What makes Fernando Alonso tick? He’s quite possibly the greatest driver of his generation, a man for whom defeat is not a realistic option. At present a double World Champion, he has much to look back on in his sparkling career. Yet amongst the 31 victories of the Spaniard’s 12 year F1 life are 5 that really provide the essence of what the man brings to the sport.
5. 2008 Japanese Grand Prix
As farewell victories go, Fernando’s final triumph for Renault was a display worthy of his genius. As Lewis Hamilton bowled his Ferrari rivals Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen out of the way with a desperate out-breaking attempt at the first corner, it was left to the Spaniard and Polish star Robert Kubica in his BMW to battle for honours. The younger man could not live with the pace of the Renault ace, and Alonso duly delivered a compelling masterclass in dominance to take his second successive win. A victory as textbook as they come.
4. 2010 Italian Grand Prix
A mere 6 months after winning on his maiden outing for the Prancing Horse, Alonso was handed his next challenge; the Tifosi. With the loyal scarlet-clad legions packed into the Royal Park of Monza clamouring for a Ferrari victory, it came as a nasty shock for the Spaniard to be beaten into turn one by fellow front row-starter Jenson Button. Despite being bested in the first round of the engagement, Alonso bided his time and sized up the McLaren man who, thanks to a contrary setup, was significantly slower down the straights of the famous circuit. Unassailable in hand-to-hand combat, Button managed to keep the faster Alonso behind but it was McLaren who blinked first and brought the Briton in for his one and only stop a lap earlier than Ferrari. Cue a perfect fast lap from Alonso that enabled him to exit the pits ahead. Job done, and victory was a mere formality for the man who was already a darling of the Italian faithful.
3. 2005 San Marino Grand Prix
2005 was the year the Ferrari stranglehold was finally broken. The Michael Schumacher steamroller that had flattened F1 into submission since 2000 finally met its match in the form of a slight, tousle-haired Spaniard who had a single win to his name in three full seasons of F1 competition. Yet in ’05 Renault came of age and Alonso capitalised, winning both the Malaysian and Bahrain Grand Prix’ as Ferrari struggled to get their new car, the F2005, ready for combat. It duly appeared at Imola and Schumacher immediately responded to the threat to his supremacy provided by Renault and Alonso, storming from 13th on the grid to menace the rear wing of Alonso’s R25. Try as he might, the veteran German just could not break the resistance of the stoic Alonso, and the Renault crossed the line just 0.2 clear of the relentless Ferrari man. It was the first sign that Alonso was more than a driver in a great car.
2. 2007 European Grand Prix
When rain lashed the Nurburgring in the mid-summer of 2007, it fell on a select group of the world’s best drivers who dared to challenge the Eifel mountains of Western Germany. With such names as Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton all falling foul of the torrent pouring across the circuit, it was left to future team-mates Felipe Massa and Alonso to battle for honours. In 2007, the two men were very much rivals with Alonso wearing McLaren silver for his ill-fated partnership with Hamilton. This day it seemed he was in the wrong car as Massa began to pull out a lead as the rain eased and the Ferrari F2008 began to exercise a performance advantage. The moment the cloudburst broke with a final flourish, Alonso began to claw his way back toward the Brazilian, balancing the steering of his silver bullet as he jinked round backmarkers, tempering the throttle and brake with a mighty roar of the Mercedes powerplant. As the lap counter clicked down to 1 he arrived at turn one right under the rear wing of the wildly fishtailing Ferrari. Massa was desperate, weaving across the track and throwing up great plumes of spray in his wake, in which the McLaren lurked like a predatory beast. Turn four seemed like a desperate bid to unnerve Massa, as Alonso teetered on the outside, testing the limit of adhesion. Unbelievably, almost as if in slow-motion, the McLaren gripped and drew level with the scarlet car. Massa glanced across, desperately wrenching the F2008 toward the McLaren. His rival would not be denied and stubbornly stuck to his line. Massa’s furious tirade and the angry black tyre rubber left on his sidepod post-race were testament to the intensity of the battle, but it was Fernando Alonso who took the laurels.
1. 2012 German Grand Prix
As far as seasons go, Alonso’s 2012 was a classic. That he failed to win the title was largely down to a massive car performance margin between Ferrari and Red Bull, but Alonso’s 3rd and final victory of the season was one that summed up the Spaniard’s Ferrari life thus far. His pole in wet conditions had been surprising, and few expected the F2012 to remain at the leading edge of the pack when the lights turned green on a dry race afternoon. Yet not only did Alonso lead the race from start to finish, he staved off the attentions of his two key rivals, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel, for the entire 90 minute Grand Prix. Vettel could never quite match the double World Champion for pace, and while Button had soared from 7th place to 2nd by two-thirds race distance, his ascent was stopped when he ran into the immovable and undaunted form of Alonso. The aura surrounding the Spaniard seemed to repel his rivals with almost mystical abilities. At 3pm, Alonso stood atop the Hockenheim podium, trophy in hand, as the undisputed Championship leader.