Today Fernando Alonso is considered one of the last great all-rounders in motor racing who even afforded to take a break from Formula 1 to win the Le Mans 24 Hours with Toyota twice and the 24 Hours of Daytona for Cadillac. Three participations at the Indy 500 and his first mission for Toyota at the Rally Dakar show what talents still lie dormant in the 40-year-old Spaniard. None of this was foreseeable when – after only two years in motor racing – 19-year-old Alonso was given a chance to move up to Formula 1 and drive for Minardi in 2001.
Paul Stoddart had taken over the team early that year and secured the funding of Ford’s Zetec V10 engine. Extremely late decisions that got designer Gustav Brunner in trouble to adapt the car to the new V10 engine. Consequently one of the two PS01 chassis was completed only at the first race weekend at Melbourne. Fernando Alonso’s Grand Prix debut ended in 12th position with championship points far out of reach. A single top ten finish at Hockenheim was the limit of what was possible for the rookie and the 2001 Minardi. But in the meantime Flavio Briatore had signed the Spanish talent for Renault F1 where Fernando Alonso became test driver in 2002 and the youngest GP winner just one year later. At the latest when he became World Champion for Renault in 2005 and 2006 Alonso’s bumpy beginnings with Minardi were long forgotten.