It’s a Sunday just like the one about to happen except dating back a few years: May 12, 2013 to be precise. The Spanish Grand Prix is the fifth on the calendar, like this year. Ferrari have all the cards on the table to be competitive all year long: another similarity with the current season. All the rest comes from the art of Fernando Alonso. Get set and go.
The two Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton start from the front row, but from out of nowhere a red missile streaks ahead; leading the race up the hill that follows the chicane at the end of the start-finish straight. The particular move that puts him there is an inspired invention from the Spanish driver: he goes to the outside of the sweeping uphill right-hander and somehow keeps his Ferrari firmly pointing straight, despite the crazy lateral forces persuading otherwise. As the cars crest the hill, Alonso has stamped his authority on his home race. He stays there all the way to the chequered flag, raising the hopes of all Ferrari fans – who will then go on to suffer the most painful of disappointments at the end of the year, with an another second in the championship for Alonso: a mammoth 155 points behind Sebastian Vettel, who is champion for the fourth consecutive year at the height of Red Bull’s powers.
But in a strange twist of fate, that May 12 was the opening move of a ballet that would see Vettel eventually take Alonso’s place at Ferrari. After that resounding success in Barcelona, Fernando would not taste champagne again for the rest of the season: nor would he throughout the following year, which turned out to be his final season at Maranello. Not only that, but his 2013 victory in Spain, up to now, is Alonso’s final one in Formula 1.
Ferrari too embarked on a win drought after the success at Barcelona: the situation was enough to convince Alonso to pack his bags (although interestingly, not enough to discourage Vettel from taking his place).
The win in Spain is yet another tumultuous snapshot of Ferrari’s history in Formula 1, as the only team to have participated continuously in the sport since it was inaugurated in 1950. So we’ve chosen just a few key moments of Ferrari’s history in Spain, each of which defines an era.
Let’s start in 1974, on April 20, and the fourth race of that year’s Formula 1 season. The race took place at Jarama, just outside Madrid. Ferrari’s new driver that year was a certain Niki Lauda, and he had arrived at Maranello over the winter; recommended also by Ferrari’s other driver, Clay Regazzoni, who had previously been team mates with Lauda at Team Surtees. Lauda wasn’t overly given to displays of emotion, and yet the passionate Italian tifosi soon took him into their hearts. In South Africa, four weekends earlier, the Austrian had taken pole position and led the first nine laps. At Jarama, he was on pole again. But this time, he backed that up with victory. At the time, a young Luca di Montezemolo was sporting director of Ferrari. For him, the last few laps were a source of anguish, as at the time there wasn’t any telemetry to tell the pit wall what was happening: he had to talk to the race director to be sure that victory was in the bag.