F1Weekly podcast # 531


Photo. ESPN F1

“The future is so bright I need some shades.” Nando may not be able to take a taxi in Timbuktu, but he can bank on one in Maranello…..

Alonso, son of an explosive expert, began his love affair with racing after inheriting his older sister’s kart. Little “Nando” was ready to go from the first time he got into his little racer. Like Alain Prost, he felt like a fish in water from the moment he started racing.

Mike Wilson, the ex-karting world champion who ran Alonso in karting, remembers his Spanish charge as “having more commitment to racing in karting than some drivers in Grand Prix racing.”

That commitment and his natural talent brought him, via Minardi, to Renault and his benefactor and now fast friend, Flavio Briatore.

Paul Stoddard, the no-nonsense Aussie who employed Alonso at Minardi, fondly remember the 2001 Japanese Grand Prix where the then 20-year old year old Alonso put in “a qualifying lap on every lap of the race.”

It was at the same track where years later he would put on an amazing on-the-outside-pass over Michael Schumacher.

The Alonso/Renault combination would bring to an end the unbelievable run of championship success of Schumacher at Scuderia Ferrari. In 2005, Alonso became the youngest world champion and would retain his crown the following after an epic all season long battle with the “Red Baron.”

A little cooler heads between the driver and team principal – or a slower teammate – could have easily produced third successive championship. As it was, the three year contract at McLaren could only be endured for one season by both parties.

A return to Renault would yield two wins, an impressive performance in Japan and a tainted triumph in Singapore. The came the Ferrari offer.

Luca was livid at his $50m man delivering a mediocre performance after winning the title in his first year at Ferrari. Kimi was cut loose but with paycheck attached. Raikkonen went rallying and Alonso came prancing to the House of Maranello and a red carpet welcome.

Like Kimi and Mansell before him, he won first time out in the red machine last year in Bahrain. When all seemed lost for the season, the Alonso and Ferrari charge to the front came at Hockenheimring where “Alonso is faster than you” was heard all over the world.

The Red Brigade was all set for a great Arabian Night in the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. With Alonso leading the championship over Mark Webber when the race started, title number three was there for the taking. The not-really-required pit stop to ‘cover Webber’ looked harmless and business as usual. Until Alonso got back on the track and soon caught up to Vitaly Petrov.

For once, it was not business as usual for the first Russian in F1 orbit. The Rookie did not crash nor made his customary mistake during the race.

This cost Alonso his third world title and Chris Dyer his job at Ferrari. On the cool down lap in the bright lights of Yas Marina Circuit, as Sebastian Vettel became the youngest world champion, Alonso let Petrov know who he thought was #1.

In 2011, Vettel has replaced Alonso as the youngest double world champion. Scuderia Ferrari has now shifted focus and development on the 2012 challenger.

Fernando Alonso brought to an end a German domination in 2005 that once seemed un-stoppable. Given a competitive car there is a good chance das history will repeat itself.

 

— Nasir Hameed

 

Greetings and muy macho regards.

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