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

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.


Pakistan set to unleash 16-year-old Naseem Shah on Australia

Updated 20 November 2019

Pakistan set to unleash 16-year-old Naseem Shah on Australia

  • Naseem got plenty of attention in a tour game in Perth last week
  • Five former Pakistan players have made test debuts at a younger age than Naseem

BRISBANE, Australia: Sixteen-year-old Naseem Shah is ready to become the youngest test cricketer ever to play on Australian soil, with Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali confident the young paceman is among a group of bowlers who can help end a long winless streak Down Under.
Naseem, born on Feb. 15, 2003, got plenty of attention in a tour game in Perth last week not only because he tested the resolve of some experienced international batsmen, but also because it came soon after the death of his mother back in Pakistan.
Flight logistics and religious customs meant he couldn’t make it home in time for the funeral, so he stayed in Australia and skipped the first innings of the drawn tour game against Australia A before returning with a fiery eight overs in the second innings that netted 1-21, including the wicket of test opener Marcus Harris. It set him up for a test debut in the two-match test series.
“Obviously, it was a hard time for him but he coped with it and he came out and bowled the very next day, which is very heartening,” Azhar said Wednesday, on the eve of the first test at the Gabba. “We will definitely be looking to play him. He’s bowling really well.”
Azhar has played with Naseem at first-class level and thinks the young speedster has the fitness and the mental attitude to cope in the test arena. And he’s not concerned about the home team’s daunting record at the Gabba, where Australia is unbeaten since 1988.
“Not many players can reach (test) standard so early, but there are exceptions and he’s one of them,” Azhar said. “When I saw him first, I was so surprised. The control he had, the pace he had, and the temperament and the composure when he bowls is so exciting to see.”
Five former Pakistan players have made test debuts at a younger age than Naseem, including fast bowler Aaqib Javed, who was 16 years, 189 days when he played New Zealand in 1989, and Azhar said there’s no reason to hold players back based only on their age.
“The good thing about (Naseem) is he is very fit. I have no doubts about his fitness and his bowling skill,” Azhar said, reflecting his general confidence in a Pakistan team that is in a rebuilding phase and not expected to be overawed by Australia’s record at the Gabba. Pakistan hasn’t won a test series in Australia, and hasn’t won a test match here since 1995.
“We go in here with a lot of confidence. We have the talent to do well here. We’re very confident that if we execute our skills ... (we can) beat Australia. To do that, I think we have to keep believing and also play with no fear.”
Along with veteran paceman Mohammad Abbas, a pair of 19-year-old pacemen are also in selection calculations, with left-armer Shaheen Shah Afridi taking 12 wickets in his three tests to date and Muhammad Musa yet to make his debut.
While most of the selection focus has been on the fast bowlers, 33-year-old wrist spinner Yasir Shah is likely to play an influential role in the series. He struggled on his last tour to Australia in 2016, but returns with more than 200 test wickets and as a far better settled bowler.
The Australians will be playing a test series for the first time since retaining the Ashes in England, where opening batsman David Warner averaged just 9.5 in the series. He and Steve Smith were making their test match returns from one-year ban following a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in 2018 and had contrasting series, with Smith topping the scoring and holding many innings together for Australia.
Warner will be combining with a recalled Joe Burns at the top of a reshuffled batting order, and Australia skipper Tim Paine is confident the veteran opener will be back in scoring form.
“Just watching him the last few days, he looks like he’s back to his best, the ball’s making a different sound off his bat again,” he said. “But the most pleasing thing about Davey was during the Ashes when he was in the worst form of his career he didn’t change a bit, and a lot of players would.
Paine said Mitchell Starc was back approaching top form and he expected the left-arm paceman to play a leading role against Pakistan after missing selection for all but one of the Ashes series tests in England.
Starc and fellow pacemen Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood will join spinner Nathan Lyon in a pace attack containing plenty of success in local conditions.