McLaren ’50 in 50′: Fernando Alonso

Two time world champion Fernando Alonso joined the team for an ill-fated season in 2007. Announced at the end of 2005 – before he went on to win his second title with Renault – the move was highly anticipated, even more so when it was announced he would be partnering rookie Lewis Hamilton.

Fresh off the back of a second world championship, Alonso joined McLaren in 2007 and wasted no time in becoming one of their race winners. He finished second in the first race of the season and went on to lead home a McLaren 1-2 in Malaysia. Following a win-less season in 2006, it was a welcome return to the top step of the podium for the team. A fifth place in Bahrain was followed up by a third place at his home Grand Prix in Spain. Alonso won again in Monaco, leading home another McLaren 1-2, with the two of them lapping all bar one driver – Alonso’s future team-mate Felipe Massa. He continued finishing in the points, with six podiums, in the next nine races. Included in those podiums were two further wins – at the European and Italian Grand Prix. He had mounted a solid attack on the championship, along with Hamilton and it wasn’t until the 15th race of the season that Alonso (and McLaren) had their first retirement of the year. In difficult conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix, Alonso aquaplaned and ended up with his car in a barrier. Second at the subsequent Japanese Grand Prix and a third in Brazil were not enough to win him the championship, instead finishing third tied on points with Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen became champion.

During his time with McLaren, Alonso got caught up in controversy. He was a key witness in the Spygate scandal that resulted in the team getting disqualified from the constructors’ championship, after exchanging e-mails with test driver Pedro de la Rosa about confidential Ferrari information. Hamilton also proved to be a challenge for Alonso, as the pair fought against each other for the title. At the Hungarian Grand Prix, after Hamilton refused to pull over and allow Alonso to pass during qualifying, the Spaniard got revenge by staying in the pit-box for too long. This resulted in Hamilton losing his opportunity to complete another lap and so missed out on pole position. Alonso was penalised and Hamilton got pole position in the end.

While the two time world champion’s time with McLaren was tumultuous, they came to an amicable agreement to end the multi-year contract early after just one season. Alonso contributed four wins to the team’s 182 wins tally, as well as numerous podiums. Alonso finished all bar one race in the points in an average position of 2.7. 70% of his finishes were on the podium. Alonso returned to Renault following his departure from McLaren and joined Ferrari in 2010.

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