TBT: Fernando Alonso’s First Formula One Victory!

Written and Edited by Bruna Brito and Aiden Hover

F̶e̶l̶i̶z̶ ̶N̶a̶v̶i̶d̶a̶d̶ … Happy Birthday Fernando Alonso!

The two-times world champion is turning 40 today, and to celebrate his incredible career, we at DIVEBOMB decided to look back at his first-ever Formula One victory ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix at the same venue.

The Hungaroring is a great place for the statisticians: Jenson Button achieved his first win here in 2006, Heikki Kovalainen scored his first (and only) win here in 2008, Lewis Hamilton achieved his first of 78 victories with Mercedes, and young Mick Schumacher won his first Formula Two race in 2019. Today, however, we focus on Fernando Alonso’s debut Formula One win at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix!

On that day, Fernando Alonso became the youngest driver in history to win a championship Grand Prix. Already the youngest person to achieve a Formula One Pole position (achieved in Malaysia that March) he had enjoyed his 22nd birthday just 26 days before the Hungarian Grand Prix, and so, upon winning, beat Bruce McLaren’s record achieved at the 1959 US Grand Prix by 78 days.

The Two times champion is looking forward to returning to the track in which he scored his first win, 18-years ago!

“I’m looking forward to it. Obviously, it’s a circuit where there isn’t much time to breathe with lots of tight corners. It feels like a big go-kart circuit. We all love driving there because I think the driver has quite a bit more input than some circuits. I’ve had some good results in Hungary, most notably in 2003 when I took my first ever Formula 1 win. I’ve also scored a few podiums too and the pole position in 2009 was good. I feel like the team is improving all the time, especially after the performance at Silverstone where both cars finished in the points, so we’re hopeful of another good weekend,” 

Heading into the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix, the young Spaniard lined up on pole. He had beaten out Juan Pablo Montoya by a surprising 0.492 seconds, crossing the racing line at 248.6 km/h to set an impressive time of a 1:21.688.

2003 was Fernando’s second season in Formula One (having served as a test driver during 2002) and the pole in Hungary served as only his second in his career whilst it was the 33rd for Renault as constructor and the 137th for Renault as engine supplier! 

Alonso started on the clear side of the track and led into the first corner. Behind, the two Williams drivers Ralf Schumacher and Montoya, who had started second and fourth respectively, began to squabble and fell backwards. Whilst Mark Webber, who had started 2nd, also seemed to struggle to match the Renault’s pace, allowing Alonso to pull out a 7-second gap by lap 13 when he came into the pits for fuel. Webber followed him into the box. Fernando re-joined the race not far behind the McLaren of Kimi Räikkönnen before the Finn pitted on lap 16, along with Rubens Barrichello and Montoya – regifting the lead to Alonso. 

Fernando continued to lead comfortably until his 2nd stop on lap 30, joined again by Mark Webber on lap 31 – though this time, the Spaniard’s advantage was great enough to allow him to rejoin ahead of Räikkönen whilst Webber dropped down to 9th

As the laps ticked down, Alonso seemed set to comfortably win following a dominant showing. He even lapped the reigning champion, Michael Schumacher – sending a message to the fans at home and in Spain that the guard was beginning to change. Further behind, Montoya spun and had to fend off his teammate to ensure his podium. 

After 70 laps, however, Fernando Alonso crossed the line to win a surely dominant race, and the first of his career – beating 2nd place Kimi Räikkönen by an impressive 16.8 seconds with Juan Pablo Montoya claiming 3rd and the fastest lap of the race!

Whilst this victory was his only in 2003, it cemented him in the record books as the youngest ever Grand Prix winner at the time and proved to the world the pure talent that the young Fernando Alonso possessed. It would be this pure talent that would eventually see him secure the 2005 and 2006 drivers championships as well as compete for many more. 

Alonso’s career is an extensive one with success throughout in many different categories, so perhaps here is maybe not the best place to summarise it. However, it is clear how much his honest personality and his remarkable attitude towards motor racing always allowed him to be true to himself and battle whatever came before him with a great passion. This passion took the hearts of a nation and was able to enchant the Spanish people into a trance that would last as long as Fernando Alonso was driving a fast car – wherever or whatever it may be. These Spanish fans support Fernando with such passion rivalled only by the Tifosi in Monza. The screams as he passes send chills to the bones and the love they give sends warmth to the heart as every single one of them aspires to be the fighter that Fernando Alonso had convinced them was possible. We rarely see a sportsman capture the hearts of so many and it is this innate ability that makes Fernando Alonso Días one of the greatest drivers of all time, along with Ayrton Senna and his loving Brazilian fans or Michael Schumacher and his die heart Tifosi Italian and German supporters.

Throughout 2021, Fernando Alonso has done incredibly well. Recovering from a road cycling accident that almost saw him miss pre-season testing, he has fought back to show the world and his adoring fans that he still has what it takes upon his Formula One return. He currently sits 11th in the standings and has played an integral role in Alpine’s 7th place as he has consistently demonstrated his insane overtaking and scoring ability.

With this, all that is left to be said is,

 Happy Birthday, Fernando, 

and thank you.

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