Fernando Alonso is the youngest driver to be crowned F1 world champion and although there was nothing flashy in the manner that he clinched the title at Interlagos, the Spaniard is nonetheless a class act and fully deserves his place in motorsport history.

By Mike Fourie, News Ed.


Fernando Alonso is the youngest driver to be crowned F1 world champion and although there was nothing flashy in the manner that he clinched the title at Interlagos, the Spaniard is nonetheless a class act and fully deserves his place in motorsport history.


After finishing third behind the McLaren-Mercedes duo of Juan-Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkoen in the Brazilian Grand Prix, Alonso stepped out of his Renault R25, screamed “Vamos!” (‘Come on!’ in Spanish), triumphantly raised his fists in celebration and ran up to embrace his Régie team-mates. It was a bittersweet moment for many F1 fans... It’s marvellous for Formula One that we have a charismatic, bright-eyed and superbly-talented new champion, but some of us might have felt short-changed because we’ve been denied gritty wheel-to-wheel battles between Alonso and his rival, Raikkonen.


History might record that the 2005 season was ruined by the six-car Indianapolis GP fiasco, and that poor reliability ultimately cost Raikkonen any chance of winning the title in a car that was undoubtedly capable of securing the championship. However, Alonso has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, Michael Schumacher, who won his first title at the wheel of a car (Benetton Ford, 1994) that was arguably inferior to the Williams-Renault of Damon Hill.


Alain Prost won the 1986 title in a car that was not as good as the Williams-Hondas driven by Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet. By the time Ayrton Senna wrapped up the 1991 championship, his McLaren was no match for Mansell’s Williams-Renault and although Schumacher unceremoniously side-swiped Hill to win his first of first of seven world championship titles in Adelaide 11 years ago, it was poetic justice that the German succeeded Senna as the world’s top F1 driver.


Earlier this year, I had the privilege of attending the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. As it happened, the race was symbolic of the way the 2005 season would play out. On that day, it was amazing to see Alonso regain his composure after outbraking himself at the hairpin and maintain steady pressure on the then-leader, Raikkonen. When the Finn paid the price for a flat-spotted tyre on the final lap, Alonso was ideally-placed to scoop an unexpected victory.


Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Mika Hakkinen won their world championships in cars that were significantly superior to that of their competitors, and although Schumacher drove well in 1995, 2000 and admirably pulled himself together to squeak the 2003 title at Suzuka, the wind’s been in Ferrari’s sails for most of the decade. But, judging by the indifferent pace of Giancarlo Fisichella in 2005, there’s no doubt that Alonso was the biggest factor in Renault’s driver’s title glory.


Given Montoya’s recent form and the turn-up in the rulebooks for the 2006 season, who knows if Alonso will win the F1 championship again? Perhaps Kimi will be third-time lucky in 2006, or taste success with Valentino Rossi as his team-mate at Ferrari in 2007 (if the latest F1 rumour is to be believed).


But when Alonso wakes up this morning he will pinch himself, before realising the enormity of his achievement. King Carlos of Spain might bestow an official title on the 24-year-old dimpled wonder, and it would be very much deserved... Alonso has single-handedly raised the profile of F1 in football-crazy Spain and he is the most methodical, consistent and tactically-astute driver to win the title since Prost retired from the sport. He never lapped the entire field or blew Raikkonen and Co. away with blistering pace… Since Imola, where he repelled a dogged challenge from the wily Schumacher, the Spaniard looked like a driver who was destined to become champion - and the poster boy for F1’s new generation.


Now that the driver’s championship has been sewn up, it will be very exciting to see whether Renault can fight back to win the constructor’s championship. I doubt whether the Enstone-based team will have an answer to McLaren at Suzuka or Shanghai, but with Alonso leading the charge, the Régie will give it a fair go!


Brazilian Grand Prix result:

1. Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) McLaren-Mercedes 1h 29:20,574

2. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren-Mercedes 2.527sec

3. Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault 24,840

4. Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 35,668

5. Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault 40,218

6. Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari 1:09,173

7. Jenson Button (GBR) BAR-Honda 1 lap

8. Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota 1 lap