Of all the living F1 drivers, there are only two who have full-fledged museums dedicated to their lives. Among them is Michael Schumacher. We needn’t debate that one bit. To even suggest he’s an absolute legend would be to say that the Bible is a holy and pure text.
It’s understood. It’s needless to reiterate what is common knowledge.
The legend of Fernando Alonso.
But the only other driver who has a massive museum on himself is two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso. Might sound boisterous and a little pompous. Might even sound like someone got his priorities misplaced.
If it had been Lewis Hamilton, one honestly may not have been surprised. After all, the mega-successful Briton parties around the world, dates supermodels, hangs out with Justin Bieber and amid all that fun, has picked up four world-titles.
There’s 67 career wins in there as well. Lewis Hamilton is probably a goodie basket that’s too good for a price it directs its owner to hand out. He is about this opulence. He’s as much about grandeur as he is about the solid craft. We all would like to step into a Hamilton exhibit someday.
Yet, for a man who has two fewer titles than both Vettel and Hamilton is celebrated about as much as the famous duo, now part of modern F1’s great rivalry.
How did it happen? That only exacerbates a predicament for the fan who hasn’t perhaps understood Alonso fully. That is why you might take an Alonso museum with a grain a salt.
Isn’t that a bit narcissistic for a two-time world champion? Interestingly enough, when you step into the Asturias-based symposium, you realise there’s every trophy that Fernando Alonso has collected and pretty much every paraphernalia based on his racing craft; be it those helmets, racing suits and even the gloves.
And in here lies the hitherto-misunderstood and perhaps (what might be called) the somewhat complicated Fernando Alonso enigma. For a man who’s oscillated between numbering his car 5 before moving onto and sticking with 14 with the same consistency and passion as he’s driven for a Renault, Ferrari or McLaren, racing hasn’t just been a competition.
It’s been about winning and pushing himself to the limit. The contemporary fan for whom racing means watching contests between a Marcus Ericsson and Sergio Peres and word style and charm perfectly befits Charles Leclerc, may never understand this. And it’s not even the young admirer’s fault. After all, why would anyone be interested in the ‘oldies’ on the track- the laggard Kimi and the have-been Fernando?
And maybe that constitutes a thing or two regarding Fernando Alonso’s phenomenal following around the world. It wasn’t always that a young kid on the block would begin rubbing shoulders with Barrichello, compete with Schumacher, later overtake the great Michael himself and beat his chest in pomp in front of stunned 30,000 Hungarian fans, in exact 2 years of entering the very highest level of competition in motor-racing.
If anyone ever doubted Alonso’s potential as a young rookie, it was blasted and reduced to ashes in a frank comparison to two of his contemporaries.
It took Felipe Massa, one of Alonso’s teammates, 4 years to clinch his first win. It took Jenson Button, the 2009 World Champion 6 years to do so. Alonso garnered a win, amid a feisty coup of competitors including- Schumacher, Coulthard, Barrichello and Raikkonen in exactly 2 years ever since he drove around Australia in 2001 as a pudgy, somewhat cuddly-looking youngster.
In 305 race entries, resulting into 302 race starts, Alonso conquered a win 32 times and managed to land up on the podium on 97 occasions.
Do the math and see Alonso’s impact yourself.
Alonso managed to clinch a podium once in every 3.144 attempts (or races). His last podium may have been in the form of a second at Hungaroring in 2014. His last win might have come exactly a year prior to breaking into the top-three at the famous Iron Curtain; Spain, 2013. Of the current drivers on the grid, only the triumvirate of Raikkonen, Vettel, and Hamilton has managed more podiums than Fernando Alonso. Many, truth be told, have withered away trying, including the likes of Mark Webber, Jenson Button, Felipe Massa.
But in nearly over 100 races since Spain in 2013, Alonso has given his hundred per cent on every occasion, with the same passion as you’d expect from a giant standing in midst of a colossus.
Need an example? Rewind the clocks back to Interlagos, 2017. In the final stages of a haphazard race for Hamilton, who eventually grabs a fighting-fourth, the Briton has to go through a duel with El Nino.
Alonso nearly surpassed Hamilton in the battle for ninth for 2 close laps right before the checkered flag. Thankfully for Lewis, he was in a Silver Arrows. Sadly, for Alonso, he was in a car that couldn’t even be called a bronze on racing virtue.
But there are things that only a Fernando Alonso can do. Such as, managing to clinch a P6 at the famous Hungaroring, whilst driving a recalcitrant and barely drivable McLaren. In so doing, at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix, a race that belonged to the red cars, Alonso sprayed some splendorous colours of his McLaren by setting the fastest lap.
Not a guy you’d take lightly on the track. Not a guy you’d offer expletives off the track- Fernando Alonso has inspired generations, earned the praise of his contemporaries and been a role model to younger drivers Carlos Sainz Jr.
But make no mistake.
This two-time former world champion, who, in a matter of months would be called as a ‘former’ F1 driver in search engine results hasn’t been a saint.
“He whines a lot.”
Not my statement, but a tight-lipped admission of those who’ve worked with him. This is also a fact you might have heard a lot many times whenever Alonso would have to park his McLaren by the side of the track upon registering a mechanical DNF.
In that regard, how frustrating it might have been for a top-class driver to finish seventeenth, tenth, fifteenth, ever since he sat inside that McLaren-Honda car from the onset of 2015 season up until 2017?
Here’s a rather abysmal statistic about Alonso
This heightens the agony Fernando Alonso was confronting. It may have resulted in Alonso moving out F1 at the conclusion of 2018.
Ever since, the Spanish Samurai returned to McLaren, the same team with whom he’d finish third on the standings in his maiden outing in 2007, Alonso would endure 18 Mechanical DNFs or failures. Among them is the massively embarrassing phenomenon of having not been able to start his car’s engine even before the start of a Grand Prix. The Russian Grand Prix of 2016, in a single instant, would explain what might have coerced Alonso to call time on his otherwise stellar career.
There’s a limit you reach. Perhaps Alonso had had enough
Beyond the precipice of endurance, you simply can’t take it anymore.
In the Black and Orange liveried car, Alonso’s form dipped and his chances to return at the front of the grid- where he truly belongs- plunged.
While Fernando Alonso is credited and hailed for gathering a fantastic World-title in 2005 with Renault, to defend it marvellously the next year, Alonso became F1’s hot property.
But in Formula 1, you want your mettle to be tested to an even greater ground.
That true mega-test of character came at Ferrari
At the famous and glorious racing marquee, Fernando proved himself as the Prancing Horse that the Enzo Ferrari established team had searched for.
Since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, there had been no win for Ferrari. Alonso, in only his maiden race, at Bahrain, earned the faith of the Tifosi as he ruled Sakhir with a dominant win.
He’d reiterate his intent, that same year, by going on to collect 4 more wins. This meant 5 overall in just his maiden Ferrari season. His win at Monza where he blasted past the checkered flag proved this Ferrari stallion could be a unicorn.
Indeed he was.
Even if, that meant a failure to collect a world title with Ferrari.
But would you have blamed Alonso who went down fighting Sebastian Vettel in 2010 by just 4 points?
43 of his 97 podiums came at Ferrari, this included mega wins at Silverstone, Singapore, Monaco, Germany. These are circuits that are supposed to be imposing for a driver executing an overtaking manoeuver.
But when it’s Fernando Alonso, the possibilities are endless
From being Flavio Briatore’s main-man to being the royal prince for Luca Di Montezemolo, Alonso transformed into being the world champion at Renault to being the Dark Knight for the Red car, at Ferrari.
Where Kimi was nowhere in the scene, Hamilton, Massa, Button, Webber had all failed to put up a fight to Sebastian Vettel in his brilliant 2012-13 years, only Fernando Alonso offered a fight.
Maybe, that is why there’s hardly a surprise that Vettel offered his homage to Alonso right before the Spanish Knight’s 250th Grand Prix, “Let’s hope you return to the front of the grid, and to have some new fights.”
Ricciardo loves him, Kimi has been dismantled, his ice melted by a margin of his 55 points to Alonso’s 161 (in 2014) and Vettel and Hamilton have offered their regard to a driver all respect but few are able to match in terms of sheer feistiness and pure skill.
Had he been a metal, Fernando would’ve been something like a titanium. Had he been into any other profession, Fernando Alonso could very likely have been a bomb-maker, for his sheer explosive talent inside an F1 car.
Take a bow Fernando. For all you’ve achieved and for the thrill you’re about to unleash in 8 more races ahead.