As a two-time World champion, Fernando Alonso is the most successful and most popular Formula 1 driver from Spain. He won F1 title in 2005 and 2005, both times with Renault.
Alonso made an F1 debut in 2001 with Minardi, then joined Renault in 2003, staying with the team until 2006. Later in a career, he raced with McLaren-Mercedes in 207, then with Renault again in 2008 and 2009, with Scuderia Ferrari from 2010 to 2014. In 2015, he rejoined McLaren.
Outside Formula 1, Alonso joined Toyota Gazoo Racing for the 2018-2019 FIA WEC superseason, winning Le Mans 24 Hours in his first attempt in June 2018.
Alonso won the World junior kart championship title
Born in July 1981 in Oviedo, in north-west Spain. Fernando inherited a passion for racing from his father who was a racing enthusiast and raced kart as an enthusiast. When he was 3 years old, Fernando Alonso started to drive a kart and soon he was competing in the events all over Spain.
Alonso was very successful since the early days of his career. He has won many national titles before winning the World junior kart championship title in 1996. He stayed in the kart racing until the end of 1998 and was ready to move to the higher ranks of motorsports. He was tested by Campos Racing and signed with the team to compete in the Euro Open MoviStar by Nissan Series. He won the title in his rookie season and continued his progress.
Formula One debut with Minardi in 2001
In 2000, Alonso competed in the International Formula 3000, driving for Team Astromega. He was the youngest driver in the series and needed some time to settle in, but in the finish of the season, he showed his talent and potential in full splendor. In the final two races, Fernando scored a win and the second place what launched him to the 4th place in the final classification.
Finally, in 2001 Alonso debuted in Formula 1 with Minardi team. He already had some F1 experience as he was tested by the team one year before, which was helpful to overcome some difficulties in his rookie season. Minardi was a small team that couldn’t be competitive enough, but Alonso still had some notable performances and his manager Flavio Briatore was looking for a better place for his protege.
The Spaniard left Minardi after failing to score a single point and signed with Renault team. The French manufacturer purchased Benetton team that year and Alonso was a part of big plans, but in 2002 Fernando acted only as the reserve and test pilot. He learned a lot during his first year with a new team and people had a chance to see that in the following campaign.
First GP triumph was at Hungaroring with Renault
In 2003, Renault decided to drop Jenson Button out and to promote Alonso as their race driver. His driving style, work rate, and maturity were impressive and it was no surprise when Fernando established himself as one of the best drivers in Formula 1. He finished 3rd Malaysian and Brazilian Grand Prix races, later was 2nd in the Spanish Grand Prix before winning the Hungarian Grand Prix which was his maiden win in Formula 1. Alonso finished 6th overall but that result could have been better if he wasn’t forced to retire from 5 out of 16 races.
Alonso’s progress continued in 2004. He hasn’t won the race that year but he had four podiums and scored points in other eight races to finish 4th in the championship. Even after he was one of the best drivers in the series, nobody expected that he will break Michael Schumacher’s supremacy one year after.
Fernando won two Formula 1 championship titles in a row
In 2005. Alonso was teamed up with Giancarlo Fisichella. That partnership proved to be an excellent one. Renault won the Constructors’ championship title while Alonso was crowned as the new king of Formula 1. After finishing 3rd in the Australian Grand Prix, Fernando won three consecutive races and 2nd place in Spain. That was followed by another four victories (Nurburgring, Magny-Cours, Hockenheim, Shanghai) and other six podiums. With 133 points, Alonso finished the season at the top of standings, 21 ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
Everybody knows how hard it is to win the F1 title, but it is even harder to defend it. However, Alonso did it almost perfectly and in 2006, his last year with Renault, the Spaniard again was at the top, now beating Michael Schumacher by 13 points.
Alonso’s results were fascinating. In the opening nine races of the year, he scored six wins while in three races he was 2nd. In the second half of the season, Fernando’s form dropped but still, he won Japanese Grand Prix and finished 2nd in four Grands Prix.
Video - Tribute to Fernando Alonso
Short spell with McLaren
At the end of 2006, Fernando Alonso announced that he will sign for McLaren to drive alongside rising star Lewis Hamilton. McLaren won the Manufacturers’ championship title in 2007 but Alonso lost his crown, finishing 3rd, behind Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton. That season was one of the toughest in the history of sports, knowing that the Ferrari driver scored 110 points while McLaren’s pair scored 109 each.
Return to Renault
After only one year, Alonso left McLaren. The two sides made an agreement to break a contract two years before the end and the two-time champion was free to join any team. A bit surprisingly, Alonso decided to join his former Renault team, mainly because of the very lucrative offer. Meanwhile, Renault wasn’t the same team as it was a few years ago. The first half of the year was pretty tough even after Alonso collected points in most of the races. In the finish of the season, he won the races in Singapore and Japan and finished 2nd in Brazil, to take 5th place in the Drivers’ championship.
In 2009, the things have worsened after new car constructed by Renault didn’t meet the expectations. It was reliable but not fast enough which was something that left Fernando a bit frustrated. His best result that year was the 3rd place in Singapore while in the final classification he was 9th which was a big downfall for the two-time World champions.
Move to Ferrari team
Luckily, he was in a position to meet his ambitions in 2010. He replaced Raikkonen in Ferrari and everybody expected Alonso to bring a new success to Scuderia. He had a proper car and a great support in Felipe Massa who was established as an excellent team driver. On his debut for Ferrari, Alonso won the race in Bahrain but in the following nine races he had only two podiums. The second half of the year was better as he won four races but still finished the season as a runner-up, losing to Sebastian Vettel by four points. He needed to finish at least 4th in the last race of the season to win the title for the third time, but bad strategy pulled him down to 7th while Vettel won the race and clinched first of his four consecutive titles.
The fact that he missed the great opportunity to become world champion for the third time in his career affected Alonso and his results in 2011 weren’t at the highest level. His only win was in the British Grand Prix and he had five 2nd places, which was enough only for the 4th place in the standings at the end of the year.
Losing to Vettel, again
The season of 2012 was another great opportunity for Alonso. He again had a ’match ball’ in his hands but for the second time Vettel grabbed his chance and won the title, leaving the Ferrari driver three points behind in the battle for the title. Fernando won three races but through the season he was in a bit more stable form than Vettel. Before the last Grand Prix of the year in Brazil, Vettel was the championship leader. The conditions at the track were tricky and Vettel spun early in the race that left him out of the battle for the win. Alonso had a chance to win the title which unfortunately didn't happen, he finished 2nd, and that left him empty-handed.
In 2013, Alonso for the second year in a row finished as a vice-champion, but he was never really close to challenging Vettel. Wins in China and at his home in Spain were the highlights of the season and probably that was an announcement of the events that will follow in 2014. Fernando’s last year with the most popular team definitely was the worst one. He was outrun by his teammate Kimi Raikkonen and managed to score only two podiums out from 19 races. At the end of the season, he was 6th in the standings what made his departure from Ferrari quite laborious.
Return to McLaren turned into a nightmare
In December of 2014, Alonso signed a two-year contract with his former team McLaren Honda. He was accompanied with another former champion Jenson Button and the team had great ambitions. Unfortunately, the start was bad for the Spaniard who had a heavy crash during the pre-season test in Spain and was airlifted to hospital but was released after few days. However, he missed the start of the season. McLaren MP4-30 proved to be slow and unreliable and left Alonso frustrated. He scored points only twice with 5th place at Hungaroring as the only notable result in the horrible season.
Even after a nightmare in 2015, Alonso remained with McLaren for 2016 when the things slightly started to improve. In the mid-season, he already had more points than in 2015 and remained with the famous but struggling team in 2017. Sadly, the results remained quite poor because of unreliable car.
Indianapolis 500 attempt with Andretti's Honda
That's why the Spaniard decided to try his luck elsewhere and to taste some new experience. Parallel to his F1 duties, Alonso debuted in the IndyCar Series at Indianapolis 500 becoming the first active Formula 1 driver to contest the race since Teo Fabi in 1984.
His main ambition was to become a contender for the Triple Crown of Motorsport but his first attempt was unsuccessful. As a driver of Andretti-McLaren-Honda team, Fernando led at one point and was among the frontrunners before retiring on lap 179 due to engine failure.
Victory at Le Mans 24h in the first attempt
In 2018, Fernando stayed with McLaren following team's switch to Renault engines. The results in the first half of the season are promising as he finished six times in the top 10 in first nine races.
Parallel to his F1 programme, Alonso signed with Toyota Gazoo Racing to participate in the FIA World Endurance Championship. He is sharing the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid with Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi. After winning the season-opening race at Spa, Alonso and his teammates triumphed at 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
Involved in the controversies
Over the years, Alonso’s name was involved in many controversies and two of them are the best-known. In 2007, ’Spygate’ affair when some team members within McLaren, among them Alonso, were aware of confidential information belonging to the Ferrari team. The following year, during Singapore Grand Prix, Renault allegedly ordered Alonso's teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. to crash causing a safety car at a moment where Alonso would get tremendous benefit from his race strategy, putting him in front of the field, and giving him a chance to win the race, after a number of opponents suffered. In both cases, it has been proved that Alonso didn't do anything wrong.
Out of Formula 1, Fernando is a huge fan of cycling and even planned to form his own team. Alonso’s private life always was interesting to the tabloids. In 2006 he married Spanish singer Raquel del Rosario but the couple divorced in December 2011.