Fernando Alonso was born in Oviedo in July 29, 1981, a city with just over 200.000 inhabitants and the capital of Asturias, a region in northern Spain. The future World Champion inherits the passion for Motorsport from his father José Luis, who decides to build a kart for Fernando's older sister, Lorena, who, however, is not particularly interested in driving. Fernando is, on the other hand, who, at the age of just over three, gets on the kart for the first time, immediately demonstrating his driving skills. It is José himself who recognizes his son's abilities, declaring:
"It all started for fun, but from the age of five or six it became immediately clear that Fernando had more of a spark than his peers".
As a young boy, Fernando took part in the Asturias Regional Karting Championship, obtaining his first victory at the age of only seven, winning the category title at the end of the same year. However, it was at the age of ten that his passion for motorsport finally blossomed, a period in which he also began his participation in championships outside his home region. In the same way, the endless trips by camper, towards the Apulian region, in Italy also begin:
"We would leave on Thursday after school and while I was driving, Fernando was sleeping in the back seat. At the end of the Saturday races, we would face another 18-20 hours of travel back to Oviedo, and allow Fernando to go to school on Tuesday morning".
Obviously all this involves, for the same family, a considerable economic effort:
"We did not have the financial resources to allow Fernando to compete at the highest levels. The boy was aware of the efforts we were going through as a family: I followed him in all his trips as a personal mechanic, and his mother got used to not seeing him on weekends, the only time of the week when she could spend time with his son. His sister Lorena was unable to spend as much time with her brother as she would have liked. At the same time, the costs skyrocketed and, for Fernando, the only chance to continue cultivating his passion was to win races, with the hope to sign a contract as a future driver. He knew it was all up to him".
Moving to the junior category in 1990, the following year on the Los Santos de la Humosa track, Fernando achieves the second final place in the Spanish championship of the category, and in 1992 he participates in the 100 cc category, although he could not because of his age. In this regard, Fernando himself will declare in his autobiography:
"I've always been the youngest in every category. Maybe that's why I'm used to breaking records like that, and maybe that's why everything impresses me less than it should".
During the same year he won the Mora de Ebro Grand Prix, in the Catalan Championship, attracting the attention of Genis Marcò, owner of Genikart and importer of Parilla engines, who hired him within his own team, supporting everyone the corresponding costs that up to that moment weighed on the shoulders of the family. This episode marks the breaking point of the boy's career: at the helm of the same Genikart, Alonso wins the 1993 Spanish Championship, places third in the 1995 World Championship held in Braga, wins the Junior World Championship and the National Championship in 1996, and won several national championships in Italy and Spain. A further turning point in his career took place in 1998, when, not yet eighteen, he was given the opportunity to race in Formula Nissan by Adrian Campòs, replacing Marc Gené, who will soon race with the Minardi team in Formula 1. Fernando immediately proves to be up to the challenge, taking the leadership of the first race, which, however, fails to win due to his mistake. Adrian Campòs himself will reveal, a few years later, that the Asturian driver, going to meet him, will say:
"Don't worry, I'll win the next one".
At the second round of the season, held at the Albacete racetrack, Fernando keeps his word, and wins, despite Campòs, via radio, ordering him to slow down:
"Fernando, you are dominating the race 42 seconds ahead of the driver behind you, please slow down".
The Spaniard's reply was laconic:
"The brakes are wearing out, I can't go slower than that".
In Formula Nissan, Alonso took nine poles and six wins, becoming champion of the Euro Open Movistar. In December of the same year, Fernando was called up by the Minardi team to take part in a test session, which would have taken place on the Spanish circuit of Jerez. It was a rainy day and, according to many, the track conditions would not have given the drivers a chance to show their driving skills. Alonso, however, manages to lap a second faster than all the other testers, causing surprise among those present. In this regard, Cesare Fiorio, sports director of Minardi, lets himself go to thunderous declarations:
"On the occasion of that test session we were able to admire all the attributes of Fernando: sense, concentration, intelligence. All qualities, which combined with talent, form a champion. And he is the prodigy of prodigies. In 40 years I have been able to observe more than 300 drivers, but I've never seen anyone like him. He is one of those pilots who is born once every 10 years. Like him Schumacher, Prost, Senna and Piquet".
Subsequently, Fiorio will tell what happened that day:
"As soon as the day of testing was over, I called Rumi, the owner of Minardi at the time, and told him: in forty years of motoring I have managed more than 300 drivers, I've never seen one like this. Let's get it signed immediately, before they take him away from us. We had six drivers on the track, and that day it was pouring rain. He, who had never been on an Formula 1 before, lapped three and a half seconds faster than the others. But it was very impressive that he had everything under control. At the first corner of the first lap ever, under the pouring water, he took off where Barrichello was off with the Ferrari. I immediately called him back to the pits, telling him to stay calm and not pull like that. He replied that he wasn't pulling at all. Towards the end of the session there was the litmus test. I told him that he could really do a lap at the limit. And usually everyone can't go down with time, because they are already hanged. He calmly took away another tenth. And then I understood that it was really a phenomenon. But Rumi fell ill and Minardi was forced to hire riders with substantial budgets".
After a brief experience the following year in Formula 3000, a preparatory series for Formula 1 where, with the Astromega team, he won a memorable race in Spa, several Formula 1 teams are definitely interested in him. Among the many also Ferrari, which offers the driver the role of test driver, as confirmed by the then team principal, Jean Todt:
"We had reached a principle of agreement with Fernando, but then he signed with Flavio Briatore. It was after his victory in F3000, in Spa, when we got in touch with his manager, who came to my house in Maranello and we agreed. But in the end Alonso signs with Briatore, and I was disappointed, after there was one more contact".
Adrian Campòs, who was Alonso's manager at the moment, will admit a few years later:
"Ferrari told us to wait and not to sign with anyone else, but Briatore was already walking with a contract under his arm".
It is in fact Flavio Briatore, Benetton team principal, who thanks to a meeting in his apartment in Great Britain, and to a verbal agreement, grabs the sporting performances of the young Spanish driver, lending him on loan to Minardi. From this moment, a career full of successes and satisfactions for the Spaniard begins. In the 2001 season, Fernando arrives in Minardi, taking the place of Marc Gené, and racing with his new teammate Tarso Marques. The team, however, is not sailing in good waters, and is acquired a couple of weeks before the start of the season by Paul Stoddart, owner of the European Aviation group. Stoddart himself, enthusiastic to have the young Spaniard with him, declares:
"Fernando comes from a minor championship like Formula 3000, but only he managed to win at Spa. So yes, Fernando is a bit special. I am sure he will be an added value for the team, and he will help us reach our ambitious goals".
Despite the proclamations of the new owner, the problems of the car are under the eyes of the whole paddock, so much so that, sources inside the circus, consider the new V10 Ford Cosworth, mounted on the PS01, obsolete by at least three years. However, all this does not seem to undermine the safety of the young driver, who in this regard declares:
"I hope that people will have patience with me, as I will often start from the back of the grid. All this, however, does not worry me. My only aim is to drive well and finish the races, without worrying too much about the results".
The season began on March 4, 2001 in Melbourne, and saw Alonso immediately impose himself on his teammate, finishing qualifying in nineteenth place, and preceding much more performing cars, such as the Prost of Gaston Mazzacane and Luciano Burti, as well as Marques himself, trailing by 2.6 seconds. Although the season continues under the banner of withdrawals caused by the poor reliability of the material in use, Alonso shows off especially in qualifying, as in the case of the fourth round of the season in Imola, when he finishes in eighteenth position, ahead of both Benetton cars, then repeating the same result in the Austrian Grand Prix, and on four other occasions.
The best qualifying result comes in the penultimate round of the season, that of Indianapolis, when Alonso gets seventeenth place, putting five opponents behind him, including former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. In the final race at Suzuka, he even crossed the line in eleventh position, ahead of drivers of the caliber of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Olivier Panis, the two drivers of the Arrows team, and the new teammate, Alex Yoong.
The same patron of the Stoddart team will later define the test of the Spanish driver, declaring that the latter had led the race as if he had completed 53 qualifying laps. A season, that of 2001, which although ends with zero points, shifts the lights of the spotlight on the new rising star of Formula 1. Flavio Briatore then decided to entrust the Asturian driver with the role of test driver for the new Renault team, waiting to replace Jenson Button, starting from the 2003 season. In this regard, Briatore himself states:
"This year, we have been following Fernando's performance very closely. He did an extraordinary job, and therefore we decided it was important to integrate him quickly into the Renault Formula 1 program. Fernando is a great investment for us, and for this it was important to allow him to prepare. at best, but only since the 2003 season, as we have a duty to respect the contract with Jenson Button. As a test driver, Fernando will have the opportunity to fully develop his potential, and in the coming season, I am sure he will be a fundamental asset for us and for our challenge: to fight for the World Championship".
During the 2002 season, Alonso received different job opportunities from Jaguar, Prost and Arrows, but the Spaniard decides to refuse them. In particular, Fernando is noticed by Niki Lauda, team principal of Jaguar Racing, who calls him the best new talent in Formula 1. The Austrian manager offers the Spaniard the opportunity to carry out a test, in order to evaluate the performance of the team's test drivers, James Courtney and Andre Lotterer. Alonso accepts, and on June 3, 2002, at Silverstone, he drops into the cockpit of the Jaguar R3. The Spaniard completes fifty laps, scoring excellent chronometric results:
"Finishing third with sixteen cars on the track, driving a car that is often one of the slowest, is something to be happy about. I don't think, however, that these tests will influence my future, I am only thinking of Renault".
After twelve months of testing, and 1642 laps completed on the Silverstone, Valencia, Jerez and Catalunya circuits, Alonso was promoted, as promised by Briatore himself, to works driver for the Renault team for the 2003 season, replacing Jenson Button. It is the beginning of a marriage that will yield numerous successes, leading the driver to enter the Formula 1 Hall of Fame. The 2003 season foresees a clear regulation change, in an attempt to make the championship more interesting, after the Ferrari domination of the last two years. An additional practice session is organized on Friday morning, reserved for teams wishing to participate, in exchange for a conspicuous limitation of the test days to be carried out during the season, while qualifying is divided into two sessions, to be held on Friday and Saturday afternoon. Renault, Jordan, Minardi and Jaguar join this initiative.
In both qualifying sessions, the drivers would take to the track one at a time: the Friday session, with tanks empty, would determine the order in which the drivers would make their only attempt in the Saturday session, in which the the cars should have already been filled with the petrol needed to tackle the first part of the race. At the end of the qualifying session on Saturday it would no longer be possible to make changes to the cars, which would have remained in the parc fermé until the start of the starting procedure. The 107% rule and Sunday morning warm up are also eliminated. The debut of the season does not take place under a lucky star: Alonso finishes in tenth position in qualifying on Saturday and only seventh in the race, although he thus conquers his first career points.
The second round of the season, which takes place on the Malaysian circuit of Kuala Lumpur, is a completely different story. The Renault monopolize the front row thanks to a lower amount of fuel than their rivals, with Fernando getting his first career pole position ahead of teammate Jarno Trulli, making him the youngest driver to get first place on the grid of departure. However, the following day's race saw Kimi Raikkonen triumph in his McLaren, ahead of Ruben Barrichello and Alonso himself, who finished third at the finish.
The excellent performance of the Malaysian weekend, is then confirmed in the following appointment, in Brazil, even if the qualifying on Saturday places the Spaniard only in tenth position, with more than half a second delay from the poleman Barrichello, the idol of the house. The race takes place under copious rain, forcing the race directors to postpone the start for 15 minutes, to then allow the start of the race only behind the Safety Car. In a race marked by numerous accidents, in which Juan Pablo Montoya, Antonio Pizzonia and Michael Schumacher will progressively leave the scene, and with the repeated entry of the safety car, Alonso quickly climbs the rankings. Then, however, during the fifty-fifth lap of the Grand Prix, Mark Webber loses control of his Jaguar in the last corners preceding the finish straight, scattering the track with debris.
Arrived too quickly in the accident area, the Asturian hits one of the tires of the Jaguar, becoming the protagonist of a frightening accident. Given the gravity of these latest events, the race commission decides to display the red flag, interrupting the race. At the moment of the interruption Fisichella, leading the race, has just completed the fifty-fifth lap, starting the fifty-sixth. According to the regulations, the classification should have been drawn up on the basis of the order of the drivers two laps before the suspension of the race, therefore at the end of the fifty-fourth lap.
However, due to a mistake in the timing system, the race direction considers the Grand Prix concluded before Fisichella passed under the finish line, thus bringing back the order of arrival at the fifty-third lap, when Raikkonen was in command of the race. The Finnish driver is therefore declared the winner, in front of Fisichella and Alonso, who cannot attend the ceremony, since a few minutes before he is transported to the hospital for checks. Realizing the mistake, the FIA will convene a meeting to be held on the Friday following the race, at the end of which the correct order of arrival will be re-established and Fisichella will be proclaimed the winner.
The excellent results continue to arrive, and after the sixth place of the Imola Grand Prix, at the fifth round of the season, on his home track, in Catalunya, Fernando gets the third place on the starting grid, finishing second at the end of the race, behind Michael Schumacher and ahead of Barrichello, thus obtaining the best result in his career. After a central part of the championship punctuated by various withdrawals and placements close to the podium, as on the occasion of the races on the circuits of Montréal, Nurburgring and Hockenheim, the appointment of the Hungarian Grand Prix arrives. Renault comes with an enhanced version of its V10 engine, and thanks to a track that favors the Michelin-wheeled teams, Alonso wins pole position, after which he dominates the race, imposing himself on Raikkonen with a gap of more than fifteen seconds, and more than half one minute ahead of Montoya, thus capturing his first career success at the age of 22 years and 26 days, becoming the youngest ever winner of a Formula 1 Grand Prix.
"In the last ten laps I was very afraid of breaking, I feared surprises, I heard strange noises coming from the car: they were all in my head. Too many things in one day. I hope my career in Formula 1 is long, and I hope to win some more time".
Alonso declares, while Flavio Briatore proudly expresses his joy:
"This guy is an absolute talent, and I am happy for him and for the whole team. This year we wanted to win at least one race and to have succeeded is important. And then, allow me, dubbing Ferrari was the greatest satisfaction of my life. But at the same time we have to congratulate Michael, who was very correct on the occasion".
And Fernando's father, José Luis, adds:
"I have to be honest, none of us thought that victory could come this year. Second place in Barcelona was great. And if I think it all started with the karts...incredible".
Thanks to this triumph, Alonso will end the season in sixth place in the overall standings, with 55 points.
The 2004 season begins without particular announcements, but with the sole aim of improving what has already been done during the previous season, as reported by Alonso:
"As a driver you always want to improve results, although it will be difficult after the victory and the several podiums obtained last year. I can assure you that we will work hard. At Renault we have very competent people, and I am sure we can do it".
The season, however, sees Ferrari dominate the championship far and wide, winning all the seasonal appointments, except for Monte-Carlo, where Jarno Trulli's Renault prevailed. During the championship, Alonso obtained four podiums and pole position in the French Grand Prix, but ended the year winless, albeit improving his position in the overall standings, finishing fourth, with 59 points. The 2005 season represents a turning point for Formula 1, after the FIA intervenes on the regulation, citing the urgent need to reduce the performance of the cars, to keep the cars within acceptable safety constraints. In fact, lap records are often broken on almost every track in the world championship, and top speeds hit peaks of over 370 km/h.
To put a stop to all this, a first rule is imposed on V10 engines, now forced to have to run two races instead of just one, as was the case previously, while at the aerodynamic level a load reduction is decided, with an increase of 50 mm of the front wings, and the cut of the rear extractor profile: the efficiency of the single-seaters is thus reduced by about 15%. But the regulatory change that will most affect the speed reduction will be the elimination of the tire change during the race, even if according to many insiders, this choice was made with the intent of trying to stop the domination of Ferrari, the undisputed winner of the last five editions of the World Championship.
Bridgestone, official tire supplier for Ferrari, had developed in 2004 a tire construction with textile fibers (nylon and rydon) instead of steel inside the carcass, favoring maximum performance over durability. Ferrari had made up to four pit stops to take this concept to the extreme, while Michelin, which supplied other teams, including McLaren, Renault, Bar, Williams and Toyota, had set its race tactics on duration. The Japanese of Bridgestone are thus forced, in a few months, to revolutionize their tire construction systems in search of durability, trying to develop products that were first and foremost safe over distance, not being able, on the other hand, to seek pure performance. The rivals of Michelin, favored by the new regulation, had made an opposite choice, gradually developing tires with increasingly soft and performing compounds. In this regard, harsh criticisms were raised by the then president of Ferrari, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo:
"They wanted to stop the overwhelming power of Ferrari, they invented hot water. I have already said, it would be like making footballers play in sneakers when it rains, to increase the unpredictability and the spectacle. Wanting to change at all costs led to a situation bordering on ridicule".
Given these premises, Renault and McLaren arrive at the starting line of the season as clear favorites for the final victory. The first round of the season in Melbourne was dominated by Fisichella's Renault, who took pole position and victory, with Alonso on the top step of the podium. At the second race, on the Malaysian circuit, Alonso wins pole in front of Trulli, while Raikkonen is only sixth and Schumacher even thirteenth, more than a minute behind the top. The race is a Renault monologue, with Alonso winning and clearing Trulli at the finish line, by about 24 seconds, while Raikkonen punctures a tire on lap 23 and abandons any dream of a comeback, finishing the race in ninth position, and Schumacher does not do much better, ending in seventh position.
The Bahrain Grand Prix does not change the script at the beginning of the season. Alonso conquers the second pole position of the season ahead of Schumacher, showing a partial turnaround in the performance of Ferrari. In the race, however, the German champion retires due to a hydraulic problem, leaving the Renault driver free to take the victory, again without any particular problems. Raikkonen, who started ninth, recovered and ended up on the lowest step of the podium. The fourth round of the season takes place on the Imola track. The first qualifying session sees the three protagonists of the world championship very close in terms of performance: Raikkonen precedes Alonso by only 3 thousandths of a second, while Schumacher unexpectedly places himself in third position, dragged by the home crowd. The second qualifying session takes place along the lines of the previous session, with Raikkonen going to conquer the pole in front of Alonso, while Schumacher becomes the protagonist of a mistake, finishing in fourteenth place, more than 4" behind the poleman.
But in the race McLaren shows all its reliability limits: Raikkonen breaks the drive shaft and is forced to retire, leaving the first position to Alonso who is already looking forward to another easy victory. At this point, however, Schumacher begins an incredible comeback: freed of Trulli, the German driver begins to run on unsustainable times for his opponents, over a second and a half faster than all. In thirteen laps, the Ferrari driver recovered a gap of over twenty seconds from Button, then going to overtake him. After the second pit stop, Schumacher finds himself right behind Alonso, and a spectacular battle begins: eleven laps from the end of the race, the two proceed alone, competing for the final victory, with the German driver trying to complete the comeback by attempting to overcome the Spanish. Despite two clear attempts to overtake, Alonso retains his position, and wins the race, showing great tenacity and self-control in situations of enormous pressure.
"It was a splendid duel and I am delighted to have won it. It was hard, very hard. I knew Schumacher was faster, I knew he was gaining a second per lap against me. When he got behind me, I thought about defending the race position. In a couple of corners we found ourselves very close. To complicate the situation, then, there was also the traffic. More than once I had to slow down, also to avoid damaging the tires".
A race that will mark the passing of the baton between two Formula 1 Champions.
In the following two seasonal events in Catalunya and in Monte Carlo, Raikkonen wins, who conquers pole and victory, while Alonso comes second in Spain, and for the first time does not get on the podium in the Principality, due to a tire management problem. Ferrari is increasingly in crisis: Schumacher is forced to retire in Spain and comes only seventh in Monte-Carlo. The European Grand Prix, held on the Nurburgring circuit, sees Raikkonen in the lead until the last lap. However, the Finnish driver is again betrayed by the reliability of his McLaren: the excessive wear of the right front tire gives rise to a series of harmful vibrations, which will trigger the suspension in full straight line. Alonso, second up to now, takes advantage and wins again on this occasion. At the end of the seventh race, Alonso won 59 points out of 70 available, preceding Raikkonen in the general classification, with a 32-point advantage. The consistency of results, and the great reliability of Renault, allow the Asturian driver to dig a deep furrow between himself and his rivals.
The second half of the season, however, sees McLaren prevail on six consecutive occasions, between the Hungarian and Japanese Grand Prix, demonstrating on many occasions a superiority in terms of performance compared to Renault. However, the management of the drivers by the Woking team is questionable, unable to stop Montoya, who on several occasions could have helped Raikkonen in the run-up to the title. Thus, after the victory in the events of France and Germany and a good series of podium finishes, Alonso graduated for the first time in his career World Champion at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix, the third to last round of the season, becoming aged 24 years, 1 month and 27 days, the youngest Formula 1 driver to have won a World Championship. Flavio Briatore, radiant for the victory obtained, at the end of the race admits:
"When things go like this you can't complain. I'm happy above all for the guys on the team. We have suffered in recent months with McLaren pushing. Now everything is fantastic. I feel better. I felt like I was living a nightmare. Then I felt like I was living a nightmare. I woke up and I was quiet in my room. We had a great project: in five seasons, with a young team, we managed to hit the target. It was not easy. I work very hard. There were two extraordinary things about this adventure: it has not happened since time immemorial that a generalist company in the automotive field like Renault won the Formula 1 World Championship. And we have been able to do so with the youngest driver ever. It seems to me that it was a second miracle, after what we had done with Benetton, with a team that started with t-shirts and went on to win three titles, two of the drivers and one of the Constructors".
While Fernando Alonso, exhausted from fatigue, adds:
"It was a difficult day. At the moment I find it impossible to fully realize what happened, I can't even say how I feel. It was a day seasoned with nervousness. At the beginning of the race I thought I could also fight for the win. After the first stop in the pits, I realized that I would not make it. So he did what I had to: check, ride regularly, cautiously and calmly. I had to resist Michael Schumacher's attempts to overtake. After halfway through the race, when I only thought about settling for third place, which was the useful placement to immediately take the title, I still looked for the reasons to get to the bottom without making mistakes. From the pits, via radio, they just told me to hold on and not to fear the rain, which would not come. When I crossed the finish line it was a liberation. Since I started to be a pilot I have always been driven by a great passion and the desire to emerge. For this I only have to thank three or four people who have been particularly close to me".
Even before the start of the 2006 season, driven by rumors indicating a possible exit of Renault from the circus at the end of 2007, Alonso signs with McLaren:
"I am really elated for the 2007 season, and for the fantastic opportunity to race for McLaren. It will be a new start for me, and at the same time a very difficult challenge. I am sorry to leave Renault at the end of the season, but sometimes they present opportunities that are too tempting not to seize them. Now, however, it is time to concentrate on defending the title I have just won".
Unlike the previous season, in which the main rival was Raikkonen, 2006 saw the return to the highest levels of Ferrari and Schumacher, thanks to the goodness of the Maranello team's project, and the solved tire management problems by the Bridgestone. The season begins along the lines of the previous one, with Alonso taking the victory of the opening Grand Prix of Bahrain ahead of Schumacher, author of the pole position the previous day. Renault dominated the following two rounds of the season, winning with a double in Malaysia, and in Australia, in which the Spanish driver returned to victory, while Schumacher did not go beyond sixth place in Malaysia, and was forced to retire in the following Australian appointment.
At the fourth race of the season, the German of Ferrari wins pole, while Fernando starts only fifth, with almost 1 second behind the poleman. The race re-proposes the duel of the previous year, but with reversed parts: Alonso gives life to a ferocious comeback, taking his Renault behind Schumacher's Ferrari, which in the meantime begins to suffer from graining problems. The last phase of the race sees Renault chasing Ferrari, but Schumacher defends the position with determination, and thanks to two mistakes of the Spaniard in the last laps, he wins the victory, questioning the words of those who, the previous year, had spoken of handover between the two pilots.
And so, after the Nurbugring weekend, in which Schumacher triumphs again ahead of Alonso, the Asturian conquers four consecutive victories in the events of Catalunya, Monte-Carlo, Silverstone and Montréal, preceding the same Ferrari driver on three occasions. In the middle of the season, the Asturian is projected towards winning his second World Championship, leading the standings with a 25-point advantage over the German. However, the second half of the season soon took another turn: Ferrari managed to make a leap forward in terms of performance, allowing Schumacher to lead a stunning comeback. The German driver affirms himself in the rounds of Indianapolis and Magny Cours, with Alonso fifth and second respectively, thus managing to shorten the championship standings.
The real turning point, however, takes place after the French appointment, when the FIA decides to declare the mass damper illegal, that is a mass weighing about nine kg suspended between two springs, placed inside the nose of the car. This solution allows to keep the aerodynamic flow that hits the rest of the car stable, guaranteeing a high driving quality, a better use of the tires, and a very constant aerodynamic load. This decision unleashes the wrath of Flavio Briatore, who in this regard declares:
"They changed the rules in racing and distorted the championship. It is as if in mid-season, in football, they established that you no longer play with eleven, but with ten. We had found a clever idea to make the tires work well, it is it was legal for a year and a half, then the sudden turnaround. Who knows who will benefit from this reverse".
The French team had designed its car, both mechanically (front and rear suspension), and aerodynamically, around the mass damper, and that is why, when the FIA prohibits it, the car will begin to lose competitiveness. This is the case of the subsequent German Grand Prix, where Alonso does not go beyond fifth place. Winner of the race is Schumacher again, who continues his comeback, reaching only eleven points behind the Spanish champion.
During the Hungarian Grand Prix, the FIA is still the protagonist: at first it penalizes Alonso, guilty of having tightened the Red Bull driver Rober Doornbos towards the pit wall, and later also Schumacher, for overtaking Alonso and Kubica himself in red flag scheme. Due to penalties, the two title contenders will qualify fifteenth and twelfth respectively on the starting grid. In a race that begins in the rain, the two become protagonists of a phenomenal comeback. The Spaniard takes the lead up to the second pit stop, when he is forced to retire on his return to the track due to an unsecured tire.
Schumacher, on the other hand, at the end of the second pit-stop decides not to change the intermediate tires, and upon returning to the track, with the asphalt gradually drying up, he first undergoes the comeback of De La Rosa and Heidfeld, then breaks the arm of the steering and is forced to retire, two laps from the end. In Turkey, Alonso manages to keep Schumacher's return, and ends the race in second place, ahead of the Ferrari driver. At Monza, protagonist in qualifying of a slowdown against Felipe Massa, Alonso starts tenth after suffering a penalty and a consequent retreat of five positions on the starting grid. Fernando Alonso's anger erupts at 6:29 pm, when the three commissioners Scott Andrews, Spano and Tibiletti welcome the report of the race director, Charlie Whiting:
"I was in front of three or four hundred meters. I really don't understand. I have a clear conscience, I know I have not hindered anyone. I was summoned by the commissioners, but I am absolutely calm. It's all a waste of time, if the judges change something here then they should change the order of arrival of all fifteen grand prix. A lot of people will be happy, but the race was rigged from the start. But I'm calm, the car is very strong, we'll win".
A decision that agitates Renault. The official Renault reaction, however, comes late in the evening, through Pat Symonds:
"A strange, surprising and wrong decision. Episodes that repeat themselves at every qualifying. We would have won, starting fifth. Now I don't know what Fernando can do. And then, I think about the future: what will we do, we will put the arrows and the horn?"
Convinced that he has suffered an injustice, Fernando will try to get back into the race, but with ten laps to go he will be forced to retire due to the breakdown of the V10, while the German champion will triumph in front of the home crowd. Responding to a possible world sprint between Alonso and the Ferrari driver, Briatore raises his arms, and says:
"The world sprint? But what sprint, the title has already been awarded".
Commenting on the victory and the announcement of Schumacher's retirement from racing, the Spanish driver declares:
"His retirement does not upset me. Of course, he leaves at the right time, after beating all records. But let it be clear that this World Championship does not depend on us drivers, but on the decisions of the FIA".
The third to last round of the season, which takes place on the Shanghai circuit, sees the German's Ferrari triumph again under an incessant rain, while the Asturian has to settle for second place. Two races from the end of the championship, the two drivers find themselves paired in the world championship standings, with 116 points each. A World Championship finale like this hasn't been seen for some time: in 57 years of Formula 1, only two more times have two drivers paired in the standings in the penultimate race of the world championship.
The Suzuka Grand Prix, penultimate of the championship, seems to smile at Ferrari: pole position with Felipe Massa, Schumacher in second position, and Alonso only fifth. During the race all the nervous tension that characterized the championship is poured out, and lap after lap, the two champions study each other, check each other and mark each other closely. The German champion manages the race perfectly, but with seventeen laps to go, as soon as Michael opens the gas at the exit of a slow corner, a white smoke freezes the Ferrari fans: the engine broke. Schumacher is forced to retire. After dominating for a long time, the German hands over the first position to Alonso.
"I think we have deserved this victory for a long time. From the Budapest Grand Prix, where we were ready to reap the rewards but had not completed the work. It is a surprise to have won, and the taste of victory is more beautiful. In China we were favorites us, and we ended up losing the race. Here it happened to Ferrari. Certainly these ten points are a small gift that God has given us. When you win you are happy. Here even more, because it is absolutely unexpected. Never, on the eve, I would have thought of winning. And here it had a greater value. For me, for the Renault team and for the Michelin team. The last four months hadn't been that great. During the race, I saw smoke. Instinctively I braked, it couldn't be seen. The car looked reddish, I thought of a Spyker. Slowing down I realized who was the victim of the accident, and I cheered: I realized it was my moment. But there was still a long way to go. No wickedness, it's just that I didn't believe my eyes, what I saw. You hardly see a Ferrari with mechanical problems and the thought went to mine, of problems, see Monza good last. But what happened here at Ferrari could happen to us, and we could lose everything. In the race you never know what can happen, and you need to go to Brazil with the utmost concentration and the utmost professionalism. The important thing is to keep calm. In Brazil it will be long, but I really think I will find the reasons, lap after lap. In general, it can happen to get bored, to get distracted and lose concentration. I will try to avoid it, to find reasons and motivations at every pit stop, for example every turn. Until we reach the number seventy".
The final race in Sao Paulo only serves to give the official second world title to the Spaniard, who in the race is satisfied with second place, and at the age of 25 years and 85 days, he becomes the youngest two-time Champion of the World in the history of Formula 1.
"Time has done justice. This year has been a lesson for everything that has happened, for the strange and incomprehensible decisions that have been made. So many decisions that I will never forget. I believe that Renault has given a great demonstration of sports education, to endure, as it has done, all the things it has suffered, and to face any situation in the right way. I want to be remembered for the victories I've achieved, it's the only reason people remember us".
The 2007 season sees, as announced in December 2005, the passage of the World Champion to McLaren. Ever since he was a child, watching McLaren-Honda dominate with Alain Prost, and especially Senna, Alonso dreamed of driving for the Woking team. His passage in the English stable appears, in the eyes of the Asturian driver, almost like the realization of a dream. In the same season, however, McLaren hires the new GP2 winner, Lewis Hamilton, as second driver, leaving many questions about the possibility of winning the constructors' championship with a rookie driver as a teammate. The ever closer relationship between Lewis Hamilton and Ron Dennis, McLaren team manager, who sees in the English driver a sort of godson, becomes the basis of the deterioration of the relationship between Alonso and the team itself. As reported by Marc Priestley, chief mechanic at McLaren, who will become a journalist and will publish the book The Mechanic - The secret world of the F1 pit lane, Alonso soon begins to wonder how things were really going:
"Fernando came to McLaren expecting to be treated like royalty, but he soon realized that he wasn't. Like in the pre-season test days, where there wasn't a space where the drivers could change privately. I think yes expected to have their own room. Lewis had the protection of McLaren and Dennis, he knew he had that support and the support of the British media, while Fernando, the champion widely regarded as the best driver of the moment, was in an English team with an English driver. I was totally convinced that Ron and the whole team supported Lewis. Something that wasn't like that at first, but when the relationship between Fernando and the team totally broke down, I think Ron really wanted Lewis to win the title in the second half of the season. This proved that Fernando was right, at least in his head".
From the start, it is clear that the Spaniard's expectations are not met. Even Flavio Briatore advised him not to go to McLaren, given that Lewis Hamilton is there, but Alonso is convinced he can do well, and that he can be faster than his teammate:
"McLaren would find a new guy, Lewis Hamilton. I told them, he was protected by Ron Dennis, kind of like he was with me. I was sure they would find something to say. He replied: No, no, no, I'm faster. The fact is that no one, not even Ron Dennis, knew when Lewis Hamilton was so fast. In fact, if Ron had known, he certainly wouldn't have spent that much money on Fernando. If I know I have one that fast in the house, not. I need to look for another one. And indeed it was a battle".
The problem begins to become more and more evident when the world champion himself realizes that he is no faster than his teammate, as happened up to that point in his career. Hamilton immediately proves to be up to the challenge, showing an amazing pace and competitiveness for a rookie.
The start of the season is, in this sense, eloquent: in Australia, Alonso qualified second behind Raikkonen, with Hamilton fourth. At the start of the Grand Prix, the British driver overtook his teammate on the outside of the first corner, immediately showing that he did not want to be a mere supporting actor. The race ends, however, with Alonso in second place, behind Raikkonen, and ahead of Hamilton himself. At the second round of the season, in Malaysia, Alonso wins ahead of Hamilton and Raikkonen, taking his first victory in McLaren. The third race of the season takes place in Bahrain. During the day of Thursday, outside the McLaren Motorhome, a discussion between Alonso and Dennis takes place that attracts the attention of the whole paddock: the conversation between the two appears very relaxed and friendly, but some sources close to the Woking team tell of a growing discontent of the Asturian driver, more and more upset by the results of his teammate.
At the same time, Anthony Hamilton, father and manager of the British driver, puts increasing pressure on Dennis himself and on his second, Martin Whitmarsh, about his son's role in the team. The Bahrain Grand Prix will see Felipe Massa win, ahead of Hamilton, with Alonso only in fifth position, in one of his most disappointing races in McLaren. On the Montmeló circuit, home to the fourth round of the season, Alonso ends the race in third position, again defeated by his teammate in front of him. The victory goes to Massa for the second consecutive time. From the Monaco Grand Prix, the fifth race of the season, the tension seriously begins to rise in McLaren. Once again, Hamilton proves to be faster than Alonso during Friday's free practice, but the situation is reversed on Saturday, with the Spaniard securing pole in front of the English, who, indulging in declarations of frustration, justifies the result by accusing Mark Webber of slowing him down on your last fast lap.
In the race, Alonso immediately took the break, gaining eight seconds over Hamilton in seventeen laps, before stopping on lap 26 for the pit stop. Hamilton remains out, and with the car more low on fuel than his teammate's, he tries to gain ground to make an overcut. However, the Spaniard's first lap with a full tank of fuel is a masterpiece, as he laps faster than his rival and so, at the moment of the Hamilton pit stop, Alonso regains leadership. The attempt to overcut is repeated at the second pit stop, but even on this last occasion, Alonso remains at the head of the race. The final laps of the race see the reigning champion slow down to prevent any problems with the braking system, but the arrival of Hamilton will force him to push hard until the end, in order to secure his second win of the season.
The post-race interviews will tell a different version of events, with Ron Dennis talking about how McLaren had to avoid a possible bloody battle between teammates, while Hamilton will publicly declare that he is the second driver of the team, adding, not without a pinch of victimhood, of being forced to accept the situation and having to live with it. This misleading reconstruction of the facts will infuriate Alonso, marking the rupture of the relationship between the World Champion and McLaren.
"Fernando and Lewis together didn't work out. The teams of the two cars were each with their own driver, closing ranks around their own man".
Marc Priestley will admit, who in this regard will add:
"A huge division was created within the team, like a wall in the garage. This separation within the team resulted in our failure to win the World Championship, we were distracted by the internal struggles and we didn't focus on what Ferrari was doing, so they won the title in the last race. We had the best car at the end of the year, the two best drivers, and yet we didn't collect anything".
The next race in Canada will coincide with one of the Spaniard's worst weekends within the British team: after qualifying in second position behind Hamilton, Alonso goes off the track at the first corner, after trying to overtake his teammate at the start of stable. In a race marked by brake problems, the Spaniard will finish only in seventh position, while the Englishman will secure his first career victory, and will stretch over his rival in the world championship standings, with an advantage of eight points. Also beaten at the United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis, second behind Hamilton himself, Alonso suffers from gearbox problems during qualifying for the next round in France, compromising the race that will see him finish only in seventh place.
The Spaniard returns to victory at the European Grand Prix, in a race in which torrential rain is the protagonist and made famous by the numerous riders on turn 1, including Hamilton himself. The rivalry between the two McLaren drivers returns to ignite and explode during the Hungarian Grand Prix. During Q3, Hamilton refuses to follow the team's instructions, which invites him to hand over the track position to his teammate. The rest is history. Alonso returns to the pits for refueling, before the last attempt, but remains stationary on the pit stop in front of Hamilton, despite the mechanic's lolly-pop being raised. The aim is to waste the teammate's time, precluding him from completing his last qualifying attempt. Alonso takes pole position, but is penalized by five positions for his rematch. This episode leads to the definitive rift between Alonso and McLaren.
According to Andrew Benson, journalist for BBC Sport's, Alonso will have a conversation with Ron Dennis on Sunday morning, where he apparently reports to him that he has had access to the e-mails concerning the Spy-gate scandal and to be ready to disseminate them to the FIA. The same scandal, as is well known, will lead McLaren to be excluded from the constructors' classification for the 2007 vintage, and to pay a fine of 100.000.000 euros.
In the meantime, however, the team principal of the Woking team, Ron Dennis, is angry at Alonso, but cuts a joint press conference that will be held after qualifying, to try to reconstruct an explosive situation. The team's head of communication at this time, Matt Bishop, will reveal more details about what happens between Dennis and Alonso:
"We all knew that Ron had a certain level of precision mania: everything had to be neat and tidy, he hated it when it wasn't. For example, he always had to eat chopped fruit on a plate, with a knife and fork, so as to don't risk the juice dripping on him. Fernando walked into that press conference with the biggest and ripest peach I had ever seen. During the conference he started eating it, and he let some of the juice and a few bits go to his beard. I don't think anyone knew what it was. Alonso was doing then, but I was sure he was deliberately trying to get the blood to the head of Dennis. Fernando is a great driver, but he is also a politician who knows exactly what he has to do to intimidate people".
Another anecdote that tells of a relationship that is now compromised. Despite this, in the race, Hamilton will win, while Alonso will reach the finish line in fourth position. After concluding the race in Turkey on the lowest step of the podium, Alonso will prevail in Monza, finishing ahead of Hamilton and managing to get just three points behind his teammate in the world championship standings. The comeback, however, finds a sudden halt during the Japanese Grand Prix, held under incessant rain, as Fernando will not be able to find the rhythm. Furthermore, after coming into contact with Sebastian Vettel, the Spaniard will move back to eighth position, and will be forced to climb up to fourth place.
Nonetheless, the reigning World Champion will finish his race, crashing into the protective barriers, during the forty-second lap, after being a victim of aquaplaning in turn 5. Meanwhile Hamilton wins an easy victory, and extends his lead in the standings to twelve points, just two races to go. In both the last two races, the Spaniard will conquer the podium, but will not be able to secure his third consecutive title, finishing in third overall position with 109 points, the same as Hamilton, but one less than the Ferrari driver, Kimi Raikkonen, who became World Champion in Brazil.
Less than two weeks after the end of the season, the two-time world champion announces his divorce from McLaren, and after having had several contacts with the Red Bull and Toyota teams, he decides to marry again in Renault. The homecoming is full of good intentions and hopes, as stated by the rider himself in the pre-season interviews:
"I know we can win this year. We have done it in the past, why shouldn't we succeed now? The team has changed a lot since 2006, making big changes in different areas, but now what I want to do is work hard and give the maximum to achieve our goals".
But despite the high expectations, the R29 was born under a bad star, bringing considerable aerodynamic problems, and an engine with performance below the required standards. For these reasons, after an illusory fourth place in the opening race of the season, the Spaniard collects only thirteen points in the first ten rounds of the season, along with two retirements in the races in Spain and Canada, and three placings outside the top ten. The second half of the season sees the French team bring numerous new aerodynamic solutions, which allow the car to get closer to the performance of its rivals in the leading group. After the summer break, Alonso collects two placings close to the podium in the Grand Prix raced in Belgium, and in the one raced on the Monza circuit.
The following appointment with the Singapore Grand Prix starts off on the right foot. The Spaniard proves he can fight with the top teams, securing the first position in free practice on Friday. However, during qualifying on Saturday, his Renault suffers a mechanical problem, which does not allow him to go beyond the fifteenth position on the starting grid. Starting with a very small amount of fuel, with the intention of rapidly climbing the rankings, Fernando stops at the twelfth lap to pit and refuel, returning to the track in last position. Three laps later, then teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. lost control of the car at the exit of turn 17, causing the Safety Car to enter the track. At that point, thanks to the pit stops of all the top teams, Alonso found himself incredibly leading the race, and favored by the configuration of the circuit, he managed to keep his position up to the checkered flag. These are his words at the end of the race:
"First podium of the season and first win. I am very happy. I will need a couple of days to realize the fact that we have won a race this season. This time I was helped by the lucky stars, but I think I deserved it, I think it is a compensation for what happened to me in qualifying on Saturday with the hydraulic problem, while the car was going great. Remember that I started fifteenth".
And regarding a still uncertain future, Fernando admits:
"This triumph does not change my decisions, which I have not yet made. But, as I always say, at Renault I feel at home. Briatore knows this".
The following race at the Suzuka circuit sees the Spaniard win again by surprise at the end of a daring race, finishing ahead of Kubica and Raikkonen, thanks to a race strategy that will give him victory. With a Renault clearly improving, and with the championship open between his former teammate and Felipe Massa, Alonso can become an ally for the Ferrari driver, as he himself admits:
"If I can, I will certainly help Massa, after all I went through last year at McLaren. In general there are people who love me and people who hate me, as happens in all sports. I always try to do my job in the most professional way possible, I always try to be one hundred percent in the car. I'm just saying that I want Ferrari and, I repeat, if I can help Massa this year, I'll do my best. I said we had to get out of the pit stop first, because the tires were wearing out from behind Kubica. They put in less fuel and we did it. Then I managed to keep up a winning pace. I still don't believe it, congratulations to the team that has improved the car, working hard after understanding which sectors to intervene. In China, with my heart I hope to be competitive. We have to see. But if in Singapore there was a coup luck, we deserved it here, taking advantage of the favorable situation".
Then, speaking of the possible renewal with Renault, Fernando admits that he has not yet talked about it with the team principal, Flavio Briatore:
"No market. I said we would talk about it after Brazil and so it will be. The announcements will arrive in November".
Finally, when the journalists ask whether the penalty inflicted on Lewis Hamilton is right, after the British attacked Massa with decision on the second lap, the Spaniard comments, succinctly:
"If the penalty was right for him? When it comes to Hamilton, he is always right".
The season ends with another podium finish in the Chinese Grand Prix and second place in Brazil, ending a difficult and somewhat controversial season in fifth place with sixty one points. The 2009 season sees a radical change in the regulation: a series of new solutions are opted for, which aim to limit the loss of aerodynamic load when one car travels in the wake of another. The front wing goes from 140 centimeters to 180 centimeters in width, while the rear wing is much narrower and higher than the previous year, and all the fins, chimneys and holes used in the past are eliminated. However, using an English language term that can be interpreted in the technical regulation, some teams including Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams, make double rear diffusers, higher and longer than traditional ones, obtaining exceptional downforce.
Furthermore, the use of KERS is made optional, a system that allows energy recovery during braking, and to obtain a surplus of power that the driver can use for a maximum of six seconds per lap. The lack of clarity in the regulations therefore allows two different ways of interpreting the guidelines: the result is a critical season for all those teams that have misinterpreted the dictates of the FIA. Among these, there are Ferrari, McLaren and Renault itself. The results are so poor that Alonso himself is unable to go beyond fifth position in the Grand Prix preceding the summer break. The pilot's reaction is fraught with frustration:
"We designed the car following one type of rules, while other teams followed others. There are two ways of interpreting the rules and we are on the wrong side. It is frustrating. We started the season with high expectations, but we quickly realized. I realize I'm not fast enough. We just have to work hard and try to extract the maximum possible potential".
The best result of the season, Fernando captures it during the appointment in Singapore, when he manages to get on the lowest step of the podium. The season, however, draws to a close without further jolts, closing with a paltry ninth place in the world championship standings, with only twenty-six points. It is the driver's worst season since his beginnings in Minardi, but that doesn't compromise his desire for Formula 1:
"Everyone's dream is to win the World Championship. I have won two, now I'm 27, but I want to win more. I'm still young and I will have other possibilities to do it again".
At the end of the season, Alonso marries for Ferrari, making his dream of wearing the red suit come true. On September 30, 2009, while the teams are busy moving from Singapore to Suzuka for the fifteenth round of the world championship, the official press release appears on the Ferrari website in which it is announced that, from the following year, he would be driving the Red. a new driver alongside the returning Felipe Massa. 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 long invoked by the majority of the fans of Ferrari: Fernando Alonso.
The contacts between the parties involved began in 2007, but only in 2009 was it possible to reach the signing of the contract which initially foresees the debut for the 2011 season, the year in which Ferrari should have reached the conclusion of the relationship with Raikkonen. However, in light of what is happening in Renault due to the Singapore-gate issue, Ferrari decides to sign Alonso a year in advance. However, some background to the negotiation suggests that an important influence on the latter decision is exercised by Banco Santander, a Spanish credit institution and an important sponsor of Ferrari, which pushes for its own compatriot as its main representative.
"The money played an important role".
This is what Raikkonen says on the thorny question. Montezemolo's reply is immediate:
"Let's be clear, we are very happy with the work that Kimi has done with us. However, we realized that we needed a driver to play an active role with the engineers. Santander's role? Of course they are happy, but the sponsor doesn't choose the driver. We have never operated that way, and we never will".
Returning to the track, the new F10 from Maranello, longer and more sinuous than the previous F60, is conceived with the intention of increasing its aerodynamic load. The real weakness of the 2009 car was, in fact, the lack of downforce, and that is why a double rear diffuser is installed on the new car, which forces the technicians to further work on raising the gearbox. The nose is also completely new and with a trend similar to that of the Red Bull RB5. At the starting line for the new season, Ferrari does not get there with the odds, but it is certainly a car worthy of its rivals, the Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber, and the McLarens of Hamilton and Button.
The inaugural appointment is with the Bahrain track, on an elongated layout. In qualifying Alonso does no better than the third time, behind an impregnable Sebastian Vettel and Massa. In the race, however, the real values on the field are immediately respected: thanks to a perfect start, the Spaniard overtakes his teammate and travels in second position in a race, dominated by the rhythm of the German's Red Bull. On lap 34, however, a turning point arrives. Vettel complains via radio of an exhaust problem that forces him to slow down, which allows Alonso to overtake him, going to win the Grand Prix ahead of 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.
"Winning is always special. Doing it with Ferrari is even more so, given the history of this team and the expectations that exist when racing with this car. We worked a lot in the winter tests, we arrived prepared for this appointment. It is only the first Grand Prix, but the one-two shows that we have worked well. It is a result dedicated to all those who have made enormous efforts in recent months. On lap 34, I didn't know exactly what to expect. I was concentrating on tire management, waiting for the moment to attack Vettel and I thought I would do it in the last ten laps".
In Melbourne, after a start from third position, Alonso spun after a contact with Button and Schumacher, seeing himself called to a difficult comeback. Ferrari opts for a one-stop strategy, allowing the Spaniard to climb up to fourth place. In a convulsive final that sees the return of Webber and Hamilton on his exhausts, with the two who will end up colliding in an attempt to overtake him, Alonso retains his position and ends up at the foot of the podium. At the third round of the season in Malaysia, the Ferraris are even eliminated in Q1, conditioned by incessant rain. After a good comeback in the race, the Spaniard is forced to retire due to a gearbox problem that will lead to the failure of the engine. In China, fourth race of the championship, Alonso qualified third behind the two Red Bulls, with Vettel in pole position. At the start of the race he overtook both rival cars, but was penalized with a drive through and forced to make another comeback.
On the nineteenth lap, the Spaniard decides to show his muscles when at the bend leading to the pit lane he overtakes the other Ferrari of Massa with a move as rough as it is cunning, forcing him to wait in line. In the end he will finish fourth, in a race that will see Button triumphing ahead of Hamilton and Rosberg. In Spain, Alonso does no better than fourth in qualifying, 1" behind the poleman Webber, but in the race he recovered up to second position, thus obtaining an excellent result. Opposite story at the Monaco Grand Prix: the Spanish champion dominates qualifying on Thursday, but during free practice 3 on Saturday morning, he loses control of the F10 at the Massenet bend, crashing into the barriers. The short time available to repair the car did not allow him to take part in qualifying, forcing him to start from the rear.
In the race, the immediate entry of the Safety Car on the track allows him to make the pit stop immediately and, when the other drivers change tires, he manages to climb up to the final sixth place. The subsequent rounds of the Turkish and European Grand Prix are no better, which, interspersed with a good third place in Canada, see Alonso arrive, on both occasions, only eighth. The poor mid-season results, certainly attributable to a considerable amount of bad luck, are mainly due to a slow Ferrari in the development of the single-seater, as reported by Alonso himself in an interview:
"We don't know how long it will take to close the gap. The truth is that we are almost eight tenths slower than Red Bull and six or seven slower than McLaren. We have to work hard, because even the next updates won't allow us to reach them".
In fact, in the next round of Silverstone, also due to a drive through inflicted on him for an illegal overtaking on Kubica, the Spaniard does not go beyond the final fourteenth place. At the end of the British Grand Prix, the general classification is not what was expected at the beginning of the season: the Spaniard is only fifth, behind both Red Bulls and both McLarens, forty seven points behind the leader Hamilton. The following weekend we race on the Hockenheim circuit, where Ferrari is rediscovered 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. In Ferrari, initially, it was decided to freeze the positions that remain unchanged until the forty-eighth lap. Ferrari then decides to maximize the result by opting for a change of positions at the top. Laconic the radio team addressed by track engineer Rob Smedley to the Brazilian:
"Fernando is faster than you, sorry".
A few laps later the Brazilian gives the green light to his teammate coming out of the hairpin. A maneuver prohibited by the regulation since 2003, which will cost Ferrari a fine but which will not compromise Alonso's first position.
"It was a completely normal overtaking, not dangerous, I'm not sure what happened but I realized that Felipe was going a bit slow and I passed him safely. This was a good weekend for Ferrari, we improved the car and it showed, all the adjustments worked well in the race as well. With this double win we got a very strong result, the car improved a lot his performances, and we hope now to repeat another good weekend next week, in Hungary".
In the following race in Hungary, Fernando starts third and then finishes in second place behind Webber, while he is forced to retire at Spa, in a chaotic race in the rain that sees him protagonist of a spin out of Les Combes, before finish with his F10 against the barriers. The next appointment is that of the Italian Grand Prix, in Monza. In front of the usual frenzied Italian public, the Spanish champion obtained a magnificent pole position in front of Button and Massa, but at the start of the race he was unable to maintain the first position, being overtaken by the same English driver in McLaren.
However, the pace of the reigning World Champion is not very fast, and the two Ferraris follow him without too many problems. The turning point comes on lap 36, when Button returns to the pits for the pit stop, while Alonso continues his race to stop on the next lap. The men of Ferrari are very fast, the Spaniard sets off again and at the exit from the pit lane is in front of the opponent. A roar coming from the stands accompanies the maneuver. Alonso goes on to win his home Grand Prix, four years after his last red win at Monza, by Michael Schumacher.
"We did everything well, a fantastic pit stop. This was an important day, now let's think about the next race. Thanks to the pit stop and the work of the mechanics, we were able to overtake McLaren. That's why we're here. It's a victory that I can only compare with the one obtained in Barcelona in 2006, in my home race".
This victory reverses the inertia of a hitherto fluctuating championship for Ferrari. Fernando is 21 points behind Webber, world leader, but he is the driver who has scored more points (68) in the last four races than his rivals Webber (59), Vettel (42), Hamilton (37) and Button (32).
Ferrari goes to the next race in Singapore aware of being feared by its rivals, as confirmed by Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Manager:
"Ferrari is the biggest threat to us. They have a fast car, and they are probably the closest to our performance since mid-season".
Alonso wins pole position and wins over Vettel in the Singapore Grand Prix, then finishes third at Suzuka and wins in Korea, in a race that sees the two Red Bull standard-bearers retire due to engine problems in the case of Vettel, and due to an incident with Rosberg in the Webber case. Two races from the end of the world championship, the Asturian concludes a comeback that is sensational, and leads the standings with 231 points, eleven more than Webber and twenty five more than Vettel. The appointment in Sao Paulo, penultimate of the season, sees the Red Bulls conquer the second and third place on the grid behind Hulkenberg, with Alonso in fifth place. In the race, the two Red Bull drivers overtake the German Williams and make the void, going to win, while behind the Spaniard he struggles with Hamilton before conquering the lowest step of the podium. With only one race to go, the ranking reads: Alonso 246, Webber 238, Vettel 231.
We arrive in Abu Dhabi, where a dramatic weekend is staged for Ferrari fans. At the end of qualifying, the classification sees Vettel on pole, followed by Hamilton, Alonso, Button and Webber. At the start, Button overtakes Alonso, while Vettel, in the lead, sets a frenzied pace and runs away with Hamilton. On the eleventh lap the drama broke out: Webber, after touching the wall with the rear wheel, went to the pits, then in Ferrari it was decided to defend the position from the undercut attempt, stopping the Spaniard. Back on track, the situation is complicated, with Alonso stuck in traffic and unable to overtake Petrov's Renault. Vettel stops almost ten laps later, and on his return to the track he has the road to the world title cleared. Alonso and Webber fail to recover and Vettel wins the race, becoming the youngest world champion ever, while the two favorites on the eve do 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 turned into a sporting nightmare.
"We copied Webber's strategy and instead we had to imitate Button's, we didn't have to defend ourselves. Our first place was unreal. It was too high a position for what we deserved. Everything went wrong. At the start Vettel kept the first position. Our strategy was to mark Webber, but we ended up getting traffic. We had to do like Button, we didn't have to defend ourselves. In retrospect, however, it is easy to define the strategy. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don't go right. When I stopped, we realized that Petrov and Rosberg had already made the pit stop and were very fast. This is the sport, sometimes you win sometimes you don't. We will try harder next year we had problems. with soft tires, then with hard ones it is too difficult to go behind another car. The Renault had an incredible top speed, it was impossible to overtake Petrov. I tried to pass him, but he defended himself well. With Petrov there was a bit of frustration, we saw in him an aggression never seen before in everything the championship. He was aggressive and I risked a collision. I had to try, but I certainly couldn't afford to go out. Obviously I'm sad, it will take a few hours to properly assess what happened. I won races, I fought for the title. I have already won two World Championships, I have nothing to prove. We have to evaluate ten very intense months, we have had positive moments and negative moments. We have lost a chance: but with this team, in a negative year and with the third car of the group, we managed to fight for the title until the last race. We didn't lose the world championship here, the championship is long, it has nineteen races. There have been grand prix races where we lost points but also grand prix races where we were lucky like in South Korea. When I realized I had lost the world championship? I understood it on the last lap when I saw Vettel crossing the finish line on the giant screen. I thought until the very end that something could happen".
The 2011 season was born under the banner of some regulatory innovations: the KERS is reintroduced, the double rear diffusers are abolished as well as the F-Duct, leaving room for the new device that should allow to increase overtaking, the rear movable wing. better known as DRS. The new Ferrari car, called F150 Italia in honor of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, is the evolution of the previous F10. One soon realizes the lack of goodness of the project: the new car suffers from chronic aerodynamic problems also deriving from an incorrect calibration of the instruments in the Maranello wind tunnel.
The result of this situation leads Ferrari technicians to decide on disappointing technical solutions, and with a performance far below expectations. To these problems is added the choice of relying on a push rod type rear suspension, in contrast with the decision of most of the opponents who have pull rod solutions. The consequence of this choice leads the Ferrari car to suffer from the use of harder compound tires, not making them work in the correct window of use, consuming them more quickly and negatively affecting traction. The strong point of the car is essentially represented by the mechanical traction.
Given these premises, 2011 proves to be an extremely difficult season for Alonso and Ferrari, who face the first half of the season in apnea. The first three races of the championship see the Spaniard finish fourth in Australia, sixth in Malaysia after a contact with Hamilton, and even seventh in China. The first podium comes only in the Turkish Grand Prix, at the fourth round of the World Championship. A little hope for the fans of the Red, which lights up even more at the start of the next Spanish Grand Prix, on the Catalunya circuit, when a huge roar accompanies the departure of Alonso who, from fourth position, manages to take the lead in the first corner.
It seems the right time for a turning point, but the pace is clearly lower than that of the pursuers and at the end of the race he only places fifth. This is followed by two second places obtained in Monte Carlo and Valencia, interspersed with the second position on the grid in the Canadian Grand Prix, which will end in a retirement following a collision with Button. We therefore arrive at Silverstone. Ferrari presents itself with a first important evolutionary step of its car, with new wings that guarantee greater downforce, new sides and a new rear suspension model, but Red Bull equally monopolizes the front row, with Webber on pole in front of Vettel and Alonso.
In the race, the classic English rain forces all the drivers to start with intermediate tires. At the start, Vettel overtook his teammate and began to impose his own pace, with Ferrari managing the third position. The twist occurs on lap 28: with the track gradually drying up, the German driver returns to the pits to change tires, followed by Alonso, but a mistake at the Red Bull pit stop allows the Spanish driver to pass in front, to find yourself 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.
"Favored by Vettel's pit stop problem? I don't know, it's hard to say, I saw that Sebastian had a problem, I found myself in front and I tried to push. It is clear that the race was complex, we started with a part of the circuit wet, we stayed with the intermediates, I was able to be fast. With the dry tires I started a bit slow, I remained calm, without making mistakes and without leaving the track because the grass was wet and I knew the machine could guarantee me to do it. When we mounted the dry tires, Hamilton was faster than me. I was fourth, but I remained calm and managed to overtake him thanks to the means we have available today like the Drs and the Kers. So I was able to attack the Red Bull and from now on we will try to do so, every race for us must be like a championship final. The only thing we can do is try to be aggressive in every race and every start and try to win them all, because Sebastian always arrives on the podium".
Followed by a second place at the Nurburgring behind Hamilton, and another podium at the Hungaroring, behind Button and Vettel. Ferrari continues to develop its car, and on the occasion of the Belgian Grand Prix it presents itself with a second evolutionary step, which includes a new front wing, new exhausts and a slightly revised rear wing. However, these technical innovations do not follow the expected results: Alonso comes fourth in Spa, after having made a comeback from eighth place, and ends up on the lowest step of the podium at the Italian Grand Prix, in Monza.
Starting from the same Italian appointment, also given the compromised ranking situation, Ferrari decides to interrupt the development of the single-seater to concentrate on the 2012 project. The Spanish driver ends the season with three further podiums at the races in Japan, India and Abu Dhabi, finishing off the podium in the remaining races. Sebastian Vettel dominates and wins his second consecutive world championship, while Fernando closes fourth with a huge gap. As the only satisfaction, the Spaniard can boast of having qualified fifteen times in front of his teammate Massa and having managed to finish the race by climbing ten times to the podium, being praised by the team and journalists for what he managed to do with a decidedly uncompetitive car.
The 2012 season sees the regulations change once again: the exhausts must now be positioned higher, and not closer to the diffusers, significantly reducing the deportant effect, and trim correctors are banned, preventing therefore to modify the ground clearance of the single-seaters during the race. Last but not least, each team is obliged to use the two types of compounds brought by the Pirelli supplier in the race, under penalty of exclusion from the order of arrival.
Within these new parameters to be respected, Ferrari decides not to conceive an evolution of the previous one, but the F2012 turns out to be a totally new project. The new project, led by Pat Fry and Nicholas Tombazis, presents some innovations that are certainly in contrast with those of the competition: first of all, the F2012 has a conspicuous hump on the nose, due to the need to comply with the standard that requires it to be positioned at a maximum height from the ground not exceeding 25 centimeters, and in addition to this, the pull rod type suspension is introduced, the bellies are more tapered and the gearbox has smaller dimensions. However, since the Jerez and Barcelona tests, it is clear that the F2012 is not competitive enough, especially if the goal is to aim for the title. The car lacks downforce, has difficulty entering corners and does not manage the tires well, ending up attacking the compound, which wears out too quickly.
"We definitely need to improve a lot, to work and understand the F2012 better, adapting my driving style to the car which, with less downforce and the new Pirelli tires, is a bit more difficult to drive".
Alonso himself declares. And so, at the starting line of the season in Melbourne, Fernando does not go beyond the twelfth position in qualifying, also due to an error in Q2, and then finishes fifth on Sunday, in a race in which Button wins in McLaren.
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 that the technical potential seen in Australia is not high enough to be able to aim for a victory. A triumph that will come instead, leaving everyone speechless. Alonso, who starts from ninth on the grid, starts well and goes to take fifth position, before a rapid deterioration in conditions leads the commissioners to display the red flag. At the restart, the track improved so much that the drivers were forced to return to the pits 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 Pérez alone and overtook him shortly after, taking the leadership of the Grand Prix. The Spaniard increases his lead to around eight seconds. The track gradually dries up and starting from the thirtieth lap the Mexican in Sauber begins to get closer to the Ferrari driver. The situation becomes even more agitated after the drivers change tires on the fortieth lap: The gap is zeroed a few laps from the end, with the Mexican who finds himself chasing the Asturian more and more insistently but, on the fiftieth lap he makes a mistake and goes long at the penultimate corner, allowing Alonso to go on to win without further pressure. It is a Sunday full of joy for the Ferrari world, also thanks to the poor competitiveness of the new car. A concept taken up by Alonso himself at the end of the race:
"It was a big surprise to have won today, we weren't competitive here, it's an incredible result. We had a good qualifying and today I remained calm in extreme conditions. Congratulations to the team that made a prefect pit stop this Sunday there. we will remember it. For the future nothing will change. We want to fight to win, the goal was not to lose too many points against the leaders and this is the positive aspect of these two races. We are a very united team and this victory will make us happy but not it will change our determination to improve the car. Now we will have improvements on the car, the team is making all possible efforts, we are a united team and this victory makes us happy".
The next five races saw five different winners win. The Spaniard finishes ninth in China, where Rosberg wins in a Mercedes, and seventh in Bahrain, where Vettel wins. Fernando finds himself rowing his car up to the Spanish Grand Prix, when, following a new test session, Ferrari raises the level of performance, placing itself in a position to be able to constantly aim for victory. The Barcelona weekend ends with Maldonado's victory over Williams, in front of the bishop in Ferrari. Another podium in Monte Carlo follows behind Webber and Rosberg, while the Spaniard comes fifth in Canada in a race in which the tires are suffering, being overtaken in the final race by Grosjean, Pérez and Vettel. We arrive at the European Grand Prix hosted by the Valencia circuit. Fernando fails to get through Q2 on Saturday, and finds himself with a paltry eleventh position on the grid. In the race, however, the reigning World Champion shows, right from the start, an unattainable pace for everyone, moving away from the pursuers Grosjean and Hamilton.
Alonso, however, is in a state of grace, and packs a real jewel of his career: he comes back up to close to the positions that count, until on lap 28, a contact between Kovalainen and Vergne forces the commissioners to send on the track the safety car. All the drivers rushed to the pits to change tires, and yet another mistake in the McLaren garage caused Hamilton to lose some positions. Alonso is therefore behind Vettel and Grosjean, and on the return of the safety car, he overtakes the Frenchman with a beautiful maneuver outside Turn 2. A few corners after another twist involves the German's Red Bull, which is forced to slow down due to an engine problem. The same fate also raged against the Frenchman of the Lotus, a few laps later. The Spaniard wins ahead of Raikkonen and Schumacher, what years later he will define as his best race in Formula 1. A moving race for Ferrari fans and for the driver himself, as emerges from his post-race statements:
"It is difficult to express what I feel, winning here at home is something unique. The feeling is special. I had already had the opportunity in Barcelona in 2006, with Renault. I remember that day. I repeated myself thanks to a special team. like the Ferrari that brought all the fans here with the Spanish flags. Today I am proud to be a Spanish sportsman, this is my best victory. The car took a while to pick me up - adds Alonso, referring to the episode that saw him stop at the track after the finish and celebrate with the Spanish fans - and I was with the fans for a while, they wanted I was hopping with them. It was a great feeling. Formula 1 is incredible, it's a sport, which means having ups and downs. This is true in sport and perhaps more so in Formula 1 where there are more variables. Today was a truly incredible race, I had some good fights at least seven-eight passes, you can end up against a wall but you can also win everything went well and I was happy".
Two consecutive poles in the rain follow, at Silverstone and Hockenheim. In Great Britain, the Spaniard 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.
"We had a competitive car already yesterday, I started from pole position and this was a key factor. It was difficult to overtake, maybe we weren't the fastest but we kept the position. The pole made it easier for me, and I'm happy for the championship, even for Hamilton's retirement, it was a perfect day. Everything went well, we managed to win a race in which perhaps we weren't the fastest. Qualifying was very important in this sense because even if the others were a little bit faster, we managed to keep the position. Everything went well from the start, even some retirements then favored us. Also for the championship he is the direct competitor. Button was strong, but even if he had passed it would not have been a drama for the championship. Hamilton, then, was dubbed, it would have been stupid to lose the nose or something like that in a duel with a dubbed. The team's recovery was incredible, especially if we think of early February in Jerez when we didn't understand how the car worked and how it was designed. Since then, many changes and a lot of work. In Maranello we worked day and night. It is incredible that after ten races we are leading the world championship. So many achievements for everyone. I only have to think about leading and helping the team, I always want to give 100% and work day and night for this goal. I don't want anyone to arrive in Hungary physically and mentally prepared better than me or more motivated than me: I always try to win this competition that takes place off the track. In Budapest I expect to go well, there are no reasons to be pessimistic. I do not forget, however, that Red Bull and McLaren were faster. We said that July would be a crucial month, with 75 points up for grabs in four weeks: we have brought home 43, we try to complete the work in Hungary".
At the halfway point of the season, the Spaniard leads the world championship standings with 34 points ahead of Webber and a good 44 over Vettel. The second half of the season, however, changes the face of a year that seems to have been smiling at Ferrari up to now. The newfound competitiveness of Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel, and a not indifferent dose of bad luck from the Ferrari driver, create an incredible comeback. We arrive at the appointment of Belgium. Alonso qualifies in sixth position ahead of Webber, with Vettel in eleventh position. At the start we witness a spectacular accident: Grosjean sprints faster than Hamilton, but is tightened and hits his rear right with the front left of the British driver. The car rises from the ground and triggers a carom that also involves Alonso's Ferrari.
The Spaniard is forced to retire and Vettel, who finishes second behind Button, shortens the championship standings by eighteen points. In the next two races, Alonso finished third, with Vettel retired due to an alternator problem at the Italian Grand Prix and winner in the Singapore Grand Prix. At Monza, after always being the fastest in both the first two qualifying phases, in Q3 Alonso is the author of a very slow lap due to a loose nut in the anti-roll bar which makes the car unmanageable in traction, while it poses Massa immediately in the lead, then beaten by Lewis Hamilton. In the race, the Spaniard is called to an enterprise. Fernando Alonso made a good start, so much so that he was seventh at the end of the first lap, after passing Kamui Kobayashi at the Parabolica. On the second lap the Spaniard also passes Räikkönen at the first chicane.
On the fourth lap Vettel takes a position from Schumacher, who also passed to the seventh by Alonso. Towards the middle of the race, Fernando tries to pass Vettel at the Curva Grande, but the German pushes him with the four tires on the grass. On the twenty-ninth lap the Spaniard is right of the Red Bull driver, who for the previous defense maneuver is sanctioned with a drive through. On lap 40, Alonso overtakes Felipe Massa, settling in second position, but Perez, with medium tires, is much faster than the two Ferrari drivers, therefore he passes Massa easily to the parabolic during the forty-third lap, and then Alonso to the forty-sixth at Ascari, placing himself second behind Hamilton. Lewis Hamilton wins, ahead of Sergio Pérez and Fernando Alonso, author of an incredible comeback from tenth position.
In the next Japanese event, Red Bull proved superior to their rivals by monopolizing the front row, with Alonso seventh and 1.2 seconds behind his opponent for the world title. The start of the race is once again dramatic: the Spaniard he comes into contact with Raikkonen, punches a tire, spins on the outside of turn 1. Vettel wins and reduces the points that separate him from his rival in Ferrari to four. The Red Bulls seem to be from another planet. They occupy the front row in the next two Grand Prix of Korea and India. On both occasions it was Vettel who won, with Alonso in third and second position limiting the damage. Three races from the end we reach Abu Dhabi. Qualifying sees Hamilton return to pole position, with Vettel third and Alonso only seventh. At the end of the timed lap, however, an unexpected event happens: the German's Red Bull is forced to slow down along the track due to the little fuel left in the tank.
Subsequent investigations will lead the FIA men to penalize the Milton Keynes team, guilty of not having preserved the minimum quantity of petrol required by the technicians to carry out the checks. In the race, Vettel starts from the back of the grid and makes an incredible comeback up to third place, proving once more the goodness of the Red Bull project. Alonso finished second in a race that saw Raikkonen triumph. After the third place obtained in Texas, we therefore reach the epilogue of a season full of twists and turns, and as usual, we compete in the legendary San Paolo racetrack. Saturday's results leave little room for hope: Vettel qualifies in fourth position and Alonso only in eighth, but Sunday soon changes the fortunes of the two title contenders. The race is full of twists.
On the first lap Vettel is hit by Bruno Senna entering turn 4, ending up spinning in the middle of the group that slips by his flanks without touching him, while Alonso proceeds in fifth position. The German resumes the march and immediately resumes pursuit. Towards the middle of the race it starts to rain, forcing the cars to make several pit stops. Various incidents followed one another, including that of Hamilton, the safety car entered the track and spectacular battles on the track. The verdict reads: Alonso second behind Button and Vettel sixth. The German is crowned World Champion with a three point advantage over the Spaniard. A dramatic ending for how things had turned out after the first few laps, but a season defined by many as Alonso's best at the wheel of a Ferrari.
"This has been by far the best year of my career. It is the first time that I have agreed pilots, former drivers and enthusiasts from all over the world that this has been my best World Championship. I still have a feeling very positive for 2012. I am proud of the team and the season we have done. We lost the championship when Grosjean passed over my head, and in Japan, when surprisingly Vettel was able to start from pole".
Alonso declares, referring to what happened in Suzuka qualifying, where the German got away with a reprimand after hindering the Spaniard.
"It was a struggle until the end, as we expected, with the ingredients of the drama. We tried to do our best as always. We started seventh and even so we managed to get on the podium. We didn't have the fastest car of the season. It was already a miracle to fight for the World Championship and it was a miracle to do it right up to the last corner".
At the end of 2012, Ferrari recruits several aerodynamic technicians with the aim of bridging the performance gap, which has become nothing short of excessive in the second half of the championship that has just ended. The single-seater from Maranello is a continuum of last year’s car. The substantial differences lie in having abandoned the step on the nose and in having used the front pillars with the aim of channeling the flows in the lower part of the body. Alonso himself is confident for the season that is about to begin, without sparing any warning to his team:
"This year we are more confident. We can be faster or slower, but not 1.5" or 2" away from the top. Maybe it's impossible to do worse than last year, so I'm confident".
For the new season, Pirelli introduces a new type of tire with a kevlar structure, which allows Ferrari to improve its handling during race weekends. The championship, on the other hand, begins with mixed fortunes, although this time the car was clearly competitive right from the start. The first race weekend ends with the victory of Kimi Raikkonen in front of Alonso who, despite a consistent race pace, is unable to beat the Finn who opts for a strategy with one less stop.
The second Grand Prix of the year takes place in Sepang. Alonso, third behind Vettel and Massa, sprints better than his teammate, even going to establish the first position of the reigning champion, before a slight collision with Red Bull causes him damage to the front wing, which begins so to dangle and touch the asphalt. To recover from the accumulated deficit, Ferrari decided to try to resist, hoping for a sudden change in weather conditions, to switch from intermediate to slick tires. The gamble does not pay, and Alonso ends up in the gravel at the beginning of the second lap after losing the front wing: the Spaniard is forced to retire.
At the third round of the season in Shanghai, Alonso qualified in third position behind Raikkonen and Hamilton in pole position. At the start he overtakes Raikkonen and after a few laps the poleman Hamilton, to then lead the rest of the Grand Prix without major problems. Vettel, who started ninth after a bad qualifying, ends fourth at the end of a good comeback. In Bahrain, still bad luck marks the race of the Asturian. Starting third behind Rosberg and Vettel, Alonso was forced to the pits on the seventh lap to fix the DRS which remained open on his car: he returned to the track seventeenth. The Spaniard tries again to use the device but it blocks again, forcing him to stop again, one lap later. Not being able to use the device for the rest of the race, he finished eighth. So we arrive at the home Grand Prix, on the Catalunya circuit.
Qualifying on Saturday is not extraordinary and the Spanish driver is forced to settle for fifth position, behind the two Mercedes, Vettel and Raikkonen. At the start, however, Alonso becomes the protagonist of a spectacular overtaking outside of turn 3, to the detriment of Hamilton and the Finn himself. In a race marked by high tire degradation, with the leading drivers opting for a four-stop strategy, the same Ferrari standard-bearer prevails ahead of Raikkonen and team mate Massa. A victory which, however, marks the beginning of a difficult period. A very complicated weekend for the Spaniard is staged in Monte Carlo. He only qualified sixth on Saturday, and further worsened his performance during the race, finishing in seventh place a race with few ideas.
The subsequent Grand Prix in Canada represents another masterpiece by the Spaniard. He starts in sixth position and immediately overtakes Raikkonen at the start. In the second stint of the race he overtook Rosberg, who in the meantime had a problem with the tires, and ten laps later he exploited a Webber error at the hairpin to overtake him at the end of the same lap. He returns to the track after the second pit stop with a gap of 8" from Hamilton, in second place. The Spaniard begins to push like a madman, and after having mended the disadvantage, on the sixty-third lap overcomes him with a beautiful maneuver at the end of initial straight. Alonso closes in second position a race that Vettel dominates from the first lap.
The following race is held on the Silverstone track. The qualification of the Spaniard is a nightmare: he finishes tenth with a gap of 1.3" from the poleman Hamilton, and is forced to another uphill race. Sunday's race goes down in history due to the failure of Pirelli tires, more than for the show. Several drivers are involved in this singular event, including Hamilton, Massa, Vergne and Pérez. In a chaotic race in which Vettel is also forced to retire due to a gearbox problem, Alonso closes in third position, shortening his gap from the reigning champion in the championship standings is twenty-one points. However, it is clear that the Maranello single-seater no longer had that technical gap and those performances that had characterized the very first races of the championship. Furthermore, following the disastrous English weekend, Pirelli, which had discharged the responsibility for the events onto the teams, was forced to replace the product with a new one with a steel structure, abandoning the kevlar solution. The consequences for Ferrari are disastrous: the car further loses competitiveness, compromising the rest of the season and the run-up to Red Bull.
Vettel, driving a Red Bull never so competitive at the start of the championship, whose characteristics match perfectly with the new tires, won ten of the following eleven seasonal races, leaving the remaining victory to Hamilton. Alonso obtained three consecutive second places in Belgium, Italy and Singapore, again at the end of forced comebacks due to poor performances on Saturday. In the meantime, a rift opens between the Spanish driver and Ferrari, after in the summer Alonso deserted, like almost all top drivers, the tests carried out at Silverstone, then in Hungary he publicly asked his opponents' car, while underlining that updates would soon arrive that should have guaranteed an evolution in performance, and in Monza the team tries to make Fernando exploit the wake of Felipe Massa, but the excessive distance between the two prevents this device from having the desired effect, leading Alonso to protest via radio with his engineers:
"So you have to let it pass. You are really stupid, boys. My mother".
The Spanish driver will then justify his words, declaring:
"I didn't say idiots, I said geniuses. A radio message, extrapolated from its general context, cannot sum up an entire day, in which the team did an impeccable job, among other things. So let's explain well: when we talk on the radio, while you are on the wire at 300 km/h, there is a lot of confusion. Whoever is in front of a computer, or who is sitting on a sofa hears my words, but maybe doesn't understand them the sense. We entered the track in front of Rosberg, but we could have gone out earlier, not quite when he was coming, in full swing. We had a lot of time and instead we waited at the last minute and I complained. But in one satisfying day, where for the first time we start immediately behind the Red Bulls, don't put bad phrases in my mouth, don't put polemical thoughts in my head that I absolutely don't have".
Vettel is world champion for the fourth consecutive time at the end of the Indian Grand Prix, a race in which Alonso does not go beyond the eleventh position. The Spaniard, in open contrast to Ferrari, will not even win a podium after the night in Singapore, also due to the growth of Lotus and Mercedes. Only in Brazil, in the last round, did Fernando manage to finish third behind the two Red Bulls. Fernando ends the World Championship in second position with 242 points, 155 less than Vettel, but once again highlights his talent, masking the limits of a Ferrari that does not even hit second place in the constructors' standings, preceded by Mercedes of six lengths. The beginning of 2014 is the advent of the 1.6-liter turbo V6 engines, which replace the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter V8s. To this fundamental innovation are added the new technical regulations. The KERS is retired and is replaced by the ERS, the system that collects the thermal energy of the turbocharger. In addition, the limit of 100 kg of fuel to be used in the race is imposed and exhausts, nose clearance and ailerons are also modified.
The Ferrari power unit immediately proved to be not up to the standard of that Mercedes, which had already been developing the new engines for some years, so that Alonso once again found himself having to drive 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 are decisive, the Spaniard has to settle for just two points, finishing the race ahead of his new teammate, Kimi Raikkonen. A flash happens in Shanghai. Fifth on the grid, Alonso took advantage of Rosberg and Ricciardo's not perfect starts, placing himself third behind Hamilton and Vettel, then overtaking the German thanks to an undercut. Finding himself in second position, he is unable to prevent Rosberg's return in any way, but ends up third after being pressed by Ricciardo at the end of the race.
However, the Chinese appointment does not see a turnaround: the car remains uncompetitive for the rest of the season, and the results will be poor. To get to the only other podium obtained by Alonso this season, it is necessary to go as far as the Hungarian Grand Prix, held on the Budapest circuit, 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 saw Rosberg in the lead, ahead of Bottas, with a more and more competitive Williams, followed by Vettel and Alonso. To shuffle the cards on the table we think the accidents of Ericsson and Grosjean, which cause the entry of the security car. The group of drivers decided to take advantage of it to make a pit stop, deciding to mount soft tires, and upon returning from the pits the classification sees Ricciardo in front of Massa, followed by Alonso, who overtook Vettel at the restart, and Vergne.
On lap 23, Pérez touches the synthetic grass coming out of turn 1, turns and crashes into the barriers that line the final straight. Following a further safety car regime, Alonso is in the lead in front of Toro Rosso, having both decided not to stop, and leads to the new pit stop, on lap 38. Back on track behind Ricciardo, the Spaniard resumes leadership when Ricciardo stops in the pits for his stop. The last laps were experienced in apnea: Alonso defended himself from Hamilton's attacks, while Ricciardo, with new tires, made a comeback until he was close to the leading duo. On lap 65, the Australian Red Bull driver overtook the British, and two laps later passed Alonso, winning a race full of emotions, ahead of Ferrari and McLaren. The races that follow the Hungarian appointment see Ferrari return to the negative performances that have characterized the whole season. Alonso does not collect any podium placements in the remaining Grands Prix, and even runs into two retirements due to technical problems at Monza and Suzuka, concluding the season with 161 points and the sixth final place in the world championship standings.
During the 2014 season Fernando starts talking with Marco Mattiacci, Ferrari team principal, about the possibility of extending his contract with Ferrari. Mattiacci's initial offer relates to a three-year contract, with an option for the fourth. However, the Spanish champion's request is quite different: a contract for a maximum of three years, with the option of leaving Ferrari at the end of the first, or possibly within the end of the contract itself. At the same time, the Spaniard's father, José Luis, also exerts considerable influence on his son, suggesting that it was time to change and look for alternatives, other teams with which to attempt a final assault on the World Championship. The growing doubts of the driver soon lead the new leaders of the team, and the incoming president of Ferrari, Sergio Marchionne, to begin to seriously evaluate the alternatives for replacing Alonso, starting to dialogue with the German driver Sebastian Vettel, en route with the Red Bull team.
At the same time, the Spaniard begins to evaluate different proposals, including that of McLaren, which has recently started a partnership with Honda for the supply of engines. The McLaren-Honda duo will prove decisive for the conviction of the Spanish champion, attracted by the idea of emulating Senna's glorious victories. And so, after having visited the Honda technological base, at the end of the seasonal appointment in Suzuka, Alonso signs a three-year contract with the English team, proposing again the union of intentions of 2007.
However, the new car of the Woking team is slow out of the corners, due to the lack of traction, and aerodynamically still far from the top teams. Since the pre-season tests of Jeréz, and then those of Barcelona, it is known how the real Achilles heel will be the Power Unit of the Japanese company, clearly inferior to its competitors in terms of pure power, and highly problematic from the point of view of reliability. Alonso himself, at the end of the Friday test in which he completes only fifty-nine laps, jokes about the subject:
"We will arrive in Australia hoping it will be July, not March. I don't know if we will be completely ready".
But Alonso will not set foot in Melbourne, as he was involved in a strange accident during the winter tests. The Spaniard, in fact, is the victim of a slight concussion, following a strange accident, and is advised against by doctors to take part in the opening appointment of the season. The circumstances of the incident remain unclear at the moment, as stated by Vettel himself, who travels behind the Spaniard himself, not far away:
"Fernando was traveling at a moderate speed, maybe 150 km/h. At that moment he swerved, and he hit the wall. It felt very strange".
The season immediately proved to be one of the worst in McLaren history, never scoring in the first four races. Only in Bahrain, thanks to Fernando himself, the British team manages to pass the cut of Q1, in qualifying, while the first point only reaches the tenth round of the season, raced at Silverstone, after having collected five retirements in the first nine races.
What worries the most about the Honda situation is the poor reaction capacity that the Japanese are showing. The RA615H Power Unit, since the 2014 post season tests, has been shown to suffer enormous reliability problems. The winter tests were disastrous, and even in these first races the Japanese technicians, together with the English ones, had to weaken their hybrid systems a lot, to try to be able to finish the races. And while, until now, the Spaniard has always tried to stay calm, in Canada there is a first clash via radio between the pilot and the engineers present at the wall. During the twenty-fifth lap of the Grand Prix, Alonso, in sixteenth position, receives a particular request from his track engineer, Tom Stallard, who invites him to slow down the race pace to save petrol.
Stallard: "We have to save gasoline, target zero".
Alonso: "I don't want, I don't want".
Stallard: "We'll have big problems later if we don't".
Alonso: "I already have big problems. Driving with this, I look like an amateur. So I prefer to drive, and then I'll think about the fuel".
Stallard: "There could be some retirements later in the race, we need to be sure we can fight for positions in the final".
After the race, Alonso himself will try, however, to throw water on the fire, declaring:
"When you're struggling with cars, and they're 35km/h faster, it's like we're in a different category".
During the Hungarian Grand Prix, the eleventh round of the season, the Asturian will get a fifth place that tastes like a miracle, and that will remain the only, meager satisfaction of the season.
The remaining races will become famous more for the Spanish driver's controversial radio teams, than for the sporting results, as in the occasion of the race at the Suzuka circuit, where Fernando lets himself go to a colorful statement on the Honda engine, calling it an Formula 2 engine, which will go down in history. The season will end with a slew of retirements and placings outside the points, collecting only eleven points, and even finishing seventeenth in the world championship standings. The season that has just ended puts Fernando in front of the dilemma of continuing to compete in Formula 1, or to retire. The winter preceding the start of the 2016 season is full of journalistic speculations about its future. To clarify the whole situation, the driver himself thinks about it, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper AS, in which he assures that he wants to honor his contract with McLaren, but criticizes the Formula 1 system harshly:
"The Formula 1 now? The cars are too slow. They have taken away any pleasure in driving a car. I still have two years at the top and at the end of these I will see what answers my body will give".
The 2016 is a year of reconstruction for McLaren, and above all for Honda, called to redeem the poor performance of the previous season, and to push with the development of its own Power Unit, described by Button with a performance delay of a year and a half. The British car faces the winter tests without particular hitches, showing itself to be more performing, and above all more reliable than the previous one. Thanks to these significant improvements, the points area is once again the more or less usual habitat for the Woking team. Fernando enters the top ten on nine occasions, and in particular comes fifth in Monte Carlo, in a wet race that sees him starting from tenth place, and in Austin, when, after not passing the cut of Q2, he becomes the protagonist of a spectacular comeback, overtaking both Massa and Sainz in the final, celebrating the result with rodeo shouts.
After a mixed start, starting from the Hungarian Grand Prix, Alonso manages to conquer several points in Belgium, starting from the bottom like Hamilton, in Singapore and Malaysia, concluding the championship with two tenth places obtained in Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Although not writing pages of history, 2016 turns out to be a good year, compared to the previous one, and the final tenth place in the world championship standings is proof of this, especially if we consider that the Spaniard managed to conquer 43 points more than the season. 2015, and 33 more than his teammate, Jenson Button.
Thanks to the concreteness of the Spaniard, McLaren is positioned in sixth place in the constructors' classification. But there is no follow-up to the progress of the 2016 season. After redesigning its Power Unit, Honda approaches the new championship full of hopes, but these will soon prove to be disregarded. The new hybrid propulsion of the Japanese house appears immediately, once more, not very powerful and with poor reliability.
Although the car created by McLaren turns out to be one of the fastest in corners, very close to the performance of the rivals in the leading group, 2017 is once again a decidedly negative year, and one to forget, for the Spanish driver. In the disastrous start to the championship, Alonso did not get even a point, retiring due to a broken suspension in Australia, a crankshaft problem in China and during the Russian Grand Prix he was abandoned by the Honda engine at the entrance to the pits, during the reconnaissance lap, thus not being able to even take part in the race.
The result leads to an inevitable split between the leaders of the Japanese company and those of the Woking team, who begin to look around in search of a new engine supplier. Alonso himself, now increasingly frustrated by years of disappointments, and unable to remedy a situation that is paradoxical, appears increasingly convinced of a retirement from Formula 1, at the end of the season, and in the meantime is dedicating himself to new competitions. On May 28, 2018, he participated in the Indianapolis 500, when, at the same time, in Europe the Formula 1 circus races the Monaco Grand Prix, an occasion in which Jenson Button borrows his seat to replace him. Fernando is impressed by the impact with the Indy 500:
"Everything is different. The paddock, the people, the fans around the car, around you, the way you interact with the team, with the opponents, the briefing with the drivers. I see it as an opportunity to learn new things, to reset your mind. Suddenly, you find yourself being a rookie again, and you start learning new things, being more open with engineers".
Having obtained the fifth place in qualifying, Alonso runs an excellent race, even leading several laps, but is forced to retire due to engine problems with twenty-one laps to go, while he is in seventh position; however, he is ranked twenty-fourth, and receives the award as the best rookie of the 2018 vintage. The return to Formula 1, however, brings him back to a harsh reality. Alonso wins his first points of the season just before the summer break, when he finishes ninth in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Two retirements in the Silverstone and Spielberg races followed, before obtaining the best result of the season at the Hungarian appointment, when he finished sixth, giving McLaren also the fastest lap of the Grand Prix.
A series of unfortunate retirements, and placements outside the top ten between the Belgian and the United States Grand Prix, are followed by the last three races of the season. For Alonso, comes the tenth place in Mexico, after having thrilled the public with a duel with his rival Hamilton, eighth in Brazil, after having been the whole race behind Massa, and finally closes the season with the ninth place of the Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi. Very similar to the 2015 season, Fernando closes 2017 with just 17 points, and fifteenth place in the world championship standings. In 2018 McLaren terminate the relationship with Honda, to switch to the supply of Renault engines. The inaugural race grants Alonso the chance to conquer the fifth final position, addressing a liberating radio team to his track engineer, with an eloquent now we can fight which, in the light of the evolution of the season, will only prove to be a sweet illusion.
Alonso won five points in the first five races, and eight in the first twelve, but these positive results were followed by a collapse in the performance of the British car. The second part of the season is a real Odyssey: amidst a string of placings out of the points and retirements, the Spanish driver, helpless in the face of an almost dramatic situation, still manages to get an excellent seventh place at the Grand Prix of Singapore, and finally, despite finishing eleventh on the Abu Dhabi circuit, he closes his career in Formula 1 allowing himself an unexpected show, together with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, who together with him dedicate a series of burnouts on the main straight.
"It was great to compete with so many champions, to compete with them. I feel privileged and I say thanks to Formula 1, I will always remain a fan of this sport".
Despite a peremptory 21-0 in qualifying against teammate Stoffel Vandoorne, 2018, which coincides with the Spanish champion's last season in Formula 1, felt more like a long labor than a farewell tour. After winning two Le Mans 24 hours, one Daytona 24h, and a disastrous experience in the Indy 500, he announces he’ll be back in Formula 1 in 2021, driving for Alpine.