Even as a young boy, Formula One driver Fernando Alonso was a racing prodigy. Born on July 29, 1981 in Oviedo, Asturias in the northern part of Spain, he sat in his very first racing kart at the tender age of three. His father Jose Luis Alonso, who worked in mining as an explosives expert, was a big go-kart racing enthusiast. It was his father’s dream, and more, that he turned into a reality when the young driver graduated from karting to the bigger boys’ circuits—and ultimately to Formula One. Fernando Alonso broke the record as the youngest F1 champion, replacing Emerson Fittipaldi, when he won the World Driver’s Championship in September 2005, and is now a two-time World Champion.
Fernando Alonso’s first race kart was hand-built by his father for his older sister Lorena. Lorena, who was eight, tried it for a few small competitions but it was obvious that she lacked interest in that activity. The three-year old Fernando ended up inheriting the pedal kart, which had to be readjusted for his smaller size. It was nothing more than a game that the father and son played, but by the time he was five or six, it was evident that young Fernando was better skilled than other children behind the wheel. In June 1988, even before turning seven, he scored his first big win in Pola de Laviana, completing a junior competition for the first time and winning all 8 races of the competition.
They were not a well-to-do family but Fernando and his father pursued go-kart races whenever and wherever they could. Jose Luis stood by his son as his mechanic until he was 12. Most weekends were spent go-karting but Fernando’s mother, who was a department store employee, never objected as long as he kept his good grades at his school, Santo Ángel de la Guarda. Fernando began competing outside of Asturias when he was eight, winning championships in the junior class and cadet class. In 1992, he was given special permission by the Federation to compete in the 100cc category, for which he was under-aged. Fernando Alonso admits that he has always broken records when it came to being the youngest racer in a particular class.
At some point in their pursuit of races around Spain, it became obvious that his parents’ income could no longer support his sport, which proved to be very costly. Fernando knew it was up to him to continue winning races in order to get sponsors, and that he did. He won four consecutive Spanish championships from 1993 to 1996. He also won the Junior World Cup in 1996. He was the Italian Inter-A champion in 1997 and the Spanish Inter-A champion in 1997 and 1998, and placed 2nd in the 1998 European Cup.
In October 1998, Fernando Alonso was given his first test in a race car by former Formula One driver Adrián Campos. In 1999, Campos entered him in the Euro Open MoviStar by Nissan series at the Albacete circuit, which he won. As a result, he quickly moved up to Formula 3000 the following year and was again the youngest racer in the 2000 series. He placed 4th overall that year, and it was enough for him to advance to the next level: F1.
Fernando Alonso made his F1 debut at the Australian Grand Prix in 2001, with Minardi. Although he didn’t place in his first year, he managed to get considerable attention with some of his performances. Renault signed him up as a full time test driver in 2002, and in 2003 finished 6th for Mild Seven-Renault in the championship. He was again the youngest driver to make pole position that year in Malaysia, as well as the youngest ever to win an F1 race, which he did at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix. In 2004, he placed 4th overall, still with Renault.
Fernando Alonso made history in 2005 when he won the F1 championship—as the youngest World Champion ever, no less. More significantly for F1 fans, he is credited for ending Michael Schumacher’s 5-year stretch as champion. He did the same thing the following year, making him the youngest double-champion in F1 history.
Alonso transferred to the McLaren-Mercedes team in 2007 and managed to get to 3rd place at the end of the season. However, controversies surrounding the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix involving him and his teammate Lewis Hamilton, as well as the espionage debate between the McLaren and Ferrari camps, greatly affected Alonso’s relationship with McLaren, resulting in a mutually agreed upon early termination of his contract. Fernando Alonso is back with Renault in 2008, driving under the number 5, his old number when he got his first championship.