Fernando Alonso McLaren

Fernando Alonso

Driver Details

  • Nationality: ESP
  • Current standing: 16th
  • Points: 11
  • Last Race: 11th
  • Best Finish: 1st (x32)

Fernando Alonso has made the move that was once unthinkable and returned to McLaren for 2015.

Eight years after spending an explosive single season at Woking, in which he fell out with Ron Dennis, endured a tense relationship with a then rookie Lewis Hamilton, and the team became embroiled in the Spygate scandal, the Spaniard has returned to the place where he admitted on his early departure "it is not a secret that I never really felt at home".

But with the passing of time appearing to have been a healer in this case, Alonso, having grown tired of Ferrari's inability to provide him with a championship-winning car after five seasons, has agreed to bury the hatchet with Dennis and accept the challenge of spearheading McLaren's own bid to return to former glories with returning engine partners Honda.

Alonso's status as one of the grid's elder statesmen - he made his F1 debut as a 19-year-old back in 2001 with minnows Minardi - means that time is inevitably running out on his long-stated aim to win a third world title to add to the two he won at Renault in 2005-2006. But while Alonso may be into his ninth year of waiting for that so-far-elusive championship hat-trick, it's arguable that his stock has never been higher.

The Spaniard's talent was obvious from his very first steps in F1 machinery with Minardi and it was no surprise when his manager, and Renault team boss, Flavio Briatore promoted him to the role of the Enstone team's test driver for 2002 and then handed him a race seat the following year.

Alonso's rise was astonishing. The next 12 months saw him become the youngest driver ever on pole and the youngest to set a fastest lap, while his win in Hungary in 2003 made him the youngest ever race winner at the time.

Momentum subsided the following year but Alonso hit back comprehensively in 2005, claiming seven wins and eight other podium finishes on his way to the becoming the youngest ever world champion.

Despite announcing in November 2005 that he would be joining McLaren for 2007, Alonso stayed with Renault for the 2006 season and went on to claim back-to-back titles after beating Michael Schumacher in a thrilling season-long duel.

In the end, he only missed out on the hat-trick by a point after joining McLaren the following year. But Alonso's move to Woking proved ill-fated as he spectacularly fell out with team boss Dennis - the emergence of rookie team-mate Hamilton, who Alonso came to perceive was enjoying favourable backing, as a title contender being the sticking point.

The Spaniard was soon on his way back to Renault and although the team were not the force of old come 2008, Alonso still produced results beyond the car's capabilities and a late-season surge saw him finish fifth in the standings. 2009, however, proved a massive disappointment and the team ended the campaign engulfed in high controversy after the events of the previous year's Singapore GP, which Alonso won after team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crashed, came to light. After months of speculation, it came as little surprise when he left for Ferrari to replace Raikkonen.

Alonso's career in red started in fine style, winning the season-opening Bahrain GP. But from there it went downhill, culminating in a row in Germany after Felipe Massa was given orders to move over, handing his team-mate victory. The fine that controverial move triggered seemed a very small price to pay as the win sparked a turnaround in form for Alonso, who went on to win the Italian, Singapore and Korean races, putting him firmly in the hunt for the world title. Heading into the final race in Abu Dhabi, Alonso was leading the fight, but a strategic pitwall error cost him and allowed Vettel to take the title by four points.

That miss inspired many a comment from Alonso and Ferrari about how 2011 would be better, about how they would atone for their mistakes and about how they would seek revenge. That never happened, however, and the season ended with just one victory at Silverstone.

Year three seemed set to follow a similar pattern as a disastrous pre-season with the new F2012 saw the team over a second off the pace, and not even able to make Q3, at the season-opener in Australia. But a battling fifth place in race conditions would ultimately set the tone for the year as Alonso repeatedly overcame middling qualifying results.

Two surges through the grid - from ninth to first in the rain in Malaysia and 11th to victory on home soil in Valencia - were the stunning highlights and all of a sudden Alonso held a 40-point advantage over his rivals at the halfway point of the season.

The impossible dream suddenly seemed achievable but on the resumption of the season, two costly first-corner exits at Spa and Suzuka, and a four-race winning streak from Vettel, swung the title race in the German's favour despite a nail-biting decider in the rain of Interlagos.

That was close as Alonso would get to becoming Ferrari's next world champion. In 2013 he finished second to Vettel again, but the early promise shown by two early-season wins in China and Spain never materialised into a serious challenge as Red Bull's dominance went up a gear.

During the course of that season the first cracks in Alonso's Ferrari dream started to appear too: the Spaniard publicly rebuked by President Luca di Montezemolo for tongue-in-cheek comments about the team's underperforming car and details emerging of supposed attempts to engineer a move to Red Bull.

Alonso's simmering frustration then finally came to a head in 2014. With Ferrari off the pace in the first year of F1's new turbo engine era, and the team going through the season without a win for the first time in 21 years, the Spaniard decided that enough was enough and negotiated an early termination of his contract with two years of the deal still to run.

That opened the door for his 'back to the future' switch to McLaren where he partners Jenson Button.