A brief biography of McLaren driver Fernando Alonso, including his career history and Formula One statistics
As normal as it may be for future stars of Formula One to start their racing careers young, Fernando Alonso still stands out. He was just three when given his first kart, made by his mechanic father Jose Luis. It had actually been intended for Fernando's eight-year-old sister Lorena but she showed little interest in karting; but there was no stopping young Fernando.
Alonso won five Spanish karting championships from 1992, and in 1996 took the world crown as well. He then moved to Formula Nissan and claimed the title in 1999 driving for Adrian Campos, before a somewhat underwhelming season by his standards in International Formula 3000.
Now managed by Flavio Briatore, Alonso became the third-youngest driver ever to start a Formula One race when he lined up with backmarkers Minardi at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix. When Renault bought out the Benetton team in 2002, Alonso was appointed the works team's test driver for the season and he was subsequently rewarded with a full-time drive the following year replacing Jenson Button alongside Jarno Trulli.
Alonso became the youngest driver to date to achieve a Formula One pole position at the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix, and was at the time the youngest driver to win with victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix later in the year. After a subdued 2004 he sparked to life at the start of 2005, opening the season with five consecutive podiums including a hat-trick of race wins; he would clinch four more Grand Prix victories on his way to picking up his first world championship.
He clinched his second title the following year after finishing either first or second in all of the first eight races. By now Alonso was now keen to strike out on his own and in 2007 he moved to McLaren, only to find himself frustrated by the team's rookie driver Lewis Hamilton. Caught up in the 'spygate' scandal in which his emails with test driver Pedro de la Rosa were used to show McLaren had gained access to confidential Ferrari data, Alonso returned to Renault in 2008 only to have his victory in Singapore that year overshadowed by 'crashgate', in which it was revealed his team mate Nelson Piquet Jr. had been ordered to help Alonso by crashing in order to trigger an opportune safety car.
Alonso left Renault at the end 2009 for a five year stint at Ferrari alongside Felipe Massa, where he would pick up a further 11 Grand Prix wins and finish runner-up in the drivers championship in 2010, 2012 and 2013. After a winless 2014 he decided to return to McLaren in search of his elusive third title, only to find the team struggling in their first year reunited with engine suppliers Honda. While performances have grown stronger over time, Alonso has been vocal about the need for the sport to rediscover some of its fun and enjoyment if he is to continue beyond the end of his current contract which expires at the end of 2017.