While their fans shout “la 33”, 10 years have passed since “la 32”. Fernando Alonso, back then still at Ferrari, drove his fans crazy with an unexpected win, like most of his last few F1 victories.
On this day ten years ago, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was crowded with supporters who believed in their star. As Alonso drove for Ferrari, the fanatical Spaniards and tifosi were a match made in heaven for both fandoms. The results were not what everyone expected, as Fernando was unable to win any World Championships with Ferrari, but occasionally, the performance was there to fight for incredible races. And there wasn’t a better place like the Spanish Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso’s loss in 2012 was still very fresh
Alonso’s relationship with Ferrari was deteriorating. The Spaniard was upset because Ferrari had not produced a good enough car to compete for the championship without miracles. In 2010, the F10 was the fastest car on the field in some races, but in others, such as Turkey, it was just a “tractor,” as Alain Prost described his Ferrari. In 2011, it was unable to generate adequate downforce, and the machine was only able to compete for victories in a few races.
And in 2012, it was much worse: Alonso was in the title race miracle after miracle, but Ferrari didn’t upgrade the car enough to stay up with Red Bull Racing’s revisions in the final third of the season. This, combined with the crashes in Belgium and Japan, put Fernando Alonso in a precarious situation in which he needed to capitalise on every opportunity. In the end, the miracles were insufficient, as Sebastian Vettel won the championship by three points.
The start of the 2013 season was once again a touch disappointing, as Ferrari produced a car that was friendly to the tyres but was still a bit behind Red Bull and Mercedes in one-lap pace. As a result, as well as some reliability issues with the Ferrari F138, the team struggled in the first few races.
But then, the Spanish Grand Prix. The reunion of Alonso and his beloved fans was always exciting, with amazing performances like the 2011 race launch or the exhilarating 2006 race victory.
This time, the F138 was fast from the get-go, as it was the fastest car in the free practice sessions. But qualifying was, once again, the weakest point of the car. Fernando Alonso was only fifth, while Felipe Massa, his teammate, finished with the sixth fastest time. In front of them, both Mercedes, his rival, Sebastian Vettel, and his rival from 2005 and 2007 seasons, Kimi Räikkönen. It wasn’t a good omen, to say the least.
A ridicolous race launch to make the people believe
Race launches are one of Alonso’s most well-known characteristics. With outstanding responses and positioning, the Spaniard has proved his ability to navigate the first few metres of the race. And this year was no exception. Alonso beat both Lewis Hamilton and Kim Räikkönen with a brilliant around the outside double move into the third corner to finish third in the race.
Not long after, the Spaniard took the lead, lighting up the spectators in the stands. With a quick and constant pace, he won’t give up his lead. Kimi Räikkönen was the only real threat, although he was losing up to two seconds per lap to Alonso at times. The victory was his, which sent the crowd into ecstasy for the last time for the home hero.
Is Alonso in a position to win again?
Alonso is in an ideal spot to compete for podiums again after ten years and three teams. The Spaniard, at 41, has been revitalised by a much improved Aston Martin. Four podiums out of five races are a good sign, but “la 33” has seemed too far away for now.
The odds are skewed against him for the next race, with a rate of £17. But, as we learned from past times, Alonso is relentless, and is always hungry for more races. Let the chase of “la 33” continue.