round in Australia, however a remarkable drive allowed him to finish 2nd. In the following round, in Malaysia, eyes were set on Alonso as he spent the last laps being under pressure from a faster Sergio Perez. The Sauber had a much better pace, however the Mexican made a mistake and after running wide, allowed Alonso to take Ferrari’s first win of the season. The Spaniard’s performance improved and delivered podiums before an emotional victory at the European GP in Valencia. Despite him accumulating only 3 wins during the year with a car that was argueably weak in some areas, by the final stages of the season he was positioned as the only serious threat to Sebastian Vettel as both men competed for their 3rd world title. Alonso’s driving showed strong commitment, still carrying the sour memory of his defeat in 2010. He committed no mistakes and by the final race at Brazil, a first corner accident spun Vettel, dropping him several positions. It seemed like the championship was over with Alonso being the winner, but a genuinely impressive drive from the German saw him storm the grid and finish 6th place, collecting a good enough result to clinch his 3rd title by the margin of just 3 points.

Despite some remarkable drives, Alonso once again lost the title to Vettel in 2012

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

In 2013, both Alonso and his car had good pace. Consistantly scoring points, several podiums, and even 2 victories at China and his native Spain. Despite this, it was simply not enough to compete with the 13 victories of reigning champion Sebastian Vettel, who ended the season a 4 time champion with Alonso only managing 2nd, still over 100 points away from the German.

2013 was a repeat of 2011, with Alonso only managing to finish 2nd in the championship yet again, and the field being powerless once again against the Red Bulls.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

Ferrari’s 2014 car failed to meet expectations and was seen many times struggling for pace as well as facing reliability issues. Still, Alonso overdrove the car to finish 6th in the drivers championship, way ahead of his teammate Raikkonen who only managed 12th overall. With the emerging of the extremely dominant Mercedes team and its “Silver Arrows”, Alonso’s best result of the season was a 3rd place in China, unknown to him at that point, it would be the last time he would ever step on the F1 podium. The feeling of being powerless to compete once again seemed to be a hard hit to Alonso. Before the end of the year, he annonced he was leaving Ferrari and returning to McLaren, interested in the new deal that the Woking team had made with Honda.

Demoralized as he was once again powerless to compete, Alonso left Ferrari and signed with McLaren for 2015, hoping for better results.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

Undeserved Ending

2015 saw the return of the once legendary McLaren-Honda partnership. However, unlike the 1980s alliance that dominated several seasons, this new iteration of the team didn’t quite live up to the hype. First of all, it was because the cars were extremely unreliable, with the engines having a severe tendency to give out mid race, accumulating a total of 12 retirements and 2 other failures that prevented the cars from even starting the race. Other than that, when the engines did manage to finish the race, they did so with a very reduced pace compared to the rest of the field, with Alonso famously complaining over the radio saying the powerunit was a “GP2 engine”. Despite that, Alonso and his teammate Button still managed to make one appearance on the podium. During the free practices of the Brazilian GP, the two drivers were walking nearby and took the opportunity to stand on the top step and take a picture. Later on, Alonso faced problems and had to retire from qualifying. He then got out of his car, found a chair and sat down to relax under the sun. Alonso’s 2015 season was an absolute dissaster, but it cemented the Spaniard as golden F1 meme material.

An unreliable and uncompetitive McLaren prevented Alonso from getting any good results in 2015.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

By 2016, McLaren seemed to have made some progress with their car, at least, with one of them. British Jenson Button managed a full season without a retirement, while Alonso on the other had 8, one of them being a massive crash in Australia, of which Alonso was luckily able to walk away relatively unharmed, however it was recommended for him that he missed the following race at Bahrain. Despite the difficulties, Alonso ranked up more than double the points of his teammate Button, even managing to finish the championship within the top 10.

Alonso suffered a massive crash at the start of 2016, however he went on to recover and ended up scoring enough points to finish the championship in the top 10.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

2017 was another rather mediocre year for Alonso and McLaren. After having apparently given a step forward in 2016, 2017 was rather two steps back. The season was filled with retirements and McLaren was once again only able to fight in the back of the pack against teams like Sauber and Toro Rosso. The team scored only 30 points, 17 of them courtesy of Alonso and the remaining 13 of Belgian Stoffel Vadoorne. The best result for him and the team was an unexpected 6th place at the Hungarian GP. The lack of performance of the car annoyed Alonso and he was not afraid to openly criticize it, famously showing his dissapointment through the radio. Seeing the fact that he was fighting for nothing, Alonso didn’t even think twice when the opportunity came for him to race at the Indy 500 at the cost of missing the Monaco GP.

With another year of dissapointment, many started doubting Alonso's permanence in F1 for 2018.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

In an attempt to get closer to the triple crown of motorsport, Alonso disputed the 2017 Indy 500. He retired after an engine failure near the end of the race.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

Despite rumours of him leaving the sport, Alonso was announced to continue to drive for McLaren in 2018. With new Renault engines, the team started delivering some better performances at the same time that their reliability improved. Alonso’s best result was a 5th place in Australia. Halfway through the season, Alonso announced that he was saying goodbye to F1 and that he wouldn’t be driving in 2019. He said goodbye in an emotional video that if you haven’t seen I recommend you do. Later in 2018, Alonso announced that beyond racing in the 24 Hours of LeMans, a race that he won with Toyota, he would dispute the full 2018-2019 season of the WEC. In the last race of the season, at Abu Dhabi, Alonso only managed to finish 11th, however was escorted by Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in a guard of honor for the complete cool-down lap, with the 3 cars eventually stopping on the straight to do some farewell donuts.

Alonso and his teammates Sebastian Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima won the 2018 24 Hours of LeMans while driving for Toyota.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

Featuring a special livery on both his car and helmet, Alonso completed his final F1 race in Abu Dhabi.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

Alonso was never a stranger to criticism in his 18 year stint at F1. However, one thing that can't be argued was that he was always commited and thankfull to his fans.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

He served as inspiration for drivers in his native Spain and around the world.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

He'll be a much missed member of the F1 Grid

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

He trully is and will always be remembered as one of the best the sport has ever had.

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

Good luck Fernando!

Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1

It is indeed sad to see a driver such as Fernando leave the sport, such a long career, many people (me included) have never known what F1 is like without him. He will for sure be missed. Tell me, what are your thoughts on Fernando and his overall career? Were you a fan of his? Leave your answers in the comments!

As always, if you’ve read until this point, thank you very very much for doing so and I hope you have enjoyed it. Its been a long time since I last wrote an article here, I for sure have missed doing it, but school and other things have prevented me from it. I’ll do my best to get some more articles up during the winter break.

At the time I’m writting this it is still the 25th so, Merry Christmas!

  • F1Trooper out
Godspeed - Fernando Alonso - Formula 1