Cesare Fiorio, in charge of Minardi at the time, likes to tell the story of Fernando Alonso’s first taste of a Formula 1 car, when the young Spaniard was told to go quickly but not take any risks. Alonso, who was about 19 at the time, was having the time of his life but found himself called back into the pits unexpectedly. The test took place on a track that was more than just a little damp, and Fernando was one of three or four young drivers taking part in the Minardi test. Fiorio knew plenty about young drivers and how they worked, having managed several of the most prominent race and rally teams for more than 30 years and so nearly taking Ferrari to the F1 title in 1990. “I thought I told you not to push!” barked Fiorio at Alonso, now back in the pitlane. “But I wasn’t?” replied the bemused young Spaniard.
That little episode tells you more or less everything you need to know about the capabilities of a driver who claimed two titles in 2005 and 2006 at Renault: the team he will return to next year. But with just a bit more luck it could have been double that number of championships, with two more at Ferrari. That would have placed Alonso truly in the company of the greats.
Fernando Alonso Diaz was born in the Asturias region of Northern Spain. It’s a barren land with solid people and strong emotions. Alonso’s racing CV followed a tried and trusted route: karting, then the junior formulae, then a test driver role. All the time he showed the potential that would come to be underlined when he finally got into a Formula 1 car full-time. The Spaniard had an innate ability to be fast straight away, without needing to get up to speed first, and showing no weak points: either technically or in his mindset. In short, he was a predestined winning machine.