Alonso, twenty years is nothing

AS recalls a most special date for the Asturian driver, the beginning of his dream, his first F1 race in Australia on March 4, 2001.

The ephemeris have a difficult value to calculate with Fernando Alonso, because the calendar is full of milestones, but some tread with others on a biography that has not stopped being written. This Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of his Formula 1 debut, in an eventful Australian GP that finished 12th with the Minardi, on March 4, 2001. The birthday deserves a party, but they choke on the past tenses to speak of the Asturian, which is purely current in his sport. Just two days ago, the Alpine A521 that he will drive in 2021 was presented and next week he will get into the car that will return him to the Great Circus at the end of the month, in Bahrain.

In Formula 1 there are no golden destinations, you cannot change Real Madrid for Cosmos, or Barcelona for Al Sadd, if you want to continue practicing the same sport without tension. Perhaps the IndyCar would have been, and the World Endurance World Cup seemed like it, but Alonso will be back in the same place and at the same time. The Renault of 2003 today is Alpine. The GP that opened that campaign in Australia will now be held in the Persian Gulf, in Sakhir (March 28). Then Schumacher had four titles, now Hamilton has seven. And Alonso himself was a 19-year-old 'rookie' when he is now, behind Kimi Raikkonen (who also debuted that day), one of the two oldest on the grid (39 years old by 41 for the Finn).Since then, statistics place the Spanish as one of the greatest of his time and always, the sixth in number of victories (32), the third in great prizes contested (312). Although the characteristics that place him in the Olympus of his sport are not always highlighted through mathematics: he is the one who defeated Schumacher; he stood up to a dominant car, the Red Bull, with a Ferrari that never was; who would have been a five-time champion had he added 11 more points spread over three seasons. That is far away, the last victory dates from 2013, before falling to the bottom of the grid with some mechanics that should not have crossed him.

It is risky to criticize the destinations of his movements around the paddock: to the best McLaren in 2007, to Ferrari at the beginning of the decade, to McLaren Honda when engines were getting complex in Formula 1 and a wealthy partner was needed. It is inevitable to question the consequences. Alonso raced for the two best factories in the World Cup, but his titles were won with Renault, and now he returns to the starting box alongside the renowned Alpine after two seasons out of the sport. He makes his debut again, who would have thought, before his second or third youth. Gardel already wrote it in the most universal tango, "you always return to your first love". And in the case of Alonso, it is true that "twenty years is nothing." It is past, present and future of Formula 1.

Alonso convinces the day of his debut, by Carlos Miquel He finished twelfth in a race in which Schumacher swept

Now it will not be given importance, but perhaps with time, March 4, 2001 will become a historic date for Spanish motorsport. If Fernando Alonso ever becomes champion, his excellent baptism of fire at the Albert Park circuit will be remembered. First he passed the exam, and with flying colors, of qualifying his Minardi for the race. Later, in yesterday's test he faced drivers like Irvine, Fisichella and Button, who are members of teams much more powerful than his, without complexes, he finished 12th and achieved his objective: to take the car to the finish line. Alonso was in the times of his rivals and finished in a big way, with his fastest lap in the race. It is a pity that he does not have a car like Raikkonen's (Sauber), which, with less class, achieved a point in its debut.

Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher put the point followed in Melbourne to his triumphant 2000 season. He took the start like a breath and did not lose the first place except in the refueling dance. His pounding rhythm was impossible for Hakkinen to follow. In addition, the Finn saw his right rear suspension break at 250 km / h and did not finish. The test already had an owner.

Of the race, the start is saved, very moved, with a touch included between Barrichello and Frentzen. The Brazilian was placed third thanks to that touch and later inherited the second place from Hakkinen after his abandonment. However, he lost it after having an incident with Alonso that, inadvertently, blocked his path. Coulthard stuck to 'Rubinho' and ended up overtaking him. Alonso suffered another problem: a 10-second penalty for exceeding the speed limit of 80 km / h in the pits. Two other penalties were Olivier Panis and Jos Verstappen, for overtaking with the yellow flag. The Frenchman, fourth on his return, was punished with 25 seconds and finished seventh.

Nerves before the start

Fernando Alonso took his Formula 1 debut with his usual coolness, but reflected tension on the grid. After placing the car in the penultimate row, he retired next to the wall that faces the public, and squatted trying to review in his mind what he had to do in the race. Three televisions interviewed him in that interval, and at three he answered them equally briefly. Then came the ritual. First the helmets and the transmitter with which it communicates with the box. The next step, the adhesive tape that prevents them from falling off, to then put on the fire-retardant executioner and, at the last minute, the helmet. Like other drivers, Schumacher's case, he does not like to get in the car until the last moment.

These were the impressions of the Asturian driver after finishing his first Formula 1 race: "I am satisfied. I have done what I had to do, finish the race. It has not been very hard, because I have been quite alone. I have led the Jaguar and Verstappen behind. I was comfortable following their rhythm, and that was the first time I had done more than seven laps in a row with the car. From contact with Schumacher and Hakkinen I can only say that they are going their way. They mark distances with debutantes ".

It all started with that kart, already famous, that his father José Luis made for Lorena, his sister, but which in the end ended up in the little hands of Alonso when he was only three years old, and thank goodness. Wearing the colors of Senna's McLaren, his idol, and some socks because he couldn't reach the pedals, the Asturian began to take his first steps in karting, what's more, he won in his first race over children twice his age and a a year later he already had a license from the RFEdA, the Spanish automobile federation. Since he took his first steering wheel, he showed his determination and vocation as a pilot.

Until he was old enough to participate in official championships, the Asturian had fun racing with friends in tournaments organized by his parents in northern Spain with 50cc karts made by themselves. A time that he surely remembers with great affection. Shortly after, at the age of six, his first triumph in an official race in the Asturias championship would arrive, in children, and the following year, in 1988, he would already win the title in his category with a full eight victories in eight races. By then, his name was beginning to become famous in his land.After continuing to win championships also in Galicia and the Basque Country, 1991 came and a key moment in Fernando's career. As he rose in category, the demand, especially monetary, grew and his parents could not meet it, but they found Josep Marco, a Catalan kart importer and circuit owner who took over his career. Thanks to Genikart, Alonso was able to continue competing and standing out nationally and internationally until in 1996 he was proclaimed champion of the Junior World Championship, his most outstanding success of all in the discipline.

13 years running and growing in karting that would end in 1998 with four other achievements (champion of Spain, the Paris-Bercy Trophy, the Italian Industry Trophy and the Ford Open) because the cars were waiting for him ... He had already tried them before, but the Asturian would make the final leap in the Euro Open by Nissan at the hands of Adrián Campos, another of the great mentors of his career and to whom he said goodbye with affection on the day of his death. He joined the Campos Motorsport team as a replacement for Marc Gené and in his first year he swept six victories that gave him the title.From there, he rose to the next level, the F3000, the FIA championship that was then considered the prelude to Formula 1. He achieved a single victory in Spa (a circuit that has resisted him in the World Championship), but that, and others Outstanding performances were enough to attract the attention of some F1 teams. Of all those who loved him, Briatore was the one who did the most to keep him under the Renault umbrella and found him a seat in Minardi. Thus, on March 4, 2001 in Melbourne he began his career in F1, climbing from 19th to 12th. The legend began.

As of that March 4, 2001, you know what came, a trajectory that has made Alonso a historic motorsport. That World Championship would end without points, with the difficulties of racing in a humble team like Minardi and with a 10th at Hockenheim as the best result. After a year off the track as a tester at Renault, Briatore gave him a seat and in his second race in Malaysia he achieved his first pole position and his first podium. And with his second pole in Hungary, his first win would certainly not escape him. He was 6th in 2003 and 4th in winless 2004.

2005 would be quite different. He had already shown more than enough that he had the talent and experience to challenge the best, he only needed to be accompanied by the car, and the R25 was the perfect weapon to fulfill his dream and that of his faithful legion of followers. Six victories earned him to pass over McLaren and Raikkonen and lift his first title in Brazil two races from the end in China, where he would add the seventh. The following year, also at Interlagos, he would certify his second crown after a heart attack year fighting with Schumacher and Ferrari. Alonso was two-time world champion.

The Asturian had dethroned the biggest star of the World Cup by defeating him in a face to face. With two titles and as the youngest two-time world champion in history, Fernando was at the top and continued to have a bright future, but the account stopped in two ... He ended up at McLaren, a legendary team in which he aspired to repeat conquest, but his interests collided head-on with the internal war that took place in Woking: he had to fight against Hamilton and against his own team. Raikkonen and Ferrari took advantage and beat them both by a single point. A waste.

Fernando had to leave there and found refuge again in Renault, where only the remains of his previous stage remained and still achieved two victories in 2008. He would stay a couple of years in Enstone, because in 2010, he would fulfill another of his great dreams: to be a Ferrari driver. And he started it in the best possible way, winning his first race with the Scuderia in Bahrain. A most exciting achievement that five years later fell short of what could be. He brushed past the title in 2010 and 2012, almost a miracle against the dominance imposed by Vettel and Red Bull.

Leaving Ferrari without a title was a disappointment, but what came later was worse ... Four years of suffering on his return to McLaren: three terrible years with the Honda engine and one recovery engine with Renault, his' see you later '. No wonder he was forced to find happiness elsewhere. And he did, especially at Le Mans, where he won in 2018 and 2019 (in addition to being World Endurance champion). He tried it three times in the Indy 500 (one without qualifying) and had fun with a Toyota in the desert of the Dakar 2020. Now, he returns to F1 and Alpine to close the circle.

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