Fernando Alonso

2021-04-08 00:00

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Fernando Alonso

It's Wednesday September 30, 2009. The teams were busy moving from Singapore to Suzuka for the fifteenth round of the world championship. In short, it


It's Wednesday September 30, 2009. The teams were busy moving from Singapore to Suzuka for the fifteenth round of the world championship. In short, it would have been a normal working day like all the others, if it hadn't been for a real bolt from the blue, given that an official press release appears on the official Ferrari website, in which it is said that, from the following year, at the wheel of the Red car there would be a new driver alongside Felipe Massa whi finally recovered from the injury.


The goal is clear, to return to winning after a complicated year, and this could only have become possible with the signing of a champion invoked by the majority of the fans of the Maranello team. A boy who was born in Oviedo twenty-eight years earlier, winner of two world championships driving a Renault, which responds to the name of Fernando Alonso.


His first season in red begins in Bahrain. On an elongated layout of the track, the new Ferrari driver qualifies third behind an impregnable Sebastian Vettel and Massa. At the start he overtakes his teammate, but the pace of the Red Bull led by the young German is unattainable.


On lap 34, however, Sebastian complains over the radio of an exhaust problem that forces him to slow down, so that Alonso catches up and overtakes him, going on to win the Grand Prix ahead of Felipe Massa. An encouraging performance for Ferrari and its fans, which however is not confirmed in the subsequent races of the first half of the season.


In Melbourne and Shanghai, Fernando was forced to come back from the rear and in both cases finished fourth, while at Silverstone he did not do better than fourteenth. The overall standings are not what was expected, with the Spaniard only fifth behind both Red Bulls and both McLarens. The following weekend the challenge is on the Hockenheim circuit, where Ferrari is once again very competitive. Vettel gets pole but is overtaken at the start by both Ferrari drivers, with Massa finding himself the leader ahead of Alonso. The latter, on the twentieth lap, explicitly complains over the radio, claiming to be much faster than his teammate.


The positions remain unchanged until the forty-eighth lap, when Rob Smedley tells Felipe that Fernando is faster, and the Brazilian lets him pass out of the hairpin. A maneuver prohibited by the regulation since 2003, which costs Ferrari a fine but which does not compromise Alonso's first position. This victory was followed by a series of excellent results for the Asturian, who finished second in Hungary and, after a zero in Spa, won in Monza and Singapore, returning to the fight for the title.


In Korea, where Formula 1 is racing for the first time, Fernando wins ahead of Hamilton and Massa, jumping to the top of the standings thanks to the double zero of Vettel and Webber. Then we arrive in Abu Dhabi, where a dramatic weekend is staged for the fans. Sebastian leads while Alonso is in fourth position just ahead of Webber, enough to take home the title. The Australian, however, was called back to the pits on lap 16 and Ferrari decided to defend himself from the undercut attempt, a double move that laid out the red carpet for the other Red Bull driver.


Alonso and Webber will not be able to recover and Vettel will pit very late, as many others will. The German wins the race, becoming the youngest World Champion ever, while the two favourites on the eve will not go beyond the seventh and eighth position. A terrible day, which could have sanctioned the return of the title to Maranello and which instead turns into a nightmare, sportingly speaking.


The 2011 season will be a monologue by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. A season that will prove extremely difficult for Alonso and Ferrari, adding some defects in terms of performance to a few unfortunate episodes, one of which happens in Sepang. Fernando, deprived of the use of the DRS due to a breakdown, damaged the left side of the front wing in an attempt to attack Hamilton on lap 45, thus seeing a third position vanish.


The first podium will come only in the Turkish Grand Prix, the fourth round of the world championship. A little hope for the Ferrari fans, which lights up even more at the start of the next race on the Catalunya circuit, when a huge roar accompanies the start of Alonso who, from fourth position, manages to enter turn 1 first. It seems the right time for a turning point, but the pace is clearly lower than that of the pursuers and the Spaniard ends only fifth. Two excellent results will follow, two second places obtained in Monte Carlo and Valencia, before reaching Silverstone.


In the race everyone starts with intermediate tires due to the wet track, and Fernando starts from third position behind Webber and Vettel. The two Red Bulls are more competitive and Ferrari manages the third position, but a twist occurs around the twenty-fifth lap. Sebastian returns to the pits to change tires, followed by Alonso, but a mistake at the pit stop allows the Spaniard to pass in front, to find himself incredibly leader of the Grand Prix. Alonso does not give up the first position until the finish line, taking a victory that, given the technical difficulties of the car, seemed unthinkable.


A second place at the Nurburgring follows behind Hamilton, and another podium at the Hungaroring behind Button and Vettel, after which Red Bull returns to dominate all the others. Alonso takes away the slightest satisfaction of finishing third at Monza, in front of the Ferrari crowd, but the podiums he gets later will be only three. Sebastian Vettel wins his second consecutive world championship, while Fernando finishes fourth but with a huge gap. However, he is praised by the team and journalists for what he managed to do with a car that was definitely not up to par.


The third season does not start in the best way for Alonso and Ferrari. Ever since the Jerez and Barcelona tests it is clear that the F2012's performance is not up to par, especially if the goal is to aim for the title. In the first round, in Melbourne, Fernando did not go beyond the twelfth position in qualifying, also due to an error in Q2, and then finished fifth on Sunday. The second Grand Prix takes place in Sepang, in a weekend that many Red fans still remember today. The Asturian obtained the eighth position on the grid, confirming the potential seen in Australia, not high enough to be able to aim for a victory. A victory that will instead come in the race, leaving everyone speechless. At the start, which takes place in the rain, Alonso sprints well going to take fifth position, after which a rapid worsening of conditions leads to the decision by the commissioners to display the red flag. At the restart, the track improved so much that the drivers had to pit to switch from full wet to intermediate tires.


In Ferrari the right moment was chosen and, thanks to a mistake during Hamilton's stop, Alonso came out behind only Perez, who soon overtook to take the leadership of the Grand Prix. The Spaniard keeps his head by increasing the gap to about eight seconds, but the more conditions improve, the more the Sauber driver gains performance against the Ferrari driver.


The gap is zeroed a few laps from the end, but a mistake by Perez at the penultimate corner allows Alonso to go on to win without further pressure. The next five races see another five different winners. Fernando finds himself having to collect some good positions with his car until the Spanish Grand Prix when, following a new test session, Ferrari raises the level of performance by placing itself in the conditions of being able to constantly aim for victory. The Barcelona weekend ends with Maldonado's victory over Williams ahead of Alonso. Another podium in Monte Carlo follows, behind Webber and Rosberg. We come then to the European Grand Prix, which is run in Valencia.


Fernando fails to get through Q2 on Saturday and finds himself with a poor eleventh position. Vettel starts from pole position and, from the start, shows an unreachable pace for everyone, even for Grosjean and Hamilton who are chasing him. Alonso is the protagonist of an extraordinary comeback that brings him close to the positions that count, but the decisive fact happens on lap 28, when a contact between Kovalainen and Vergne forces the marshals to send the safety car to the track. Everyone goes back to the pits to change tires, but yet another mistake in the McLaren garage causes Hamilton to lose some positions.


Alonso is therefore behind Vettel and Grosjean, who overtakes at the restart on the outside of turn 2. A few corners later, Red Bull slows down due to an engine problem, a fate that will also affect the Frenchman of Lotus a few more laps. late. The Spaniard driver wins the race ahead of Raikkonen and Schumacher, on his first podium after returning to Formula 1. A stunning race for Ferrari fans.


Two consecutive poles in the rain will follow, at Silverstone and Hockenheim. In England the Spaniard driver ends the race in second place behind Webber, who overtakes him in the final, while in Germany he wins ahead of Vettel, who is then penalized. The second half of the season will be particularly unlucky for Alonso, who will see the world dream vanish. The regained competitiveness of Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel and two accidents at the start of the Belgian and Japanese Grand Prix, neither of which occurred due to the Asturian, will ensure that the German will arrive at Interlagos, the last round of the world championship leading the world.


The race will be full of twists, one of which will even see the future World Champion spin on the first lap, but a great second place behind Button is not enough for the Spaniard driver to overtake Sebastian at the top of the overall standings. A dramatic finale, as the situation had turned out after the first laps, but a season defined by many as Alonso's best at the wheel of Ferrari.


The 2013 season instead begins with mixed fortunes for Ferrari, although this time the car was clearly competitive right from the start. The first race weekend ends with the victory of Kimi Raikkonen right in front of Fernando who, despite a consistent race pace, is unable to beat the Finn who had made one less stop. The second Grand Prix of the year takes place in Sepang. Alonso is third behind Vettel and Massa but sprints better than his teammate, even going to place Sebastian in the first position. But a slight rear-end collision from Red Bull causes damage to the Ferrari's front wing, which begins to dangle and touch the asphalt. The idea is to try to resist as within a few laps there would have been the conditions to switch from intermediate tires to slick, but the gamble does not pay and Alonso ends up in the gravel at the beginning of the second lap, effectively delivering the victory to Vettel.


Alonso will make up for it on the Shanghai circuit where, starting third, he overtakes Raikkonen at the start and the poleman Hamilton after a few laps, and then leads the rest of the Grand Prix without major problems. In Bahrain again a bad luck for Fernando, who is forced to a further pit stop due to a malfunction of the DRS. He will no longer be able to use the system for the rest of the race, finishing eighth. Even in that case the regret is enormous, as the Spaniard started from the second row and the pace was enough to be able to aim for victory. So, it’s time for the Spanish Grand Prix, on the Catalunya circuit. The qualification is not extraordinary and Alonso has to settle for fifth position, behind the two Mercedes, Vettel and Raikkonen. At the start, however, he overcomes two in one shot, placing himself third and in full battle.


The engineers decide to attempt the undercut, a choice that will prove decisive since, following the pit stop of the first two, Alonso will find himself behind only Nico Rosberg, who surpasses the next lap. Once he took the lead, the race became relatively easy for the Asturian, who took his Ferrari to victory without further struggles with other drivers. A victory which, however, marks the beginning of a difficult period. In Monte Carlo he will not go beyond the seventh final position, in Canada he will finish second and third in Silverstone, but it is evident that the car no longer has that advantage over the others in terms of competitiveness.


In addition, the supply of Pirelli tires will be changed during the summer, replaced with a new product that made its debut in the Hungarian Grand Prix, won by Hamilton. All subsequent races will be in favor of Vettel, driving a Red Bull that has never been so competitive, whose characteristics go perfectly with the new tires. Alonso obtained three consecutive second places, at Spa, Monza and Singapore, always at the end of forced comebacks due to poor performances on Saturday, always making the difference against Massa. Vettel is crowned World Champion for the fourth consecutive time at the end of the Indian Grand Prix, a race in which Alonso will do no better than eleventh position. No longer a podium for him after the Singapore night, also due to the growth of Lotus and Mercedes. Only in Brazil, in the last round, will Fernando be able to finish third behind the two Red Bulls.


A bitter second part of the season for him and for Ferrari. The start of 2014 will be marked by the advent of V6 turbo engines, which will replace the V8s, accompanied by numerous changes to the regulations in terms of single-seater design. The Ferrari power unit immediately proved not to be up to par with Mercedes, which had already been developing the new engines for some years, so that Alonso found himself driving a car that did not allow him to aim for victory. In Melbourne he wins fifth place, which becomes fourth after Ricciardo's disqualification, while in Sepang he gets fourth position directly on the track.


On the Sakhir track, where the power and efficiency of the power unit count a lot, even Fernando had to settle for just two points, finishing the race ahead of his new teammate Raikkonen. There will be an acute in Shanghai. Fifth on the grid, Alonso will take advantage of Rosberg and Ricciardo's less than perfect starts, placing himself third behind Hamilton and Vettel, then overtaking the German thanks to an undercut. Finding himself in second position, he will not be able to prevent Rosberg's return in any way, but he will be able to finish third after being pressed by Ricciardo.


However, that race will not mark a turnaround. The car will remain uncompetitive and the results will be scarce. In order to reach the only podium obtained by Alonso this season, in addition to the one obtained in China, it is necessary to go as far as Budapest, four months later. The Grand Prix begins in a rain that leads the drivers to the decision to start with intermediate tires. At the end of the first lap the classification sees Rosberg in the lead ahead of Bottas, with a Williams that becomes more and more competitive. Stuck behind him are Vettel and Alonso.


A safety car caused by an Ericsson accident at turn 3 and lengthened by an equally incident by Grosjean mixes the cards not a little. Almost all of them are fitted with soft tires and we reach a situation in which Ricciardo leads in front of Massa, Alonso, who overtook Vettel at the restart, and Vergne. On the twenty-third lap a new twist, with Perez crashing on the finish straight. Following a further safety car regime, Alonso is in the lead ahead of Toro Rosso, having both decided not to stop. Fernando leads a wonderful race, resisting the return of Hamilton in the final, but he will not be able to do anything against a Ricciardo who, with one more stop, is traveling much faster at that moment. He then finishes second, just behind the Australian. From now on, Ferrari will sink back into the low ranking.


No podiums obtained in the remaining Grand Prix, even two retirements due to technical problems at Monza and Suzuka, push Alonso to formalize the consensual termination of the contract that binds him to Ferrari, on November 20, 2014, when the weekend in Abu Dhabi is upon us. Sebastian Vettel would have taken his place. Fernando will not be able to win even a title with the team from Maranello, but despite this he will always be remembered for what he managed to do at the wheel of Ferrari.


The Spaniard driver was invoked by many fans after the disastrous 2009 season, in order to restore life and competitiveness to the team. The results were not great, but it depends on the point of view from which they are read. Because eleven wins, forty-four podiums and four pole positions obtained in five years are an almost meager haul, considering the number of Grand Prix on which these results can be counted. But if you consider the supremacy of Red Bull and the poor performance of Ferrari, then here we come to speak almost of a miracle. Alonso was able to keep up a team that is losing competitiveness from year to year, and to win a car that is not always up to par. He was able to keep alive until the last two world championships in which he starts as an underdog compared to the competition, always driving to the limit and never giving up an inch. He put all his talent at Ferrari's disposal, and it's a shame that he left without any title, because at least one would have deserved it.


Alessandro Cappelli

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