Driver Profile: Fernando Alonso

NameFernando Alonso Diaz
Date of Birth29 July 1981
Place of BirthOviedo, Asturias, Spain
Car Number14
First Entry2001 Australian Grand Prix
First Win2003 Hungarian Grand Prix

Biography of F1 driver Fernando Alonso

Born to a working class family in Asturais, Spain, Fernando Alonso’s first experience with go-karting came when his father built one for his older sister, Lorena.

Uninterested in the kart, it was modified and given to Fernando, who began a career in racing despite receiving an offer from Celta de Vigo to play as goalkeeper. Alonso won the 1988 and 1989 children’s junior championship of the Asturias and Galicia, which helped him progress to the Cadet class in 1990.

Aided by go-kart importer Genis Marco, who provided Alonso with personal and sponsorship money, the youngster continued to win championships in Spain, including three consecutive Spanish Junior National Championships from 1993 to 1995.

Alonso progressed to the World Championships, finishing third in 1995 before winning the Union World Championship in 1996. It’s then that Alonso was spotted by former F1 driver Adrian Campos at the Marlboro Masters race in Barcelona. Campos was so impressed that he gave Alonso his first test in a racing car with Campos’ Formula Nissan team in October 1998.

Move to junior racing

Alonso made his car racing debut at the 1999 Euro Open by Nissan, winning the title for Campos Motorsport. Despite moving up to the International Formula 3000 championship the following year, Alonso once again took top spot, this time with the Minardi-backed Team Astromega.

However, as the youngest driver on the grid, Alonso struggled for much of the campaign, though results improved later in the campaign. His first points came in round seven, before finishing second at the penultimate race at the Hungaroring, and winning the season finale at Spa-Francorchamps. In the end he finished the season fourth in the championship.

Meteoric rise to Minardi

With Flavio Briatore now managing his career, Alonso joined Minardi for the 2001 F1 season, racing alongside Tarso Marques. Although the Brazilian had already appeared in 12 Grand Prix, Alonso outclassed him during qualifying for the season opener in Australia, beating him by 2.6 seconds.

Although Alonso was hindered by the PS01’s lack of speed, he continued to impress in qualifying. At the final race at Suzuka, his first visit to the notoriously challenging circuit, he qualified 18th and finished 11th.

Move to Renault

Briatore was eager to slot Alonso at Benetton, which was taken over by Renault, in 2002, in place of Jenson Button. However, with Button keeping his seat, and Jarno Trulli brought in to replace Giancarlo Fisichella, Alonso served as the team’s test driver.

Alonso finally got his seat in 2003, replacing Button, and it didn’t take long for him to impress. At the second race of the season in Malaysia, he became the then youngest ever pole sitter and finished third, his first F1 podium.

Two more podiums came in Brazil and Spain, though Alonso saved his best performance for Hungary, finishing over 16 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen for his first F1 victory. He ended the year in sixth with 55 points, 22 more than teammate Trulli.

While Ferrari and Michael Schumacher dominated the 2004 season, Alonso had an improved campaign despite failing to add to his win tally. In total, he finished on the podium four times, with his second-place showing after starting on pole in France his best result.

Double World Champion with Renault

With Ferrari taking a step back in 2005, Alonso battled it out with McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen for the World Championship. While the season started out with a win by teammate Fisichella, it was the Spaniard who impressed the rest of the campaign.

Although his R25 was no match for the McLaren MP4-20 in terms of pace, the Renault proved far more reliable. Alonso won four of the opening seven races, setting the tone for the rest of the season. Although Raikkonen and McLaren did what they could to battle back later in the year, Alonso clinched the title with three races remaining. He ended the year with seven victories, six poles and 14 podium finishes.

Ferrari and Schumacher bounced back in 2006, resulting in a spirited title battle between the German and Alonso. He won six of the first nine races, and claimed 84 out of a possible 90 points to firmly establish himself as the driver to beat.

However Schumacher hit back thanks in part to an improved Ferrari package, along with Renault’s innovate mass damper system being banned the FIA. Schumacher won five of the next seven races as the two entered the Japanese Grand Prix level on points.

Schumacher’s hopes were dashed when his Ferrari engine failed while leading, allowing Alonso to win the penultimate race of the season. Needing just one point to clinch the title in Brazil, he finished second and became a double World Champion.

Move to McLaren

Alonso joined McLaren on a three-year contract for the 2007 F1 season, lining up alongside then rookie Lewis Hamilton. The Spaniard crossed the line second in Australia in his first race for the team, before taking victory in dominant fashion in Malaysia.

However, with Hamilton taking an early lead in the standings, there were signs that not all was well between the two. Alonso became vocal in his demands that the team back his bid for the title, while McLaren had their own issues to deal with due to Spygate. The espionage controversy was centred on allegations that McLaren had obtained confidential information about Ferrari’s car.

The relationship between Alonso and Hamilton broke down completely at the Hungarian Grand Prix. After Hamilton refused a team order to allow Alonso past during qualifying, the Spaniard responded by delaying Hamilton in the pits, a move that prevented the youngster from setting a final lap time.

McLaren had their own issues to deal with as well, as compelling evidence against the team resulted in severe penalties. These penalties saw the team excluded from the 2007 Constructors’ Championship, along with being handed a record-breaking fine of $100 million.

On track, Hamilton entered the final race of the season four points up on Alonso, with Ferrari’s Raikkonen seven points adrift. Incredibly, the two McLaren drivers failed to take the title, with Raikkonen clinching the title thanks to a famous victory.

The tensions within the team came to a head after the final race, with McLaren and Alonso agreeing to terminate their contract by mutual consent.

Return to Renault

Alonso made his way back to Renault for the 2008 season, however the team were a shadow of the one he left.

After seven races, the two-time World Champion found himself with just nine points. Aerodynamic improvements saw the team improve in the second half of the year, with Alonso taking the chequered flag in Singapore.

The win would later be shrouded in controversy after it was revealed Renault ordered Nelson Piquet Jr to crash deliberately in order to trigger the Safety Car, helping Alonso win, in what has become known as “Crashgate”. Nevertheless, Alonso won the following race in Fuji, while a second-place at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix helped him end the year fifth in the standings.

Alonso remained with the team in 2009, however the R29 was unable to challenge for top spots. His lone podium of the season came in Singapore, 14 races into the season. It was also the first race for Renault with Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds, as the duo left after the “Crashgate” conspiracy was uncovered.

Alonso ended the year ninth with just 26 points, his worst showing since the 2003 season.

Alonso lands with Ferrari

After two uncompetitive seasons with Renault, Alonso joined Ferrari and partnered Felipe Massa in 2010. He got his season off to the perfect start by winning in Bahrain, however reliability issues, penalties and a jump start slowed him down during the first half the season.

Trailing by as many as 47 points at one points, Alonso turned things around with wins in Germany, Italy, Singapore and Korea. The win at Nurburgring wasn’t without controversy though, as Alonso took the chequered flag after Massa was ordered to let him through, a decision that went against the FIA’s ban on team orders.

Nevertheless, Alonso entered the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi atop the standings. Unfortunately for him and Ferrari, a tactical error saw Alonso languish behind Renault’s Vitaly Petrov for much of the race, allowing Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel to take the title.

Down year and more heartache with Ferrari

Ferrari’s 150° Italia proved uncompetitive in 2011, with Alonso managing just one win, the British Grand Prix, all season. Nevertheless, he still managed to finish on the podium 10 times, while out-qualifying Massa 14-5, to end the year fourth overall with 257 points.

Alonso extended his contract with Ferrari ahead of the 2012 season, with the Spaniard once again challenging for the World Championship. That wasn’t the case early on in the campaign, as the F2012 looked off the pace at times, though Alonso still managed to win in the rain in Malaysia.

However, with Vettel struggling for results midway through the year, wins in Valencia and Germany vaulted Alonso atop the standings. However, four wins in a row by the Red Bull driver swung the tide in his favour, with Alonso ultimately finishing runner-up for the second time in his career.

Wins in China and Spain gave hope to another sustained title push, however as the summer break neared, Ferrari’s updates failed to close the gap to Red Bull and Vettel.

In the end, Alonso had to settle for second in the standings behind Vettel, while the first cracks in his relationship with Ferrari began to show following another failed title bid.

Ferrari departure

Unfortunately for Alonso, 2014 was another disappointing campaign as the Ferrari F14 T was off the pace from the start of the season.

Struggling to come to terms with F1’s new V6 hybrid turbo engines, Team Principal Stefano Domenicali handed in his resignation after the third race of the year, while other top staff departed as they ear went on.

Alonso’s best result was a second-place finish in Hungary, and though he regularly outperformed teammate Raikkonen, he was nowhere near close to challenging Hamilton for the World Championship.

As a result, Alonso opted to leave Ferrari in hopes of winning a third World Championship elsewhere after finishing the season sixth.

McLaren return backfires

Despite leaving the team on bad terms seven years earlier, Alonso returned to McLaren on a three-year contract. The team had high hopes after luring Honda back to F1 in hopes of topping Mercedes from atop the standings.

Unfortunately, Alonso’s disastrous campaign got off on the wrong foot as early as pre-season testing. McLaren struggled with reliability issues at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with Alonso crashing and suffering a concussion, which forced him to miss the first race of the season.

Honda’s engine proved severely under-powered, with the Spaniard finishing in the points twice all season. Alonso didn’t hold back when it came to making his complaints over the lack of pace vocal, calling Honda’s power unit a “GP2 engine” over the radio at their home race at Suzuka.

Alonso remained with McLaren for 2016, however a heavy crash at the season-opener in Australia forced him to miss the following race in Bahrain. Results improved ever so slightly compared to the year prior, as he finished fifth in Monaco and at he Circuit of the Americas.

Despite the improvements in the Honda-powered package, Alonso finished the season 10th.

McLaren splits from Honda

Alonso had to wait until the fifth race of the 2015 season to score his first points, as the McLaren-Honda relationship continued to struggle. As a result, the team didn’t even wait until the end of the campaign to announce they would be parting ways.

As for Alonso, he began to turn his attention elsewhere due to the disappointing results. The Spaniard competed for a McLaren-backed, Andretti run car in the Indianapolis 500.

He led the race for 27 laps, before his engine – a Honda – expired with 21 laps remaining. Back in F1, Alonso’s best result of the year was sixth in Hungary, resulting in him ending the year 15th with just 17 points.

Despite the struggles, Alonso signed an extension with McLaren ahead of the 2018 season, with the team switching over to Renault power.

Unfortunately for McLaren and Alonso, the team’s issues proved to be more than just engine related. After scoring points at the opening five races, results dipped from there, with Alonso ending the year 11th with 50 points.

Alonso raced for Toyota in the World Endurance Championship throughout the year, even winning Le Mans with teammates Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. In the end, with no realistic prospects of success at McLaren, the two-time World Champion opted to leave the sport at the end of the 2018 season.

Ventures outside of F1

Although he was no longer a driver for the team, Alonso served as a brand ambassador throughout 2019, even driving the MCL34 during a two-day post-race Bahrain test.

The Spaniard returned to Le Mans in 2019, winning for a second consecutive year, while his return to the Indianapolis 500 ended in disappointment after failing to even qualify.

He also took part in the 2020 Dakar Rally for Toyota, competing in several races prior to the event in order to improve his performance. He and teammate Marc Coma finished the event 13th, their best stage finish being second place.

Alonso returned to Indianapolis for a third time in 2020, serving as a third driver alongside McLaren’s regular lineup of Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew. He managed to finish the race for the first time, crossing the line in 21st.

F1 return

After spending three seasons on the sidelines, Alonso returned to F1 with Alpine for the 2021 season after Renault rebranded the team.

Although his pre-season preparations were slowed down after being involved in a road accident while cycling, Alonso had a successful season with the outfit.

An impressive showing at the season-opener in Bahrain was derailed when plastic debris entered his brake duct, forcing him to retire. Nevertheless, he regularly finished in the points, and even led part of the race in Hungary.

Teammate Esteban Ocon eventually took the flag, the Frenchman later crediting Alonso for slowing Hamilton and allowing him to take his first career win.

His best result of the season came in Qatar, crossing the line in third to help him end the year 10th with 81 points.