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TREMAYNE: Why age is still a number for the masterful and mischievous Fernando Alonso

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Could there have been a better front row for the Canadian GP than Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso? The reigning world champion, who holds the most youngest records in history, against the oldest man on the grid, who once held so many of them?

“It’s been a while since Fernando and I have been side by side on the grid,” said Max, and they had never actually been side by side before, I am reliably informed. “I used to look up to him as a kid, watching Formula 1, with him winning races and championships, so it’s great to share the front row with him.”

Fernando flashed that dark smile of his, clearly elated that it was going so well, though not surprised by his own speed. “I think we’ll attack Max in the first corner,” he smiled.

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I liked all of that. great box office


Alonso put his Alpine between Sainz’s Ferrari and Verstappen’s Red Bull on Saturday

The rain had made this the most open qualifying session of the season and by far the most exciting. Edge of the seat things. Across all three sessions, lap times dropped with the speed of machine gun fire, as the track literally improved lap by lap and one star replaced another over and over again.

But there was a definite pattern. Max, in the Red Bull RB18, had the best car, that was more than evident. And, boy, do you know how to use it? It was slippery, and every time you ran into another car you risked losing crucial tire temperature. It was a credit to F1 driving standards that so few made mistakes on a day when that would have been easy. Biggest box office.

READ MORE: Verstappen ‘in the shape of his life’ says Horner after Montreal ‘master class’

In Q1, Max topped the timesheets with 1m32.219s with Pirelli in the wet, but there was Fernando, in Alpine’s ever-improved A522, right behind him in 1m32.277s, ahead of the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc while they interspersed those of Kevin Magnussen. Haas.

Conditions improved enough for the Intermediates in Q2, and although it was a similar story this time, with Max faster and Ferdy in hot pursuit, the gap had expanded dramatically: 1m23.746s versus 1m24.848s, and this time behind them there was George Russell’s Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton interspersing Carlos.

So it all came down to Q3, when conditions continued to improve but, as the fearless George Russell discovered, standing water in Turns 1 and 2 militated against a switch to soft slicks.

WATCH: Qualifying Highlights – 2022 Canadian Grand Prix

Canadian GP Qualifying 2022: Fernando Alonso celebrates an impressive P2

Once again Max was the man, quickly supplanting the Mercedes duo with a stupendous lap of 1m22.701s, but that was not all. Right into the closing stages he improved to 1m21.620s, owning the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and while George was slipping and sliding, it was Lewis who broke into second with a 1m22.891s. That was also good to see. The two enemies of 2021 side by side in the front row? Not quite…

Max wasn’t done yet as he improved further to a 1m21.299s to throw pole beyond anyone else’s reach, but right at the end was Fernando, and how he must have loved not only pushing Lewis down but also also Carlos, whose 1m 22.096s had knocked the seven-time champion off the front row. For the first time since Germany in 2012, back in his Ferrari days, Fernando secured a front row spot, with a beautiful lap of 1m21.944s.

BEYOND THE NET: Fernando Alonso says he is still aiming for a third title to cement his legacy (2021)


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Verstappen was a class apart on Saturday; Alonso was closer to matching it

In the end, Fernando never attacked Max, and an engine problem hampered his race from lap 20 onwards. And at one point, when asked to stay behind Esteban as they battled for sixth place, he went back to Old Fernando while declaiming that he had been “100 times faster all weekend”, but that was the frustration that it leaked out as the warrior in him wailed. even more of the reliability injustice that has dogged his season. That was fueled further when the stewards handed him a five-second penalty for weaving down the straight, moving him from seventh to ninth, which he no longer liked.

So, in the end, this time there was no fairy tale. But don’t tell me that Fernando’s performance this weekend didn’t add enormously to the drama and appeal of the Canadian GP.

READ MORE: Alonso falls from P7 to P9 after receiving a five-second penalty in Montreal


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Alonso dropped to P9 after the flag, teammate Ocon took P6 in Canada

We live in an era that tends to champion youth, often at the expense of age and experience. There have been many who have been surprised by Fernando’s fire and speed as he approaches 41. Someone recently pointed out that he has been racing F1 longer than the last promising Oscar Piastri contender on the planet (he made his debut in Down Under on April 4, two days before Oscar, who is also in the Alpine books, was born in Melbourne). But while age has a habit of changing everyone, in the case of racing drivers, it’s more often than not that passion and commitment fade before physical appearance. But definitely not for Fernando, for whom age is just a number.

I remember Rupert Manwaring, former commercial director of Minardi, enthusing about his talent in 2001 when he made his Minardi debut at Albert Park. Back then, eyes were on his fellow rookies: Juan Pablo Montoya at Williams was the hero of IndyCar, while upstart Kimi Raikkonen had shown prodigious speed in testing for Sauber but was in a super testing period. license after having made the jump directly from Formula Renault. In the end, Fernando would outshine them both.

READ MORE: From Suzuka to San Marino – Ranking of Alonso’s best wins at Renault 10-1

How we loved him in 2005 and 2006! After working his way up in Hungary in 2003 to give Renault’s rare 111-degree V10 engine its only victory, he really earned his spurs when he edged out Michael Schumacher to win the 2005 San Marino GP. And that year and 2006, his driving eclipsed the German and ended his reign at Ferrari.

Ironically, things went awry when Fernando moved to McLaren in 2007. When he learned that Ron Dennis intended to put GP2 champion Lewis Hamilton in the second MP4-22 instead of his compatriot Pedro de la Rosa, he allegedly replied: So you want to win the constructors’ title? But Lewis outshone him, and although they each finished the season with four wins and 109 points, they lost in the final race in Brazil to Kimi Raikkonen, with Lewis beating Fernando to second on the countdown with five second places to four.


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Rookie Hamilton was a thorn in Alonso’s side in 2007

Fernando left in a huff at the end of a controversial and rough year, returning to Renault before joining Ferrari for 2010. More championships were surely to be expected. He is said to have cried for an hour at Ferrari’s hospitality in Abu Dhabi late that year, when Sebastian Vettel overtook him and his own Red Bull teammate Mark Webber to snatch his first world title in the hour. eleven.

Later, empty-handed when it came to new titles, McLaren’s surprise return to its troubled alliance with Honda preceded the worst period of his career. But despite things like that terse “GP2 engine” comment that hurt Honda so much at Suzuka, he never gave up. And as his teammate Jenson Button will tell you, even then you had to work really hard to get close to him.

All of that led to his adventure in Indianapolis in 2017, where he came close to winning the famous 500 miles and showed off his skill to a whole new audience. Success at Le Mans and winning the 2018-2019 World Drivers’ Championship with Toyota brought him back into F1’s orbit a different man.

Fernando Alonso enjoys celebrating his first F1 podium in seven years

Once perceived as an awkward team player who was only interested in his own well-being, he returned sunnier, perhaps now at peace with the fact that he never won as many titles as his prodigious talent deserved. And clearly fast enough to lead a team. The new poster boy for over 40s.

His friendship with Esteban is one of the most impressive things about the transition from Renault to Alpine. It is a genuine relationship of teacher and student, reminiscent of the one enjoyed by Jackie Stewart and Francois Cevert at Tyrrell. Fernando drove for Esteban in Hungary last year, crucially stopping Lewis’s attack (and reminding everyone what he could still do), then encouraging his team-mate to “drive like a lion!” in Qatar to help him get his first podium since China 2014…

People say that F1 is always better for having a competitive Ferrari, and the same applies when old warriors like Fernando add dimension by continuing to fight with everything they have to excite fans around the world. And it’s even better when they’re passionate, outspoken… and still very, very fast.

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