Fernando Alonso has his older sister Lorena to thank for sparking his passion for racing. Their father José Luis Alonso had built Lorena a go-kart, but she showed no interest in playing with it. The young Fernando immediately took a shine to the machine as his father towed him around a makeshift track. The desire to race intensified and Alonso would grow up to be one of the greatest drivers in the history of Formula 1.
The Spaniard combined his natural talent with an ultra-competitive desire, which has fuelled his relentless pursuit of victory, through his long and varied racing career.
Alonso made his name as the man who brought an end to Michael Schumacher’s dominance of Formula 1 in the mid-2000s. Racing for Renault, he clinched back-to-back world titles in 2005 and 2006 to stop Schumacher and Ferrari’s five-year spell at the top of the sport.
But as Alonso’s career developed, he was often courted with controversy and he developed an unfair reputation for playing politics within a team. The most notorious season was in 2007 when he was partnered at McLaren alongside young rookie Lewis Hamilton. Expecting to be de facto team leader, the rivalry between the two-time champion and the debutant exploded. Added into this caustic atmosphere was a spying scandal with Ferrari and it led to McLaren receiving a $100million fine and disqualification from second place in the championship.
Alonso returned to Renault after only one year at McLaren, but he became embroiled in another scandal that rocked the sport. He won the first Singapore Grand Prix in 2008, but only after his team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr had deliberately crashed and brought out a Safety Car, which helped Alonso to victory.
The next stage in the Spaniard’s F1 career took him to Italy and for five years he raced for Ferrari with the dream of returning the championship back to Maranello. Again and again, they failed to win the title and the relationship turned sour. When he was once asked what he would like for his birthday, he replied in Italian ‘someone else’s car.’ It sparked the end of the love affair with the Scuderia.
Surprisingly, Alonso returned to McLaren but with an under-powered and unreliable Honda engine, he was regularly stuck outside the top ten. Frustrated by the lack of success, Alonso quit F1 to compete in both the Le Mans 24 Hours (which he won) and the Indianapolis 500 in America. Last year he also raced in the Dakar Rally which was held in Saudi Arabia.
Alonso will come back to Saudi Arabia in December as this year – at the age of 40 – he has returned to Formula 1 with the Renault-owned Alpine team (which will be his third stint at the squad). Now in the twilight of his career, he still has the speed, passion and competitiveness that characterised those early days driving his sister’s unwanted go-kart.