Words Adam Cooper | Portrait Charles Coates/LAT
ALL ON RED
Has Fernando Alonso taken a reckless gamble
by committing to Ferrari through 2017? Or is the
Prancing Horse finally ready to fight the Red Bulls?
M uch can happen in a decade. At he end of 2001, the 20-year-old Fernando Alonso was preparing
himself for a year as test driver for Renault,
after making a name for himself in his
rookie Formula 1 season with Minardi.
Now his role at another Italian team, the
world’s most famous car marque, ranges
far wider than just driving the car. He’s
become Ferrari’s talisman, its motivator
and very clearly its No. 1 driver.
The fundamentals haven’t changed,
though. In ’01, what caught the eye was
how Alonso regularly qualified 18th in a
car only good enough for 21st. Ten years on,
Alonso still outperforms his car. A string
of fifth places on the grid benchmarked
the Ferrari on pure pace, yet Alonso earned
10 podiums and was in the running for
second place in the championship all the
way to the last race in Brazil.
It could have looked even better had he
not so often lost positions while struggling
on prime tires in the final stint – and,
indeed, had he not been punted off the
road by eventual winner Jenson Button in
Canada. But, all things considered,
Alonso sees it as a positive season.