Formula 1 I Fernando Alonso turns 40 “being the best driver on the grid”

Fernando Alonso, double Formula One world champion, turns 40 this Thursday; more than half of which lived on the crest of the wave. He will celebrate it, almost as usual, at the Hungaroring, home of the Hungarian Grand Prix: the track where he signed the first of his 32 triumphs – the 32 that Spain has counted throughout its history – in the premier class; in which he debuted at 19, aboard a Minardi.

Only one F1 driver, Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo), Ferrari’s last world champion (2007) – a team in which they coincided, in the second stage of the Finn’s red -, who will turn 42 in October, is older than the brilliant Asturian pilot; that this month, in an interview with . during the Austrian Grand Prix, he stated that what really matters in motorsport “is not age, but the stopwatch.” Something that continues to be clear every race weekend.

After his rookie year, the Oviedo driver spent another as a Renault tester; And when the French team decided to give him a steering wheel, it only took him two Grand Prix to become – in Malaysia and in 2003 – the youngest in history to start from pole and get on the podium (in Sepang, where he finished third ). In a campaign in which he would also break the record for precocity in setting fastest lap and winning a race (precisely in Hungary). Something that a Spaniard had never achieved and that, to date, only he has repeated: 31 other times.

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Until adding 32, the Asturian double world champion won 17 times (in two stages) with Renault; four with McLaren and another eleven with Ferrari, the most awarded team in history – for which his compatriot Carlos Sainz now runs. The last one, in Barcelona, ​​at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix. Before completing a second tour with the Woking team and saying goodbye to Formula One in 2018. After two years in which he faced new challenges, he returned this one to F1 with Alpine, name with which Renault was renamed, the team with which he captured, from the hand of the unrepeatable Italian team boss Flavio Briatore, his two titles (in 2005 and 2006). With whom he put the icing on the cake for the work done by his father, José Luis: the man who knew how to educate a son while forging a champion.

After winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans (in France, twice), the World Endurance -with Toyota-; and the 24 Hours of Daytona (USA); and try, causing a very pleasant impression, in the Dakar Rally; Alonso returned to his natural habitat. And, with a non-winning car, it continues to make headlines thanks to masterful staging. It does not matter that this year, of readaptation, the Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and the seven-time English champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) are fighting, ‘ax in hand’, occupying eleventh place in a World Cup for which they fight. Alonso never stops being present in all the chronicles; and it remains the subject of countless headlines.

Especially after the shows he gave so much in Baku, where he advanced four places on the last lap to finish sixth; as at Silverstone. Where he blew the staff away two weekends ago, with a stratospheric first lap in qualifying through an all-time sprint test; in which he advanced six places – from eleventh to fifth – in the first corners. His performance deserved the praise of the English engineer Ross Brawn, current Formula One sports director, and an institution in the premier class, in which his name is linked, among others, to that of the German Michael Schumacher, with whom he celebrated the seven titles that Hamilton equaled last year. Brawn – who also won a World Cup (2009) with England’s Jenson Button – said exhibitions like Alonso’s are well worth the price of admission.

Three times world runner-up and with 97 podiums in the Formula, in which he has 22 pole positions and 23 fastest laps, Alonso has been said and everything has already been written. Everything? No. Fernando insists that this is not the case; And he demonstrates this by masterfully optimizing every racing weekend all the resources of his Alpine, the seventh car on the grid, according to his position in the Constructors’ World Championship. With which, to the maximum that could choose – by that rule of three – is to the thirteenth place. And with which, at the moment, he is eleventh in the contest, with 26 points: only four less than the four-time German champion Sebastian Vettel, who drives an Aston Martin. “Alonso is still the best on the grid,” said recently the Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, another two-time world champion (1972 and 74), whose youth record was beaten by Fernando when, at 24, he was proclaimed world champion for the first time. Dethroning the ‘Kaiser’, whose seven crowns Hamilton equaled last year: to be named ‘Sir’ by Queen Elizabeth of England.

While waiting for the new regulations for next year to give him, at least, the possibility of aspiring to the 100th podium and to add some more victory, Fernando has fun, as he admitted to Efe in Spielberg. Although the Asturian star did not return just to have fun. He did it because he wants to win again: his favorite verb. An indisputable figure – also due to his condition as a pioneer in success, in his specialty – in the history of Spanish sport, Alonso has never left anyone cold. And not a few of those who do not know him, even those who do not even follow the competitions in which he participates, also have an opinion about him.

One of the recurring ‘mantras’ of his detractors is that he does not agree with his colleagues. It’s false. His relationship with most of them has always been good. Currently, he shares hours of ‘play station’ with his garage neighbor, the Frenchman Esteban Ocon. And in the aforementioned interview with Efe, Alonso stressed that, with Hamilton, his quintessential antagonist in that 2007 for oblivion (that of Lewis’s debut) – in which McLaren ‘threw’ two World Cups that he would have won with the cap – the The problems weren’t with English, “but with the team.” Their relationship with the press is, at best, one of fair reciprocity. He does not shy away from questions and does not require a prior questionnaire before giving interviews (unlike other F1 stars). It goes straight ahead. And it is even capable of surprising the hospitalized journalist with a loving message of encouragement in difficult moments.

As a pilot, he has a gift in which a privileged head, golden hands and a foot converge that has no other mission than to always press the pedal fully. And few know how to develop a car like he does. Fernando turns 40. And there are still many more to command the emotions of hundreds of thousands of his compatriots and fans from all over the world who recognize his enormous talent. Alonso never fails them.

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