12 years have passed since that young Spanish driver (who was only 19) made his debut in the top category, thanks to Gian Carlo Minardi who, after seeing him racing, he wanted the Spaniard to run for his team. It’s just with the Minardi team that the Spanish driver made his debut into F1 at the wheel of the PS01: “I’ve always paid much attention to young drivers’ results, thanks to the support of a valuable staff. One of my contributors was Adrian Campos. After recommending me Mark Genè, who was a Minardi racer for two seasons, he made me focus on Fernando. I began to follow him and I was so impressed by his performances. It was clear that he was a step ahead of anybody else”, remembers Minardi.
In 1999 Fernando won the World Series by Nissan Championship and he had the opportunity to test a Minardi car at Jerez “As a tradition, my team usually raffled off a testing session to those drivers who won the most important Championships. That was the year of Fernando and other drivers. Despite the heavy rain, Alonso was able to do things a rookie driver had never done before. He just played with the car, so much so that in the third lap he had already set the best lap time, running 1.5 sec. faster than any other tester……At that point I understood that I was dealing with a completely different driver. So we negotiated for such a long time and, in the end, he finally signed a long-time contract with us.”
In 2000 he contested the F.3000 Championship with Astromega Team. He was successful, as in he finished second and scored a win in the last two races: “He began to work with us while he was contesting the F.3000 Championship. The most important test was at Fiorano, where he set incredible lap times so much so that he drew the attention of the Ferrari team. From that moment on, his reputation got better and better. Unfortunately we were in troubles and were thinking about selling the team. So we decided to put on the market Alonso’s registration which was offered to Flavio Briatore, as it happened before with Fisichella. According to the agreement, Alonso had to race either with the Minardi Team or with the Renault Team, he couldn’t race with other squads. In 2001 he contested 17 GP with us, running a successful season. The following year he was engaged by Briatore as a test driver.”
I immediately realised he would have become a successful driver and during his first season with us I stated many times he would have become the world champion. Now he’s about to contest the GP number 200, having two world titles under his belt. I hope he will win the third.
What’s Fernando best trait? “He’s always very concentrated and performing. His strength is to be able to run a race to the same level he runs in qualifying. That separates him from Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen and Webber. He has a broaden overview of the race, even without being supported by the radio or the timesheet. Happy anniversary Fernando!”, ended the manager from Faenza.