Fernando Alonso has a magic touch; he loves to entertain friends and family with card tricks and sleight-of-hand. But on Sunday night Alonso became, at 24, Formula One’s youngest world champion.
The previous youngest champion was Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, who was 25 years eight months and 29 days when he took the crown in 1972. Soon after the championship was decided, McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen warned Alonso to expect a closer fight next year.
The drivers’ title was the first for the Renault team, who still have a chance of adding the constructors’ crown to Alonso’s. McLaren lead those standings by 164 points to the French carmaker’s 162. Alonso’s win triggered a huge party in his hometown of Oviedo. ‘Fernando -Thanks for making our dreams come true’, read a huge banner held up by fans packed into an auditorium where they had watched the Brazilian Grand Prix.
A crowd of waving, happy fans massed in Oviedo’s Plaza de Americas to toast his achievement, leaped up and down and chanting “Fernando, Fernando”. Some jumped into the fountain in the middle of the square.
Thousands of people waved the blue and yellow flag of Alonso’s native Asturias region in the north of Spain, which are also the colours of his Renault team. Spain’s King Juan Carlos telephoned Alonso to congratulate him, telling the driver it was a ‘‘great day for all Spaniards’’, Spanish state radio reported.
Alonso has single-handedly fuelled a huge boom in interest in Formula One in football-obsessed Spain. Television audiences have soared for what used to be a minority sport in the country as Spaniards have been gripped with Alonso fever. Managed by Italian Flavio Briatore, the Renault boss who oversaw Schumi’s first two titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995, Alonso has not so much come of age this year as surpassed his years. Since March and the second race of the season in Malaysia, Alonso has led the championship with a rare maturity and self-confidence, Reuters reports.