Feature: Alonso's ongoing third title quest
16 March 2017 – Fernando Alonso enters 2017 as he did 2007 – a McLaren driver in search of his third F1 title. GPUpdate.net charts Alonso's near-misses, and other fruitless seasons, during his quest for that elusive crown.
2007 – Third, one point down
Alonso switched to McLaren from Renault, but there were fireworks early on with Lewis Hamilton, who emerged as a rookie sensation, backed by boss Ron Dennis. Alonso publicly fell out with McLaren by mid-season, a situation accentuated by the team's ongoing 'Spygate' saga, as matters turned acrimonious. Alonso still claimed four victories, but finished third in the standings, level with Hamilton, and a solitary point behind new champion Kimi Räikkönen, before returning to Renault.
2008 – Struggles, then wins, with Renault
Alonso returned to Enstone but the team struggled during the early stages of the campaign, as Alonso took just three points finishes from the opening seven events. Matters improved as the season wore on, with Alonso victorious in Singapore, albeit in controversial circumstances, when the full story of 'Crashgate' unravelled a year later. Alonso, ironically, then triumphed on merit in Japan and added a podium in Brazil to finish a credible fifth in the standings.
2009 – Renault's regression
Amid overhauled technical regulations, Renault floundered in 2009, leaving Alonso to scrap for points against some of his esteemed rivals, as Ferrari and McLaren also dropped the ball, with Brawn and Red Bull surging to the front. In the garishly-coloured R29, Alonso scored points in fewer than half of the Grands Prix, managing only one podium in Singapore, as he took ninth overall, though scored a low-fuel pole position in Hungary. Nevertheless, Alonso secured a seat at Ferrari for 2010, as the outfit ousted Räikkönen.
2010 – Back to the front
Alonso triumphed on his Ferrari debut in Bahrain as the F10 emerged as a contender, albeit still lacking downforce compared to Red Bull's RB6, with McLaren the third party in the fight. Following a mid-season dip, Alonso won in Germany, Italy, Singapore and Korea to head into the finale at the top of the standings. However, Ferrari responded to the threat posed by Mark Webber, pitted, and left Alonso stranded behind Vitaly Petrov, as Vettel claimed a surprise title with victory. Alonso finished runner-up, just four points behind Vettel, under the sport's revised scoring system.
2011 – Floundering Ferrari blunts hopes
As the potent combination of Vettel, Red Bull's RB7 and new Pirelli tyres stormed to the title, Ferrari was left scrapping for podiums, the team failing to grasp the exhaust blown diffuser. Alonso took 10 podiums over the course of the campaign, but only one win, notably at a damp Silverstone, when a ban on the exhaust blown diffusers was temporarily put in place. Alonso finished a distant fourth in the championship standings, as Vettel swept to his second title.
2012 – From disaster to near-triumph
Ferrari lacked pace compared to its rivals early in the year but a series of dogged drives from Alonso kept him in contention, none more so than in Malaysia, where he took a shock win in wet weather. Alonso won in Valencia and Germany, opening a 40-point lead, but two retirements in Belgium and Japan cost him a hatful of points at a critical moment, as Vettel and Red Bull went on a winning spree. Alonso clung on in the fight with five straight podiums, but ultimately missed out during a chaotic wet finale in Brazil, losing to Vettel by only three points.
2013 – Victories, then Red Bull surges clear
Alonso triumphed in China and Spain, the latter via a brilliantly aggressive four-stop strategy, to sit in to contention for the crown. However, he dropped points through a lack of consistency before Vettel and Red Bull once more pulled clear, winning the final nine races on the bounce, ending Alonso's slim hopes of taking the title. Alonso finished runner-up to Vettel for the third time in four years, albeit by a sizeable margin in 2013.
2014 – Ferrari failure, before exit
Ferrari had hopes of profiting from the change to 1.6-litre V6 power units but instead it was Mercedes which moved clear, dominating the sport in a manner not seen since McLaren in 1988. Ferrari failed to grasp the rule changes as Alonso vented his frustration, while Ferrari underwent a management cull in response to the struggles. Alonso managed to take two podium finishes, leading until the final few laps in a wet/dry Hungary before a charging Daniel Ricciardo moved ahead.
2015 – McLaren at the back
Alonso, following years of near-misses at Ferrari, embarked on a new project with McLaren, as the team reunited with power unit supplier Honda. A mysterious test accident caused Alonso to miss the first race, but it made little difference, as year-long struggles with deployment left him and team-mate Jenson Button severely handicapped. Alonso managed points in only two races, the highlight a superb fifth in Hungary, as he slumped to 17th in the standings, his worst placement since 2001.
2016 – Returning to the top 10
McLaren-Honda delivered a step forward in 2016, though the most impressionable moment of Alonso's season came in Australia, where he dramatically rolled after clipping then Haas driver Esteban Gutiérrez. A couple of fifth places, in Monaco and the United States, were the high points, as he finished with nine top 10 finishes to place 10th overall in the standings, 10 years after his second world title.
2017 – Yet more frustration?
Honda has adopted a high-risk engine approach that may well pay dividends in the future. But right now, Alonso will head to the season-opening Australian Grand Prix facing another difficult start, lumbered with an uncompetitive and unreliable car. Already, the decade-long wait for a third title is facing a further extension…