Fernando Alonso: F1 master moves on, his legacy assured

McLaren's Fernando Alonso during the press conference for the French Grand Prix in June, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 14 August 2018
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Fernando Alonso: F1 master moves on, his legacy assured

  • Fernando Alonso has finally had enough of life in the slow lane with McLaren
  • The 37-year-old, the first Spanish driver to be crowned world champion, has long nurtured a dream to land motorsport's Triple Crown

LONDON: His two world championships now a distant memory, Fernando Alonso has finally had enough of life in the slow lane with McLaren.
The Spaniard is revered as a master of his metier, but his reservoir of patience with an underperforming car has finally hit empty.
The only surprise about Tuesday’s announcement that he was moving on to Indycar from 2019 was that it had not come sooner.
Since his return to ailing McLaren he has displayed great stoicism and humor as the famous British team struggles to produce a car to match the might of Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull.
The 37-year-old, the first Spanish driver to be crowned world champion, has long nurtured a dream to emulate the late Graham Hill and land motorsport’s coveted Triple Crown.
And his move to IndyCar in 2019 may well see him realize the ambition.
He has two legs in the bag, the Monaco Grand Prix and this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. That leaves the fabled Indy500 — he led the field on his debut in 2017 before his engine blew.
Born in Oviedo, in the Asturias province of northern Spain, Fernando Alonso Diaz inherited his passion for driving fast cars from his father.
Jose Luis was an amateur kart racer and presented his son with a replica pedal F1 car.
His parents said Alonso showed a competitive spirit at a young age and, like F1 legend Michael Schumacher before him, Alonso embarked on a karting career.
He won three Spanish karting titles before winning the world juniors in 1996.
He eventually graduated to Formula 3000 where he attracted the attention of the Formula One talent-spotters.
Flavio Briatore, the flamboyant Italian playboy became Alonso’s personal manager and guided his career, eventually bringing him to Renault where he claimed the world title for the first time in 2005, at 24 the then-youngest ever champion.
He defended his title the following season, calling on a combination of natural speed and competitive instincts, allied with supreme race-craft and an iron will to win, that invited comparisons with Schumacher.
In 2007 he switched to McLaren, but it proved a fractious time alongside a rookie named Lewis Hamilton.
He jumped stables back to Renault for 2008 and 2009, before Ferrari came calling where he followed in the footsteps of late aristocratic compatriot Alfonso de Portago, who raced for them in the 1950s.
He finished second in the world championship three times for the Italian marque, before rejoining McLaren in 2015.
Whilst leaving the door open for a possible return to F1, Alonso gave every indication in an emotion-charged message on Instagram, that he was bidding F1 goodbye for good.
Written as if to a lover he said: “You were not expecting me and I was not sure if I want to know you.
“When I barely knew how to walk, I ran straight toward the noise, the circuits, without knowing anything about you.
“We had very good times, some unforgettable, others really bad. We have played together against incredible rivals. You played with me and I learned how to play with you too.
“I have seen you changing, sometimes for good and sometimes for — in my opinion — bad.
“I know you love me but be sure, I love you too.”
The winner of 32 Grands Prix typically has promised to see out the 2018 season with “more commitment and passion than ever.”
F1’s loss is Indy’s gain.


India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

Updated 18 September 2018
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India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

  • India brace for Pakistan after surviving stern test against minnows Hong Kong
  • Usman Shinwari: Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high

DUBAI: As delirium sweeps the UAE ahead of the mouth-watering encounter between arch rivals India and Pakistan in the Asia Cup, it seems one man — at least outwardly — is not as excited as the rest of the country and cricketing fans the world over.
India captain Rohit Sharma played with a straight bat when asked about the biggest clash in world cricket, set to take place today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. On his first Asia Cup media outing the 31-year-old seemed unconcerned by the impending showdown with their fiercest opponents, his focus instead on facing Hong Kong, who Sharma and Co. had a big scare against on Tuesday.
“Right now, we are not focusing on Pakistan as (first) we are playing Hong Kong,” Sharma said on Sunday. “Obviously we have to focus on that particular team but once we have finished that game we will focus on Pakistan and what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
These are clearly the words of a man so media trained that by now he could easily be on the other side of the desk, asking the same questions he and his colleagues sometimes enjoy batting back with crafted clichés that speak of focusing on “one game at a time” or the like.
Sharma was clearly right to not take his eyes off the ball with Hong Kong — they are not here to merely make up the numbers, as their brilliant, battling performance on Tuesday illustrated. But at the same time, Sharma will be all too aware that as India skipper the one match you do not want to lead your side to defeat in is the one against Pakistan, regardless of competition and location.
Clearly India are not leaving Pakistan preparations to the 14 hours or so (sleep included) between the close of the Hong Kong clash and the toss prior to resuming Indo-Pak cricketing rivalry. To suggest they are would be naive at best.
A year on from Pakistan’s show-stealing Champions Trophy final victory over the old enemy in June last year, and a whole five years since the two sides met outside of an ICC or ACC event due to strained political relations, the appetite for the first of potentially three matches at this year’s Asia Cup is huge and one borne out of starved hunger.
Pakistan’s Usman Shinwari, fresh off defeating Hong Kong on Sunday, was more candid than Sharma.
“Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high, and every player dreams of doing well in this contest,” the fast bowler said. “I took three wickets (against Hong Kong), I hope that can be five wickets against India.”
Shinwari’s sentiments were echoed by his captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, who is absolutely clear on the levels of expectation that this fixture demands from fans on both sides of the border.
“The passion is always there,” said Sarfraz. “When you play against India everyone wants us to win as it’s against India.
“The fans say that whatever happens you have to win but as a captain I have to win against every team. It would be the same for India whose fans want them to win. It has happened in the past that any player who performs in the Indo-Pak match becomes a national hero.”
UAE cricket fans cannot wait for the clash. It took just a few hours for the first batch of tickets to be snapped up, the second bought in equally ravenous fashion. It has left a huge number of tickets now being touted across online marketplaces, social media platforms and, ultimately, will likely see the inflated resales being pawned outside the stadium on matchday too.
An expected 25,000 fans will swell the Ring of Fire, set to deal not only with cricket’s most fierce rivalry but also with all the unpredictability that will be thrown their way.
The famed traffic jams around Hessa Street, leading up to the stadium, and local entrances of Dubai Sports City will heave and efforts have been made to ease the burden of vehicles that will cart both sets of fans in and out of the area. Gates will open from 12p.m. local time, a whole three and a half hours before the first ball has been bowled. In an emirate where the last-minute rush is a daily fact of life, this will be not be an easy thing to execute but that, alongside the immense presence of volunteers and security, should prove welcome additions to the day’s running order.
This, though, is India vs Pakistan. Anything could happen.