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Alonso's failed career moves before Aston Martin jackpot

Fernando Alonso has moved teams in Formula 1 six times through the years, with some of these swaps being failures. However, his Aston Martin switch looks as if it might pay off.

It is one of the more remarkable statistics in the history of the Formula 1 World Championship, that if Fernando Alonso had scored 11 more points he'd be a five-time champion. Two extra in 2007, five in 2010 and just four in 2012 would have propelled Alonso to contention as one of the series' GOATs in that ever-going and never to be resolved debate. Instead he is a two-time champion who has come to represent something akin to the pantomime underdog, one let down by his equipment while the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and now Max Verstappen rack up wins and titles. However, it finally appears that Alonso could be in the right place at the right time following his switch to Aston Martin from Alpine. His previous employers are firmly in the midfield – having not kicked on after a strong 2022 – whereas Aston appear to have broken into the so-called 'big-three', with Alonso claiming third in the Bahrain opener, just his fourth podium of the entire turbo hybrid era. With that in mind, RacingNews365.com has taken a look at those Alonso career moves which did not quite work out, starting with McLaren.

McLaren 2007

It's hard to argue that switching from Minardi in 2001 to Renault as a test driver in 2002 – with a subsequent race drive in 2003 – was a bad career move for Alonso. It brought him the 2005 and 2006 titles before jumping the good ship Enstone for HMS Woking for 2007, with McLaren boss Ron Dennis first pitching the idea whilst waiting for the podium at the 2005 Brazilian Grand Prix, just after Alonso had clinched the title. On paper, pairing Alonso and Hamilton should have worked – and it did for about 10 seconds of the first race, when rookie Hamilton went dancing around the outside of the reigning champion at Turn 1 in Australia. Over the season, the relationships detonated inside the team, with the spectre of Spygate hanging over the season. By autumn, it was perfectly clear that Alonso's multi-year deal was to be ripped up and, with McLaren being chucked out of the Constructors' for Spygate (a title they'd have won by nine points), attention turned to winning Hamilton the Drivers'. The team fumbled Hamilton's pit strategy in a wet Chinese GP, leaving him out far too long on worn Intermediates to cover Alonso, not realising Kimi Raikkonen was the big threat. One slippery pit lane entry later and F1 had a three-way title in Brazil, from which Raikkonen would emerge victorious.

Renault 2008-2009

This is not a failed career move, per se, but the impact of Alonso's second spell at Enstone was dynamite. After leaving McLaren, he found not many seats at the various Inns, so returned to Renault. The only other realistic option was Ferrari, but they were not about to boot the World Champion or his teammate out – yet. 2008 was the better of the two-year spell, culminating in wins in Singapore and China late in the season. Indeed, that Singapore win – in the 800th World Championship Grand Prix – was immediately cast into doubt following Nelson Piquet Jr's claims he'd ordered to crash on purpose to assist Alonso's race. The Spanish driver had looked strong in practice, but a fuel pick-up problem put him out in Q1, with an unusually short-fueled first stint unfolding on Sunday. Piquet Jr crashed shortly afterwards, allowing Alonso to vault up the order to the lead while others pitted. Alonso was cleared of any knowledge of the plan after being interviewed by a former Scotland Yard detective organised by then-FIA president Max Mosley.

Ferrari 2010-2014

Alonso was not the first great driver to move to Ferrari in the hope of rebuilding the Scuderia into something great but, like Alain Prost before and Vettel immediately after, he found the Cavalino Rampante just too difficult to bring under control. He should have won the 2010 title, heading into the finale with a 15-point lead over third-placed Vettel. In Abu Dhabi, they failed to realise Vettel was the threat and not Mark Webber, covering off a pit-stop from the Australian and dropping Alonso into traffic. Arguably, losing the title by four points was as good as it got for Alonso at Ferrari. 2011 was a write-off, with only Alonso delivering one of the all-time great driving seasons in 2012 putting the team anywhere near a championship as Vettel took his time easing in with Red Bull. This was firmly the Vettel-Red Bull era, and a run of four straight wins in Asia stunted Alonso's momentum, although being eliminated in first-corner accidents in Belgium and Japan cost him dear. 2013 started strongly but, after Alonso's second win in fives races at home in Spain, Vettel accelerated away. To this day, nearly 10 years on, Alonso has not won another Grand Prix. Come 2014 and Ferrari badly fumbled the turbo hybrid rules with a slow and heavy power unit, causing Alonso to look elsewhere, before being shown the door when new boss Marco Mattiacci signed Vettel...

McLaren again - 2015-2018

Alonso's second spell at McLaren between 2015-2018 was painful for all involved. Honda could not run the power units effectively in 2015, a year in which Alonso scored 11 points all season, 10 of them coming in Hungary. His barbed "GP2 engine" comment in Suzuka was as calculated as it was damaging. Many bridges were burned with it. Tangible 2016 progress was made as the McLaren-Honda dream Alonso had been sold looked a little more possible, but come 2017, all that was washed away. Alonso's skill in picking the absolute wrong place at the wrong time was shown again as the team began to hit rock bottom – although they didn't know it yet. Dumping Honda for Renault in 2018 – at Alonso's insistence – was hailed as a master-stroke, except all that did was expose the severe weaknesses on the chassis and aero side that had been hidden by the McHonda partnership. Alonso walked at the end of 2018, seemingly happy to never race another F1 Grand Prix in his life.

A positive move - Aston Martin 2022

A return to Renault – now badged Alpine – for 2021 was positive, with Alonso claiming a podium in Qatar before problems arose when renewing his deal beyond 2022. Alpine wanted a one-year contract with an option on their side (in other words, a one-year deal for 2023), before putting Oscar Piastri in the car for 2024. This was unpalatable and, with Vettel's F1 retirement announced on the Thursday before Hungary, Alonso was confirmed in the Aston Martin seat on Monday morning – in possession of a brand-new multi-year deal and a big bag of change for his services. Reflecting on the move in Bahrain after an impressive test and practice sessions, old rival Webber praised Alonso. "The car looks awesome, it is extraordinary and what would Aston have done if Fernando didn't go there?" Webber exclusively told RacingNews365.com. "Who else could have been in that seat? It's incredible how Seb retiring and how all that unfolded was mind-blowing. "You can have even said that he's going there for the money because it's not going to be [competitive], but now he's got both [money and competitiveness]. "He's hit the jackpot because he's got the cash and the missile. You've got to buy a ticket to the lottery and got to be on the grid having a crack."

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