Nearly completing his 13th full season in Formula One, with 250 Grand Prix starts, Fernando Alonso is still revered as one of the best on the current Formula One grid. History will show that currently he is a two-time champion, but he has come close on many more occasions.
Always seen as the pantomime villain as it were, Fernando can’t seem to win over the hearts of some fans. The 2007 season will forever be etched in people’s minds. But I believe his career is not defined by just one season, but by that of always driving the maximum and taking no prisoners.
Fernando Alonso: A Career Of Bad Luck or Missed Opportunities?
In 2005 Fernando finally toppled the Ferrari-led domination of the early 2000s, after a season-long fight with Kimi Raikkonen. Fernando sealed the title in Brazil in emphatic style to bring about a wave of change against the tides of Maranello red.
The 2006 season saw Ferrari came back fighting but Fernando managed to see off Michael Schumacher to take a second drivers’ title. Already having signed a contract with McLaren late in 2005 for the 2007 season, Fernando looked set to continue his rise at the top of Formula One world.
2007. A year of definition and infamy for Fernando Alonso and McLaren. Being paired up with GP2 champion and rookie Lewis Hamilton it looked like on paper Fernando looked to be set to go for title number three. I was honestly excited no end to see what could happen. A season-long battle with Lewis and Kimi Raikkonen saw a heated title fight that was clear would go to the last race.
At the Hungarian Grand Prix during Q3, Fernando purposefully held up Lewis prior to their final runs and right at that very moment albeit tensions were already strained, the relationship had shattered. It was clear this was an irreparable moment for Fernando Alonso and McLaren.
Everyone will say he was wrong and I wouldn’t disagree with it either, his internal struggle with Lewis Hamilton and the team led to mistakes, with the season drawing to a close, a mistake and heavy crash from Fernando in Fuji, McLaren’s strategists in China on Lewis’ car to bring him in and a mysterious gearbox glitch for Lewis in Brazil meant neither driver saw the title, but it allowed Kimi Raikkonen to sneak by and steal the title from under their nose, a missed opportunity if there ever was one.
After agreeing to terminate his contract early with McLaren he headed back to Renault for two years which saw him yield two further victories, one of which was the controversial 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, Fernando was cleared of any wrong doing by the investigators which again didn’t help his image no end.
On the 30th of September 2009, it was made public Fernando Alonso would join Ferrari for 2010 onwards. At the time it was the worst kept secret around. 2010 represented a chance for another world title to be had, heading into the grand finale in Abu Dhabi, four drivers could mathematically take the title. Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton all stood within a shout as the lights went out.
Sebastian took pole and romped away from the start, Fernando needed fourth to take the title. After an ill-timed pitstop by the Ferrari strategists Fernando appeared behind Vitaly Petrov and despite his efforts he couldn’t make his way past the Russian.
2011 saw just one victory at the British Grand Prix where for one race blown diffusers were banned thus handing the advantage over to Ferrari, a mere average season ensued while Red Bull dominated.
In 2012 Ferrari again produced another inferior car for Fernando and Felipe Massa. In Australia, Fernando could only manage 12th on the quickest time, 1.5 seconds slower than that of Jenson Button’s pole position time, the signs were not good right from the off, over the course of the season taking three victories and consistent points finishes left him somehow within reach of the title, a hard fought Fernando Alonso dragging a car that was far less competitive than that of the mighty Red Bull was the rawest I’d seen his talent and it was certainly a champions drive. Alas. It was not to be come the end of the season, a valiant fight back by Sebastian Vettel after a first lap spin including damage to the car left Fernando three points shy once all was said and done.
Could Fernando have done more? Looking back at the season’s events, it all stems back to the Canadian Grand Prix where after a poor tyre strategy call left Fernando on old tyres towards the end of the race and he lost second place and ended up finishing fifth. Had he have been on the right strategy and finished in the top three, the events in Belgium and Japan where he was taken out on both occasions would have meant nothing in terms of the final points total.
Since 2012 Fernando has still fought hard and driven to the maximum even sometimes beyond the capabilities of what his cars are capable of. This is why I still revere him as one of the best on the grid and should never be discounted when given the right machinery.
It’s up you to decide, but does Fernando Alonso’s career deserve more than two titles? Has bad luck been a factor? or has he failed to maximise every opportunity at his disposal?