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Fernando Alonso turns 30 - A celebration for the Spaniard's birthday and review of his career so far

Published by James

The Ferrari team celebrate Fernando Alonso's birthday
The Ferrari team celebrate Fernando Alonso's birthdayCredit: Shell Motorsport

Today the 29th July 2011 is the 30th Birthday of Fernando Alonso and just over 10 years ago he was a fresh faced youngster in his first season of Formula One with it all to prove. Since then he has raced at 168 grand prix (the 2005 USA GP is excluded), winning 27 races along the way with 68 podiums and 20 pole positions and of course 2 World Championships. This post takes a quick look at his Formula 1 career so far including the highlights and of course the lowlights as it hasn’t been all plain sailing for the Spaniard. He has found himself involved in a number of controversies during his career the more notably being Spygate and Crashgate as named by the media.

In his first season for Minardi he was already impressing people with performances achieving more than the car really should, qualifying over 2 seconds faster than his team mate in his first race and then later in the season out qualifying the Benettons. These performances got him noticed and for the following season he was signed up as Renault's test driver.

Come 2003 he was given a drive at Renault, and he would claim his first victory (on the very circuit F1 races this weekend) after starting on pole he finished first becoming the youngest Grand Prix winner at 22 with a 16.8 second lead over second placed Räikkönen and a lap ahead of Michael Schumacher.

..a dream come true. I am 22 years old and I have my first victory. I hope I have a long career with lots more victories

- Fernando Alonso on his first victory

Although he would have to wait until the 2005 season to win again, his next wins started his championship challenge in the year that he would end the dominance of Ferrari and Michael Schumacher and become the youngest ever Drivers Champion. Although the McLaren became the faster race car as the season progressed, Alonso picked up wins and points early on and was able to benefit from McLaren’s reliability woes.

A year later he would retain his title and become the youngest double champion, with a run of 9 consecutive podiums 6 of which were race victories. Despite coming under increasing pressure from Schumacher and Ferrari in the latter half of the season he was able to hold on and victory at the Japanese Grand Prix and second pace in Brazil gave him the title. At the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, the stewards ruled that Alonso had potentially blocked the Ferrari of Felipe Massa in qualifying and relegated him five places on the grid. His quote on this is slightly ironic now with him being a Ferrari driver.

I love the sport, love the fans coming here — a lot of them from Spain but I don't consider Formula One like a sport any more.

- Fernando Alonso on his penalty at the Italian Grand Prix 2006

At this point Fernando Alonso was on top of the F1 world, as the two time champion and the man who had beaten Schumacher, who had now retired. He moved away from Renault to McLaren and from there the cracks in his armour appeared thanks largely to his young team mate Lewis Hamilton. While he picked up 6 race wins and finished only a point behind championship winner Räikkönen the damage had been done. With a number of controversial moments including holding up Hamilton during qualification for the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix and the revelations that he along with Pedro de la Rosa had received stolen Ferrari information from Mike Coughlan, his relationship with McLaren, Ron Dennis and Lewis Hamilton deteriorated and after only a year he left to go back to Renault.

The following two years at Renault were on the frustrating side as they were not the championship challenging team that they had been left. His 2008 season only picked up from the Hungarian Grand Prix, from there he picked up 2 race wins and in the second half of the season picked up more points than any other driver including those going for the title. However it transpired that at the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix that year Renault had ordered Nelson Piquet, Jr. to crash to cause an incident that would require the safety-car in order to benefit the race strategy of Alonso. The result allowed Alonso a chance at fighting for the victory at the cost of a number of other competitors. However no evidence has ever shown Alonso had any knowledge of the plan for Piquet to crash.

After a strong end to the season 2008 season hopes were high at Renault with a car that raised a few eyebrows, not for its technical superiority but for the wide nose its look. It quickly turned out that the car wasn’t as quick as they believed and result in Alonso’s second worst F1 season with only the sole podium at the Singapore Grand Prix on the weekend the revelations on what had transpired a year earlier came out.

His time at Ferrari in 2010 saw some high and low points, with victories in his first race and a win at Monza in front of the Tifosi as well as a championship challenge all in his first season. However, come the German Grand Prix, he would be involved in controversy once more with Ferrari imposing team orders during the race to get Alonso ahead of Massa. (from a personal standpoint I should just say that even though I am an Alonso fan I took no pleasure from the result)

Into 2011 and whilst the championship maybe completely beyond him at this point his first win of the season at the British Grand Prix marked 60 years since Ferrari’s first victory making it all the more emotional not only for him but for the team. Currently he seems more relaxed and happy then he's been at any other point during if Formula One career.

Where his career will go from here we remain to see, provided he is in a car capable he’ll be pushing to up his championships count from 2 albeit against the opposition in the shape of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. He won't ever be the most popular driver and he does have weaknesses but it is said over and over that Fernando Alonso is the most complete driver currently in F1.

Back in 2001 I knew that Fernando would soon be World Champion. Now he is simply a better driver than he was. The talent continues to be there, but the experience makes the difference.

- Massimo Rivola who worked with Fernando at Minardi and now Ferrari