F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer finishes his look at Fernando Alonso’s F1 career.
By the end of 2004, many people acknowledged that Fernando Alonso was going to win titles. It was a matter of when, not if. But few anticipated how quickly it would happen.
2005: Alonso’s form was stellar that year, as seen in this unbelievable duel with Michael Schumacher at Imola. But for most of the year, Ferrari were off the pace.
McLaren had tons of pace, and were even faster than Renault at times. But poor reliability cost Kimi Raikkonen any chance of the title. So it was left to Alonso to become the youngest-ever world champion.
2006: Another year, another title for Alonso. But this time, he had to deal with Schumacher all season long. This didn’t stop him from winning his home race at Barcelona for the first time. Let’s ride with him on his pole position lap.
He produced some magical drives that year – arguably the best year of his career to date. Here was his fantastic start at Budapest. He eventually went out of the race due to an error at his pitstop, but it doesn’t take anything away from this fantastic drive.
2007: When Alonso won the title by finishing third at Interlagos in 2005, he had a quiet word with Ron Dennis on the podium. Alonso told Dennis he wanted to drive for him once his contract with Renault expired. Thus, the deal was announced at the start of 2006: Fernando Alonso was to drive for McLaren from 2007 – something that caught Flavio Briatore by surprise.
With Michael Schumacher off into retirement, many expected Alonso to have an easier time of it, perhaps only having to fend off Kimi Raikkonen.
They were wrong. Enter Lewis Hamilton, McLaren’s stunning new rookie driver. His pace was astounding, and he began to beat Alonso – regularly. At home in Barcelona, Alonso tried to pass Felipe Massa at the start, but he ran out of track and went off. Hamilton finished second, while Alonso had to settle for third.
Fernando and Lewis were never really on good terms and at the Hungaroring the depth of animosity between the two exploded into public view.
This qualifying incident also triggered the final chain of events in McLaren’s downfall that year. Alonso, fuming at a lack of punishment for Lewis Hamilton, threatened Ron that he would tell all about his involvement in Spygate. Dennis beat him to it, and told the FIA himself. That caused McLaren’s disqualification in the Constructors Championship.
Alonso, meanwhile, ended up losing the Championship to Kimi Raikkonen, and being beaten in the standings by Hamilton on a tie-break. Alonso was out of McLaren by the end of 2007.
2008: Alonso decided to return to Renault for 2008, with new teammate Nelsinho Piquet. Alonso has since obliterated Piquet’s F1 career, while he has focused on trying to make it back to the front. He squeezed a front row position in Spanish qualifying, but the car never looked likely to win a race.
Until Singapore. Alonso was on the pace all weekend, but a fuel feed ptoblem in qualifying meant he started the race 15th. A daring strategy from Pat Symonds meant Alonso was able to pit just before team mate Piquet crashed out. The ironic twist for Renault meant Alonso inherited the lead of the race which he kept until the finish. A win in Fuji and a second in Interlagos meant that it was Alonso, not title combatants Hamilton or Massa, who scored the most in the last six races.
2009: This season has been an odd one for Alonso and Renault: it hasn’t been a total disaster, but it wasn’t the success they were hoping for, either. Alonso’s been engaged in some fantastic racing, but it hasn’t helped him score any podiums or wins.
That said, this overtaking manoeuvre on Jarno Trulli just a few weeks ago in Bahrain shows that the flame still burns brightly in Fernando to hopefully win the Championship again this year.
He may not have the car underneath him to challenge for victory this weekend. But with Renault improving the R29 all the time, he could be contesting for victories again soon.