The four corners of Fernando Alonso
As we confirm the McLaren-Honda 2015 driver line-up, we taking a look back to the story behind Fernando Alonso's four McLaren wins in 2007.
2007 Malaysian Grand Prix
The newly crowned double world champion’s speed in the McLaren MP4-22 was clear to see right from the word go. Fernando Alonso arrived in Malaysia, the second round on the 2007 calendar, buoyed by his runner-up spot in the season-opener in Melbourne. However, he knew that the challenge from Ferrari would be significant.
Both Fernando and team-mate Lewis Hamilton had qualified behind the lighter and faster Ferraris, splitting them to start second and fourth on the grid. Fernando, lining up behind pole-sitter Massa, knew he would have to pull off a pretty extraordinary getaway to give himself any kind of hope of keeping the Ferraris in check during the race.
And pretty extraordinary it was. Massa’s chances were scuppered after he bogged down as the lights went out, and lightning reactions from Fernando meant he was able to pull alongside Felipe and pass him on the inside before they’d even reached the first corner. From there he was like a bull unleashed, charging away ahead of the pack. Massa lost further places after Lewis, in the sister McLaren, forced him into a mistake and secured second place.
Although now occupying first and second positions, there were still a chance for the Ferraris to jump ahead as the first round of pitstops began, but Fernando’s stunning racecraft put paid to that. He continued to stretch out his lead, despite suffering radio failure early on and enduring some of the hottest race conditions of the year. Further opportunities for Räikkönen to threaten a McLaren one-two later in the race fell away, and Fernando crossed the line more than 35 seconds ahead of his nearest Ferrari rival.
Malaysia was just the beginning of a season of dramatic twists and turns, and yet more evidence of Fernando’s stunning ability, and relentlessness, behind the wheel.
2007 Monaco Grand Prix
Tight. Twisty. Unrelenting. Although Monaco, with its famous Casino, is known as the playground where the super-rich gamble their fortune; around its unforgiving racetrack, only intelligence, tenacity and complete focus bring drivers the great prize.
Coming to Monaco, the fifth round of the season, the threat from the Ferraris loomed larger than ever. Having won three out of the first four races, it would take more than just luck to keep the red cars behind.
Such is the unforgiving nature of the track, one Ferrari was already removed from the equation come race day, with Kimi Räikkönen suffering an unfortunate meeting with the ever-present Armco barriers, breaking his front suspension and dropping him down to 16th on the grid.
The sister Ferrari of Felipe Massa, however, was a consistent threat all weekend, qualifying in an uncomfortably close third position right behind the two McLarens.
Starting on pole, Fernando led from the start and displayed masterful control, intelligently reading the race as it unfolded and analysing his rivals’ strategies to enable him to pull further and further away from the chasing pack. Massa, Ferrari’s challenger for victory remained a worry throughout the first stint as he posted consistently quick lap times, but his pace trailed off after the first round of stops.
So expertly executed and dominant was McLaren’s pace, third-placed Massa was the only car not to be lapped by both silver cars that afternoon. Fernando and Lewis finished a clear minute ahead of the lead Ferrari, claiming the team’s second one-two finish of the season.
2007 European Grand Prix
The European Grand Prix at the Nürburging, round 10 of 17 on the 2007 calendar, was one of the most dramatic races for years. The Ferraris played their best cards in qualifying, but Fernando managed to split the pair to start from second position.
What looked like a straightforward fight between the two teams proved to be almost anything but. At the start, Massa managed to overtake Fernando to line up behind his teammate. Behind the top three, things started to unravel, with a big incident at Turn Two causing chaos. This was compounded further by a torrential rainstorm which began on lap two, making the track surface undriveable and forcing a mass scramble to the pits.
Leader Räikkönen misjudged the pit entry and slid wide, missing the pit entry and leaving him no choice but to continue on another rain-soaked lap, sliding down the order.
With one Ferrari competitor out of contention, it became a straight fight between Fernando and Felipe for the top prize. They pitted at the same time for wet tyres, only for the conditions to get even worse, creating more chaos as no less than eight cars aquaplaned off the track over a newly-formed lake down at Turn One. The Safety Car was immediately deployed, and the decision was taken to stop the race.
The intensity of the rain began to lessen and the race was restarted under the Safety Car. Massa maintained his lead over Fernando at the restart, and after another round of pitstops for dry tyres the Ferrari proved much quicker on a dry track.
With 10 laps to go, the rain returned and the pair pitted at the same time. Fernando, who had kept Massa firmly within his sights, immediately set about reining the leader in. A close and dramatic battle for first place followed in extremely slippery conditions, but, showing his mettle, the Spaniard went wheel-to-wheel with the Brazilian. The pair swapped paintwork, with the Spaniard emerging ahead.
Some choice words from Massa in the post-race green room gave the world a clear indication that the little Brazilian wasn’t happy about the move: it was a muscular pass, but it stood. Win number three.
2007 Italian Grand Prix
Monza. One of those legendary circuits that always produces stunning performances. Round 13 out of 17 and the culmination of the driver’s championship was getting dangerously close. Arriving in Italy, Fernando knew the challenge from Ferrari would be immense, and that the overwhelming support they’d receive from their passionate tifosi could be just enough to provide that extra hundredth of a second of performance on home soil to make all the difference.
Qualifying was close, but only between the two McLarens, with Fernando pipping Lewis to pole by just 0.037s. Surprisingly, the Ferraris could only manage third and fifth on the grid, but Fernando was under no illusions that, come race day, their red rivals would mount a much bigger challenge for the front.
On Sunday, however, the threat from Ferrari proved unfounded. Fernando led from the start and drove masterfully to the chequered flag, displaying incredible raw speed and defending his position without any challenge from his nearest rivals.
A mid-race Safety Car slightly stemmed his progress, but Massa retired with reliability issues and Räikkönen simply couldn’t match Fernando’s blistering pace, the Spaniard crossing the line to lead home the fourth McLaren one-two of the season.
McLaren had fully expected a battle to the flag with Ferrari in front of the enthusiastic crowd, but Fernando took the fight right to them. Their biggest rivals had been well and truly beaten on home turf.