Fernando Alonso Diaz, born on 29th July, 1981, besides being the oldest formula one driver currently racing on the grid, has starred in all three Pixar’s Cars movies. That right there is an achievement.
So what makes him so special?
Alonso has the rare talent of choosing the right team at the wrong time, which results in him driving a car that is not competitive enough to win a race. He is forced to drive what is undoubtedly a subpar vehicle, but he always manages to get the best performance out of it.
This is what teams require, this is what distinguishes a champion, and this is what makes Fernando Alonso one of the most fearsome drivers to ever sit in the cockpit of an F1 car.
Triple crown champ
Then there is the auspicious triple crown of motorsport which in layman’s terms transited to winning the three pinnacles of motorsport; be a formula one world champion, win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indy 500, Graham Hill being the only wearer of the triple crown. Heavy is the head that wears the triple crown, as the only thing that stood between Alonso and the triple crown was Honda’s crudely reliable engine yet again. Before Honda fine tuned and ironed out the glitches in order to carry Max Verstappen to victory, it was Fernando Alonso who was the Guinea pig of Honda’s woeful performance, which ended in Alonso retiring for a while from The pinnacle of motorsport, Formula One. Fernando and F1 is the definition of any love-hate relationship, for the power dynamics between any team mate Fernando had always seemed to be painfully off balance in midst of team orders. Felipe Massa would know. The only worthwhile and significant victory Alonso basked in after almost a decade was at the 2018 Le Mans that too at the wheel of a Toyota prototype, after painfully losing to Porsche at the last lap one year prior. If it’s one thing Alonso didn’t lack in, it was in “driver mod”.
Fernando Alonso Díaz, born on 29th July 1981 in Oviedo, Spain took up Karting at the ripe old age of three, and consistently stuck by it, achieving local victories till the age of 17 when he graduated to bigger toys in 1999 and came fourth in the International Formula 3000 Championship of 2000.
Alonso dived head first into formula one through Minardi.
However it wasn’t until 2003 when Alonso had been promoted as a full time driver into the Renault team. Two years would have gone by challenging the back then mighty Ferrari and Schumacher until Renault would have a championship contending car ready by 2005. And championship contending it was, as Alonso broke Michael’s winning streak, taking 2005 and 2006 WDC and Championship title back to back.
Schumacher’s retirement meant Fernando was the face of F1. However, it all went downhill fast, after lonso discovered his super power of switching to good teams at bad times.
His first stint at McLaren Mercedes in 2007 was even worse than his second stint at McLaren Honda. Riddled with conspiracies and behind the scenes quibbles, Alonso had his first taste of controversy as he threatened to snitch on his own team to the FIA, as he had uncovered evidence of McLaren snooping on Ferrari, had team principal Ron Dennis not prioritise Alonso over teammate Hamilton. Everyone got off easy with hefty fines, including engine supplier Mercedes. Safe to say this is probably the sole reason Alonso never got to pilot the later dominant silver arrows.
The world got a glimpse of his sheer driving genius at Ferrari between 2010-2014. The Rosso racing overalls suited Alonso the best, as he single-handedly carried the underachieving and fourth fastest car on the grid on his shoulders, keeping Vettel with the fastest Red Bull on the grid on his tippy toes. His bizarre technique of inducing erratic snap understeer somehow made the slow Ferrari obey his every command as some of his drives were truly superhuman.
Memes at McLaren, 2015-2018:
With Honda’s engine providing as much as 200bhp less than the front-running cars enjoyed, Alonso made his dissatisfaction plain as other drivers passed him with ease. In the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Honda’s home track and race, Alonso gave his strongest indictment of the power unit, repeatedly complaining on the radio about his “GP2 engine” and out came the memes. #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe was number one trending on Twitter at one point. The memes were hilarious. Earlier in the year he announced plans to race a McLaren-backed, Andretti-run car in the Indianapolis 500. His Stateside venture went well: He led 27 laps and was in the hunt for victory when his engine – also a Honda – let go 21 laps from home, letting hopes of triple crown die.
Back to The Renault:
2018 saw McLaren parting ways with Honda in favour of the Renault engine, which unfortunately didn’t solve their shortcomings. Alonso picked up the occasional point or two while his venture with Toyota in Le Mans were more than fruitful, as he left the world of formula one in a two year hiatus, returning to the ol’ reliable Renault, which rebranded to alpine, where he finally stepped under the much deserving limelight, as Alonso is occasionally seen putting up a good fight against faster machineries with his more than a decade worth of perfected racecraft with the blue alpine, as he came third in the 2021 Qatari gran prix, sharing the podium with ol’ mate Lewis, while Alonso and Renault are forced to be reckoned with right now in F1.
Alonso still is a small voice of calm and reason, with an incredible fanbase. Think of him as a more vocal and more charming Kimi Raikkonen.