Fernando Alonso Biography
Born: 29/07/1981 Oviedo, Spain
Regarded as one of the greatest drivers of all-time, two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso’s career spans three decades at the top level.
A driver idolised by fans for his skills behind the wheel, coveted by teams for his sheer experience yet at times divisive in the paddock for his outspoken attitude, Alonso has carved himself a reputation both on and off-track as one of F1’s enduring legends.
Earning credit as the driver to end Michael Schumacher and Ferrari’s five-year reign of dominance, Alonso swept to the first of his back-to-back F1 titles with Renault in 2005.
Among Alonso’s many statistical highlights, he remains the fourth-youngest F1 race winner (22 years, 26 days) and his 32 career victories places him seventh on the all-time list of race winners.
Born into a working class family in the Spanish city of Oviedo, Alonso began karting from the age of three and quickly showed talent, notching up a series of domestic accolades to catch the eye of an importer, who took him under his wing to secure him sponsorship for a move onto the international stage.
Finishing third in the 1995 CIK-FIA Cadets' Rainbow Trophy, while working as a mechanic to help fund his own campaign, Alonso received his first taste of open-wheel racing in 1999 with an entry into the Spanish-based Euro Open by Nissan series, going on to stun the paddock by clinching the title aged only 17.
It earned him an deal to race in the F1-supporting International Formula 3000 championship with the Minardi F1 team-affiliated Astromega outfit, an agreement that led to Alonso being nominated as Minardi’s test and reserve driver for the 2000 F1 season.
In a field comprising other future F1 stars, such as Mark Webber, Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson, Alonso put a character building start to the year behind him to emerge as arguably the fastest in the field by the end. Scoring his first podium with a run to second in Hungary, he concluded his campaign with a win at Spa to secure fourth overall.
The performances were enough to convince new Minardi F1 team boss Paul Stoddart to promote Alonso to a race seat for 2001. After coming under the management of Flavio Briatore, his influence would see Alonso receive his big chance with the French firm in 2003, leading to his back-to-back world titles in 2005 and 2006.
He’d go on to race with McLaren for a single controversial season in 2007, before making a return to Renault after a fallout at the Woking-based team. Alonso then went on to race for Ferrari between 2010 and 2014. After an unhappy tenure at McLaren between 2015 and 2018 led to a two-year hiatus from the series, Alonso was back on the F1 grid in 2021 with Alpine.
Alonso holds the record for F1 entries and starts to his name.
In addition to his F1 exploits, Alonso - already a Monaco Grand Prix winner - sought to become only the second driver in motorsport history (after Graham Hill] to achieve the fabled ‘Triple Crown’ of victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, the Le Mans 24 Hours and Indianapolis 500. Twice a winner of both the Monaco Grand Prix [2006 and 2007] and at Le Mans with Toyota [2018 and 2019], three attempts at the Indy 500 are yet to yield that elusive victory.
BWT Alpine F1 Team
9th - 81 points
While a change in regulations brought fresh hope that Alpine could close the gap to the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, Alonso once again found himself busy in the midfield. With four failures to score from the opening five races pushing him onto the back foot, he nonetheless fought back with a streak of top 10 results midway through the season.
Assisted by upgrades that put Alpine ahead of McLaren and Alfa Romeo in the fight for fourth in the constructors’ standings, Alonso’s achieved a best finish of fifth on three occasions - at Silverstone, Spa and Interlagos.
Leaving him 11th in the standings and behind team-mate Ocon, by this point Alonso had already decided on new pastures for 2023, with the shock announcement that he was to join Aston Martin as replacement for the retiring Sebastian Vettel at the end of the season.
Alpine F1 Team
10th - 81 points
After two years on the sidelines, Alonso made a sensational return to F1 ahead of the 2021 season, rekindling his relationship with the Renault manufacturer that brought him his two world championship titles in 2005 and 2006.
With the French squad morphing into Alpine - in a nod to its sister sportscar brand - Alonso quickly proved that, even with two years out of action, he’d lost none of his sparkle, even if the A521 package still lacked the pace of the leading competitors.
Scoring in all but six of the 22 races, Alonso’s campaign peaked with a first podium in eight years at the Qatar Grand Prix, helping him finish ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon, even if it was the Frenchman who delivered Alpine’s first victory in Hungary.
McLaren F1 Team
11th - 50 points
With the exit of Honda paving the way for McLaren to take on a supply of Renault engines for 2018, Alonso remained with the team in the hope it could propel him back to the sharp end.
However, despite a decent run of points in the opening five rounds - including a fifth place finish in the Australian Grand Prix opener - the McLaren-Renault package wasn’t notably quicker than it had been in 2016, which together with Honda’s new partners Toro Rosso achieving positive results, raised concern that the British team’s woes were more fundamental than first feared.
Though a regular in the points by the summer break, Alonso’s form slipped in the latter stages with just one top 10 finish from the final nine grands prix.
The lacklustre performance triggered an increasingly disillusioned Alonso into seeking an alternative drive for the 2018 F1 season, only to find no interest from his preferred targets of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.
As such, Alonso confirmed he would take a hiatus from F1 in favour of tackling other motorsport challenges, which led to him contesting - and winning - the Le Mans 24 Hours with Toyota and competing in the Dakar Rally.
15th - 17 points
Despite ongoing rumours that Alonso wanted out of his McLaren contract, he stuck it out for 2017 following a major restructure of the team’s management, with long-time boss Ron Dennis abruptly sacked in favour of new CEO Zak Brown.
However, after its step forward in 2016, McLaren and Alonso’s demand for more power from Honda instead triggered a recurrence of the engine’s reliability issues. Coming at a time of increasingly strained relations between McLaren and Honda amid a breakdown in communication, it ultimately led to the two parties agreeing to end its partnership at the conclusion of the season.
In the meantime, Alonso endured arguably an even tougher campaign than in 2015 with 11 DNFs from 20 races. Cracking the top 10 on just three occasions, with a best finish of sixth place coming in Hungary, Alonso slumped to a lowly 15th in the standings.
With Alonso becoming frustrated with his waning F1 fortunes, he instead looked towards glory elsewhere in 2017 leading to an unconventional decision to enter the Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport in pursuit of the fabled ‘Triple Crown’ - victories in the Indy 500, F1 Monaco GP and the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The move came with full backing from McLaren, which released him from duties of competing in the Monaco Grand Prix as a result. However, while he was competitive on his Indy 500 debut, he failed to register a finish.
10th - 54 points
A significant step forward from Honda over the winter allowed Alonso and McLaren to ascend up the order once again, though no higher than the midfield battle.
His season began with a bang after a spectacular collision with Esteban Gutierrez that propelled Alonso’s McLaren airborne into the catch fence before spiralling into a series of barrel rolls at Turn 3. Despite the violence of the impact, Alonso walked away with nothing more than a broken rib.
While better reliability brought Alonso into a top 10 challenge more regularly, the power unit’s continued lacked potency meant his best results were largely consigned to specialist tracks, though the Spaniard didn’t enamour himself with management by pointedly describing it as a “GP2 engine” repeatedly on the team radio during Honda’s home event in Japan.
Nonetheless, he picked up positive results over the course of the year, including a fifth-place finish in Monaco and the USA, spurring him on to 10th in the final standings.
17th - 11 points
Marking a return to McLaren some eight years after the turbulence of his failed title bid in 2007, Alonso’s move from Ferrari was the biggest story over the winter.
Having been wooed by McLaren’s bold new tie-up with Honda, Alonso came into the 2015 F1 season with visions of the partnership rekindling the success that saw Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost dominate F1 between 1988 and 1992.
Instead, the opposite would soon become apparent as Honda struggled to get its head around the complex new V6 turbo hybrid engine. Amid worrying rumours that the engine was experiencing persistent issues during development, Honda’s problems were laid embarrassingly bare when the McLaren eventually hit the track.
After four-days of pre-season testing, constant breakdowns meant McLaren came into the season with just 79 laps under its belt. By contrast, Mercedes alone had completed 516 laps, while its power unit mileage stood at 984 laps across its four teams.
Despite putting on a brave face in the media, Alonso was evidently frustrated by the poor show, though his preparations weren’t helped by a curious incident in Barcelona that led to him crashing at Turn 3. Blaming a locked steering wheel - a claim McLaren disputed - it nonetheless led to Alonso missing much of testing and the opening round.
On his return, Alonso found a car that wasn’t significantly quicker or more reliable, making even points finishes a huge challenge. Eventually, Alonso cracked the top 10 at Silverstone and followed it up with a run to fifth in Hungary, where the lack of straights helped negate the Honda power unit’s top speed deficiency.
They proved to be only the only highlights of a desperate year that yielded eight DNFs and countless grid penalties for necessary component changes.
Leaving him 17th overall, it led to rumours that Alonso was again seeking an early departure before eventually electing to stay on board.
6th - 161 points
The dawn of F1’s new engine era gave Alonso hope that Ferrari could finally get on terms with Red Bull, but while the erstwhile dominant team was indeed reeled back into the pack, it was replaced by Mercedes as F1’s all-conquering package.
Indeed, while Renault - which powered the Red Bulls - suffered with reliability issues, Ferrari’s V6 turbo hybrid power unit was comparatively underpowered. As a result, not only did Ferrari find itself well out-performed by Mercedes, it was also threatened by its rival’s customer teams - such as Williams and Force India - such was the performance advantage of the German firm’s power unit.
Alonso plugged away podiums in China and Hungary, which coupled to only a pair of DNFs in a year of high attrition, helped him to sixth in the standings.
However, having become disillusioned by Ferrari’s failure to get on terms with first Red Bull and now Mercedes, Alonso once again chose to exit his contract early in favour of a sensational return to McLaren for 2015 to head up an ambitious project with new engine partners Honda.
2nd - 242 points
In the final year for V8 engines in F1, Alonso set his sights firmly on getting the better of Vettel this time around.
He began the season well with wins in China and on home soil in Spain to run Vettel close initially, but when the German hit his stride with a devastating run of form (10 wins from the final 11 races), Alonso was again relegated out of title contention.
Nonetheless, nine podiums in all helped Alonso to second in the final standings, the third time he had finished runner-up in four seasons.
2nd - 278 points
After agreeing to extend his Ferrari contract for three more years, Alonso proved a more convincing rival for Vettel and Red Bull during the first-half of the year, the consequence of teams getting their heads around maximising the higher-degradation tyres introduced by new suppliers, Pirelli.
Following seven different winners from the first seven races, Alonso became the first double victor with his Malaysian win followed by a victory on home soil in Valencia.
A third win in Germany swelled his advantage at the top to 34 points at the midway stage in the year, but when Red Bull stepped up its game in the second half of the year, a renewed fightback from Vettel saw reclaim the championship advantage.
Though Alonso responded with a second place finish in the Brazilian finale, he’d miss out on a third F1 title to Vettel by three points.
4th - 257 points
Though determined to make amends in 2011, the start of the dominant Vettel-Red Bull era quickly consigned Alonso and Ferrari to ‘best of the rest’ status.
A conservative design from Ferrari prevented Alonso from getting on terms with his German rival and though he accumulated ten podiums over the course of the year, including a win in the British Grand Prix, Alonso ultimately had to settle for a distant fourth in the standings.
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
2nd - 252 points
Alonso originally agreed to join Ferrari from 2011, but when implications from the ‘crashgate’ affair led to Renault withdrawing its full-factory backing for 2010, it allowed Alonso to leave his contract one-year early.
He quickly capitalised on having a more competitive package beneath him, Alonso winning on his debut with the Scuderia in Bahrain. Thereafter, however, Alonso struggled to keep himself involved in the brewing title fight involving McLaren and Red Bull, the Spaniard reaching the mid-season point some 47 points adrift of Lewis Hamilton up top.
However, Alonso’s form revitalised in the second-half of the year, with four wins during the reigniting his title aspirations. They helped propel him to the top of the standings coming into the Abu Dhabi finale, setting up a four-way title showdown between himself, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton.
Nevertheless, though Webber was his closest challenger ahead of the race, it was Vettel - who started the weekend 15 points shy of Alonso - who emerged as the bigger threat to his bid for a third championship come race day.
Vettel did his bit with a dominant win out front, putting pressure on Alonso, whose bad start was compounded by being jumped by several rivals during the pitstop window. It left Alonso circulating in seventh place, bottled up behind the slower but stubborn Vitaly Petrov in the Renault.
Famously prompting an agitated Alonso to desperately demand he be let through on the team radio, his efforts were to no avail, the Ferrari driver crossing the line seventh, which allowed Vettel to leapfrog him to win the first of his four consecutive world titles.
ING Renault F1 Team
9th - 26 points
Alonso stuck with Renault at the dawn of F1’s radical technical regulation overhaul, which prompted major changes to the cars and led to a variety of different design solutions being experimented up and down the grid.
However, as one of the teams that didn’t develop a double diffuser - unlike the superior entries from Brawn, Red Bull and Toyota - Renault and Alonso descended into the midfield battle for much of the year.
In a season rocked by revelations from the ‘Crashgate’ scandal, Alonso could only manage a single podium en route to ninth overall, a disappointment that prompted him to accept an offer to join Ferrari for the following year.
ING Renault F1 Team
5th - 61 points
Despite having a three-year deal with McLaren, the ructions of the 2007 F1 season led Alonso to negotiate an exit from the team after only a single season in favour of a return to Renault for 2008.
He attempted to pick up from where he left off in 2006, but instead found a team struggling to find its way in the wake of a disappointing 2007 campaign. With the R28 proving a handful to drive, even Alonso was unable to transform Renault into frontrunners once again.
Yet to stand on the podium going into round 15 of 18, Alonso’s season turned on its head in the closing stages with two consecutive against-the-odd wins in Singapore and Japan.
His Singapore success was not without controversy though when a safety car period - prompted by a spin for team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr - shortly after a pitstop, leapfrogged him to the front of the field, ahead of those that hadn’t stopped.
While there were suspicions at the time about the coincidental timing of Alonso’s out-of-sequence stop and his team-mate’s innocuous spin in an unusual spot, it wasn’t until the following year when Piquet Jr - scorned at losing his seat mid-season due to disappointing results - revealed he had been asked to crash intentionally.
Dubbed ‘Crashgate’, Renault originally contested the claims before withdrawing them with team boss Flavio Briatore and engineer Pat Symonds charged with conspiracy and race fixing, prompting them to resign.
Despite this, Alonso kept his win, which was ironically followed by another - this time achieved on merit - in conventional circumstances at the Fuji Speedway next time out.
Coupled to a third podium of the year in the Brazilian finale, it lifted Alonso to a more rewarding fifth place in the overall standings.
3rd - 109 points
Replacing the Ferrari-bound Kimi Raikkonen, Alonso was once again placed in direct competition with the Finn in his attempt to become only the eighth driver to win titles with two different teams.
Winning on his McLaren debut in Australia, while Alonso swiftly established himself as an early frontrunner over Raikkonen, he found himself under threat from team-mate Lewis Hamilton, the rookie’s consistent run of podiums in the opening rounds exceeding expectations.
When Hamilton pulled ahead from the sixth round with back-to-back wins in Canada and the USA, Alonso found himself playing catch up amid increasing frustration that his assumed team leader status was being unnecessarily tested, which in turn created a bitterness behind the scenes.
Indeed, with McLaren delegating more of an equal share of resource to support Hamilton too, the simmering tensions boiled over in Hungary when Alonso deliberately held station in his pitbox after changing tyres for a final run in qualifying. Forcing Hamilton to wait behind him for his stop, it prevented the Briton from getting back around in time to start his own lap, though Alonso’s tactics earned him a penalty from the FIA that demoted him back five places anyway.
The incident led to an angry feud developing between Alonso and a furious McLaren team boss Ron Dennis. The exchanges proved critical towards the team’s ongoing ‘Spygate’ scandal, which alleged McLaren employee Mike Coghlan had been in contact with Ferrari’s Nigel Stepney with regards to the theft of intellectual property. While an investigation was ongoing, Alonso threatened to leak email exchanges between himself, Coghlan and McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa, evidence that when later submitted, prompted the investigation to be re-opened.
The emails went on to form the basis of the case against McLaren, the British team eventually found guilty and fined a record $100 million.
Alonso regrouped after the summer break to steadily reel in Hamilton coming into the final rounds, his cause helped when the Briton missed a golden opportunity to wrap the title up at the penultimate round in China with a clumsy off entering the pitlane.
It gave Alonso the chance to strike for title glory at the final round in Brazil, but despite Hamilton slipping out of contention with technical gremlins, Alonso found himself humbled by the in-form Raikkonen, who completed his strong end to the year with a third victory in four races and leapfrogged both McLaren drivers to clinch the title.
Mild Seven Renault F1 Team
1st - 134 points
Alonso and Renault continued to earmark themselves as F1’s most formidable combination, the Spaniard picking up from his title-winning 2005 campaign to hit the ground running in 2006 with nine straight podiums - including six victories - out of the box.
By the mid-point in the season, Alonso held a comfortable 25 point advantage over Michael Schumacher but trouble was brewing behind the scenes as the FIA moved to outlaw tuned mass dampers. Though used by many teams, the technology was particularly integral to the Renault R26’s design, with its ban hurting the French manufacturer more than others.
The effect was noticeable in the second-half of the year, with Alonso managing just one more win by the end of the season, which allowed Schumacher to mount a challenge for the title.
With three races remaining, the two drivers were tied at the top of the standings, but a DNF for the German in Japan - coupled to a win for Alonso - gave the Renault man the breathing room he needed to wrap the title up in the Brazilian finale.
Completing the season 13 points clear of Schumacher, it marked the end of an era too with Schumacher retiring, while Alonso departed Renault in favour of a move to McLaren for 2007.
Mild Seven Renault F1 Team
1st - 133 points
The move to ban tyre changes for the 2005 F1 season played into the hands of the Michelin runners, allowing Renault its first chance to penetrate Bridgestone-shod Ferrari’s dominance of recent years.
It led to a changing of the guard at the front of the field with Alonso leading the way early on with three wins from the opening four races to emerge as the early title favourite.
With Michael Schumacher’s hopes quickly fading - his sole win coming after all Michelin-shod teams withdrew for safety reasons ahead of a farcical United States Grand Prix - Alonso instead found himself challenged by McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen.
While Raikkonen was arguably the quicker of the two during the second half of the year, comparatively lacklustre reliability hampered his challenge.
It allowed Alonso to cruise towards his first F1 world championship title at a canter, securing the crown with two rounds to spare and ending the year with seven wins from 19 races, plus podiums in all but three races.
In doing so, Alonso became the youngest driver to win an F1 world championship since Emerson Fittipaldi, while it marked Renault’s first F1 title as a constructor too.
Mild Seven Renault F1 Team
4th - 59 points
In what would prove a devastatingly dominant campaign for Ferrari, though Alonso’s hopes were reduced to a maximum target of third place behind Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, he nonetheless continued to shine in 2004.
Though the Renault R24 wasn’t always bulletproof in reliability, Alonso added four more podiums to his tally to end the year fourth overall, well clear of team-mate Jarno Trulli.
Mild Seven Renault F1 Team
6th - 55 points
Following a year developing his race craft behind the scenes, Alonso returned to action in 2003 with Renault and immediately impressed with his speed at the wheel of the well-balanced R23.
With the car working well on Michelin rubber, Alonso quickly turned heads by claiming his maiden F1 pole position during the second round of the season in Malaysia, the Spaniard going on to finish third for his maiden podium too.
He followed it up with another next time out at Interlagos, though he was forced to celebrate it from hospital after his smash into a stricken car coming onto the home straight brought the race to a premature end.
He achieved burgeoning national hero status with his run to second place in the Spanish Grand Prix, before producing an exemplary performance in the Hungarian Grand Prix to take his maiden grand prix win from pole position. He’d go on to finish the season in sixth position overall.
European Minardi F1
23rd - 0 points
Alonso’s F1 debut came in the wake of Minardi coming under new management following its acquisition by European Aviation founder Paul Stoddart.
Having declined into F1’s perennial tail-end team in recent years, expectations remained modest for Alonso - who at 19 years and 218 days became the third youngest driver to start an F1 race - but the Spaniard got his head down and quickly impressed.
Comprehensively out-performing team-mates Tarso Marques and Alex Yoong, Alonso at times was able to pull himself towards the likes of Prost and Arrows, despite the clear gulf in the car’s ability.
Though he wouldn’t get near to the points - which in 2001 still only covered the top six drivers - Alonso managed a best finish of 10th in Germany, while a maturity beyond his years was widely praised.
His performances with the minnow squad didn’t go unnoticed either, with Alonso going on to be bought under the management of Benetton F1 boss Flavio Briatore. With Benetton morphing into a full factory Renault team for 2002, Alonso was hired by the French team as its test driver with a view to promoting him into a race seat in 2003.
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