By the time he won the second of his back-to-back titles with Renault in 2006, Fernando Alonso could already boast a two-decade long racing career that had begun when he was just three years-old. The lucky recipient of a kart, made originally by his father for a less than enthusiastic elder sister, Alonso took to racing like the proverbial duck to water. After four years spent playing with the homemade kart, local, then national competitions swiftly followed.
The young Alonsos talents knew no bounds and in 1992 he clinched the first of five Spanish karting championships, a tally only overshadowed by a world crown in 1996. Eschewing other series, the Spanish teenager was determined to finish his apprenticeship in karting. An offer to drive in Formula Nissan, however, proved too much of a temptation and Alonso joined ex-Formula One driver Adrian Camposs team. With typical aplomb the Spaniard won the title, showing he was more than capable of making the switch to racing with gears.
A problematic move to F3000 in 2000 was but a brief hiccup, and a Formula One test with Minardi that same year secured him his first Formula One race drive with the team. It would prove to be a baptism of fire. Minardi, struggling for money and resources, was far from an ideal debut seat, but after outshining team mates Alex Yoong and Tarso Marques in qualifying, and with a tenth-placed finish in Germany, Alonso was signed by Renault as a test driver for 2002.
The move proved a masterstroke for team and driver alike. With his raw speed and fierce commitment much in evidence, the test seat became a race drive for 2003. Alonso surpassed his promise with ease and, at the age of 22, made Formula One history, becoming the youngest-ever pole sitter in Malaysia and then the youngest Grand Prix winner with a maiden victory in Hungary. That, however, was just the beginning.
Renault were off the pace in 2004, but the following year Alonso pushed the French teams ever-improving machine to its limits, drawing on his natural consistency and flair for improvising in even the most challenging circumstances. Claiming the drivers crown with two races left to run, Alonso - then the youngest title holder in Formula One history - instantly became Michael Schumachers heir apparent. A second successive title - deservedly won at Schumachers expense during the Germans final season - served to bear out Alonsos position as the vanguard of a new generation.
For 2007 he moved to McLaren, giving him the chance to become the first man since Juan Manuel Fangio to score successive championships with different teams. But while the car was quick, so was his team mate Lewis Hamilton, and an intense rivalry saw the pair finish level on points at seasons end, beaten to the title by a single point by outsider Kimi Raikkonen. It was a disappointing end to a frustrating year for Alonso, whose relationship with the team grew increasingly strained, particularly after his evidence helped condemn the team in the Ferrari spy scandal affair. It was hence no surprise when news came that he would be returning to Renault for 2008.
Renaults 08 machine was no championship contender, but that didnt stop Alonso showing his class. As the season progressed he was pivotal in transforming the R28 from a lacklustre performer into a race-winning machine. He took it to back-to-back victories late in the season, first at Formula Ones inaugural night race in Singapore and then in Japan.
Sadly that form did not continue into 2010 and the R29's lack of pace saw Alonso on the podium just once, in Singapore. Three days later that seasons worst-kept paddock secret was confirmed - that he would move to Ferrari for 2010 to partner Felipe Massa. There he made an instant impression, winning on his debut for the Scuderia and quickly establishing authority over his new team mate. Though the car struggled at subsequent rounds, the team were back on form by July and Alonso took a further four wins as he made up a 47-point deficit in the standings to go into the final round a strong title contender. But poor pit-stop strategy in Abu Dhabi halted his charge up the table and he ultimately finished second by just four points to new world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Season two with Ferrari was to prove yet more frustrating, with the teams 150° Italia rarely able to match its Red Bull and McLaren opposition. Despite that, Alonso took victory at Silverstone and a further nine podiums as he consistently out-drove his machinery en route to fourth in the final driver standings, a solitary point shy of Mark Webber in Red Bulls title-winning RB7.
2012 was to prove a better season for the Spaniard, although in the underwhelming F2012 he was made to fight for every point. Stellar results, such as his against-the-odds win in the rain at the Malaysian Grand Prix and victory in front of an adoring home crowd in Valencia, put Alonso at the head of the drivers standings for much of the year.
He was eventually overhauled by a rampant Sebastian Vettel with three races to go, but had he not been taken out on lap one in both Belgium and Japan it might well have been him, and not the German, taking a third world title. As it was, Alonso missed out by three points.