Fernando Alonso

Alonso’s ten pearls

Maranello, 17 April –Famous Italian pop singer Lucio Battisti might have settled for ten girls in his 1969 song, but there’s no way Fernando Alonso is going to settle for his ten wins to date as a Ferrari man. However, it is an important round number, good enough to put him in fifth place on the list of the drivers who have won the most for the Scuderia in Formula 1. It might be very difficult, if not impossible, for him to reach Michael Schumacher’s total of 72 wins, but the other three ahead of him are within his grasp. However, one has to bear in mind that one of those three is Felipe Massa, who is in fourth place and he is still perfectly capable of improving on his current tally of 11 wins. Ahead of the Brazilian we find Alberto Ascari on 13 and Niki Lauda on 15.

Fernando is already in Bahrain, which this weekend hosts the fourth round of the World Championship. It was on this very track, albeit with a modified layout, that the Spaniard secured his first win in red. On 14 March 2010, Alonso crossed the line ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa at the end of a race in which his only true rival, Vettel, did not have a car as reliable as the Spaniard’s F10. At the time, Ferrari fans around the world thought this signalled the start of a series of wins, but in Maranello, everyone was perfectly aware that the car was not yet competitive enough. It was more so later, on 25 July at Hockenheim, where the Alonso-Massa duo took its second and, to date, last one-two of their time together. That race went down in history because of the overtaking move the Spaniard pulled on his team-mate, even when they were already both ahead of Vettel, proving how very competitive was the F10 on the German circuit.

The best win that year was yet to come. On 12 September at Monza, Alonso started from pole and crushed Button’s resistance in the McLaren at the end of an extremely close race on the fastest track of the season. It was celebration time both on and underneath the amazing Monza podium, which provided unforgettable emotions for everyone there that day. Two weeks later came pole and a win again, this time on one of the slowest tracks of the year, Singapore. It was a heart stopping race, in which Fernando led from start to finish, but with his mirrors constantly filled with Vettel’s Red Bull. Fernando delivered a flawless performance to bring home another amazing win.

A bit less than a month later came the fifth win of 2010, in an epic race. On the new Yeongam track a dramatic Grand Prix took place, with rain right from the start, with interruptions and long Safety Car periods, packed with incidents until the race ended in the gloaming. Once again, Fernando was impeccable and he was working his way up the order when the engine in Vettel’s Red Bull let go on the pit straight: come the end, the Spaniard was masterful in managing the tyres, thus taking the win which propelled him to the lead in the championship. After that, everyone knows how it ended a few weeks later in Abu Dhabi, but that’s one page in the history of Alonso’s time at Ferrari that has definitely been filed away.

2011 did not produce as many wins. The F2011 was not up to the standards of its predecessor and it faced the all-conquering duo of Vettel and a Red Bull. However, Fernando’s only win came at a time and at a circuit which held great significance for the Scuderia. It was on the same Silverstone track, where sixty years before, Jose Froilan Gonzalez had secured the first of Ferrari’s 220 Formula 1 wins and it came just a few hours after Fernando had driven the very same 375 F1 used by the Argentinian driver. The Spaniard just managed it, overtaking the Red Bull that had seemed uncatchable at the time.

In 2012, Alonso took three wins and the first was definitely the least expected. It came at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit at a time when the F2012 was anything other than quick in that first part of the season. But the rain gods intervened, producing a tropical downpour at the start. Alonso produced a fantastic drive and made the most of his talent to exceed the technical abilities of his car. Three months later, in Valencia, the Spaniard took a win that ranked as highly with him as that at Monza, at least on the emotional front. To be back in the winner’s circle in front of his home crowd was an amazing feeling, as amazing as his race performance, when he fought his way through the field in the first half, before controlling it in the second. Fernando’s tears on the podium will always be one of the most touching moments of his career in red. The third win last year, at Hockenheim, was the only one in which the Spaniard did not have to pull off a miracle, but had “only” to be perfect. Just like the F10 from two years earlier, the F2012 seemed to like the German track, confirmed not just by the fact it took pole in the wet, but also in the way it won the race, run almost entirely in the lead, without ever offering any hope to rivals of the calibre of Button and Vettel. That was the final competitive moment for the Maranello car, in a season which, for the second time since the arrival of the man from Oviedo at the Scuderia, would end in disappointment.

The tenth pearl on the necklace is recent history. The amazing win in Shanghai can be compared in some ways to the 2010 wins in Monza and Hockenheim, in terms of car performance, a perfect job from the driver, the management from the pit wall and the teamwork in the pits. It was a win produced by a strong and determined group and an Alonso who like never before this year wants to live up to the unanimous views of the fans and experts, that he is the best driver in the fight for the championship. There’s still a long way to go to achieve this and to get there, it will be necessary to add to that necklace. One thing’s for sure, there’s definitely room on the chain for some more pearls. They just need to be threaded on.

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