Fernando Alonso, a two time world champion, has been the most consistent driver the world has ever seen in Formula One. The Spaniard has been close to his third championship on a number of occasions. In the course of his 17-year career, he has driven some of the best races ever. A combination of skill and fortune, enabled him to come out on top. As he prepares to race his final 9 F1 races, EssentiallySports takes a look at Fernando Alonso’s top 5 races.
Believe it or not, a driver’s first win is the most important and a memorable one. Being a test driver for Renault in 2002, Alonso finally got an opportunity to be on the second driver’s seat of the team replacing Button after impressing his bosses throughout practice. He immediately showed results by qualifying on pole in Malaysia and becoming the youngest driver to win a Formula One race at that time.
Alonso started the Hungarian GP on pole, made a tidy start and gained a huge lead of 21 seconds after just 13 laps. For a driver who had very little experience handling the top position in a race, Alonso raced with a certain calm and composure while in lead. Combining this with a level of dominance, Alonso even lapped the current World Champion Michael Schumacher near the end of the race and eventually won by a comfortable 16.8 second lead over second placed Kimi Raikkonen. It was a dream come true for the 22 year old Spaniard, clearly over the moon at becoming the youngest driver to win a F1 race. This maiden victory is why it is considered among Fernando Alonso’s top 5 races.
If the race in 2003 in Hungary displayed Alonso’s skills to control the race while in the lead, the race in Italy actually demonstrated his excellent defensive skills.
Alonso started the race behind the pole setter, Kimi Raikkonen, who retired after 9 laps due to driveshaft failure. Till lap 50, Alonso was comfortably in the lead, until Michael Schumacher emerged from the pits just seconds behind him. The following 13 laps ensured a nail biting finish. The tail of Alonso’s Renault often stayed with the head of Schumacher’s Ferrari. This race brought back memories of the 1971 Italian Grand Prix where the top drivers were separated by 0.01 seconds.
What followed was a show of ultimate defensive techniques by Alonso, often covering the inside corner of the turns and chicanes and slowing Schumacher on the corners. Schumacher tried even unorthodox methods to take the lead but in vain. This well grit determined defense by Alonso ensured a thrilling and a pulsating end to the race. Two tenths of a second is all that separated the two drivers. For Schumacher, it was a heart break as he was denied one of his greatest recoveries from 13th on the grid. Meanwhile, victory in Italy helped Alonso’s chances in the World Championship, which he went on to win. Holding off a charging 7-time world champion definitely qualifies as one of Fernando Alonso’s top 5 races.
Alonso came into the 2007 season as the defending champion after switching to McLaren in the same year. Prior to this race, he was already 12 points behind his rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship. Alonso qualified on 2nd position behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari while Hamilton was on 10th due to an accident in qualifying.
The race started with Hamilton moving into 6th position by the first corner but a subsequent crash punctured his rear wheel. What followed was absolute chaos as the torrential rain resulted in five drivers being thrown out of the race and the race being red flagged.
The race was restarted with Hamilton a lap down, which increased Alonso’s hope of eating into Hamilton’s championship lead. Massa led the race comfortably ahead of Alonso for almost the entire race after Raikkonen retired due to mechanical problems. But another downpour ten laps prior to the finish forced everyone into the pits. From there on, Massa and Alonso fought tooth and nail for the first position with both the drivers locking wheel to wheel, until a daring maneuver by Alonso on lap 56 when he passed Massa on the outside of turn five. Thus, this dramatic race marked Alonso’s first win under wet conditions and cut down Hamilton’s lead to two points in the drivers’ championship. The nerves of steel needed to win this race is why it is one of Fernando Alonso’s top 5 races.
Like the European Grand Prix in 2007, this race also started under the onslaught of a heavy downpour and was suspended in the ninth lap but Alonso started the race in 11th position. After the restart, Alonso steadily moved through the midfield to overtake Sergio Perez for the lead on lap 16, with his excellent driving skills and consistency. Alonso drove fantastically in front until he was chased down by the quick Sergio Perez to within two seconds. Alonso held the Mexican by covering the corners and not letting Perez within the DRS range. A pit stop by most of the drivers towards the end of the race ensured a comfortable victory for the Spaniard. This was another one of Fernando Alonso’s top 5 races.
Just like the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix, Alonso had a woeful qualifying in his Ferrari. He made best use of the start and jumped from 11th to 8th position on the first lap. Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel got a clean start from the pole and with tremendous pace and clean air was able to build a mighty gap of 20 seconds in front. Alonso was able to overtake Hulkenberg for seventh on lap 12 using the DRS zone perfectly. Some intelligent driving (staying out on the same tyres for another lap) by Alonso ensured that he was able pass Raikkonen following his first pit stop.
The turning point of the race came in the 27th lap when Vettel’s twenty second lead was quashed because of the safety car brought after the Jean-Eric Vergne’s accident. Most of the drivers pitted under the safety car. A series of misfortunes followed, which turned the race in Alonso’s favour. Lewis Hamilton’s pit stop was horrendous as he lost time because of the front jack problem and was passed by Alonso. Then on lap 34, as soon as Alonso came within a touching distance of Grosjean, he beautifully executed a passing maneuver on the outside of turn 1. In the very same lap, Vettel’s race came to a premature end after an alternator failure which handed the lead to Alonso. Grosjean’s race also came to an end on lap 41 with the same problem as that of Vettel’s . Grosjean was within one second of Alonso’s but his retirement robbed the spectators of anymore thrill in the race. There was no looking back from there on, as Alonso won the last European Grand Prix with a big stroke of luck and some neat driving.
This race showed that Alonso was quite opportunistic and benefitted from the conditions and other people’s misfortunes and capitalized on whatever luck came his way. At that rounds of the list of Fernando Alonso’s top 5 races.