After a successful career in karting Alonso began single-seater racing in 1999, clinching the Euro Open by Nissan championship at his first attempt. In 2000 he competed in Formula 3000, winning the season finale at Spa to finish fourth in the standings. Still just 19, he signed a deal to race in F1 for the tiny Minardi team in 2001. Despite his youth and inexperience, Alonso shone for the Italian minnows, comfortably outpacing his more experienced team-mate Tarso Marquesz. Particularly impressive was his qualifying performance at Indianapolis, where Alonso lined up 17th - ahead of 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve.
Alonso’s manager Flavio Briatore, who also ran the Renault F1 squad, decided his protege would be best served learning the ropes as a reserve driver at the team in 2002. That meant a season on the sidelines for Alonso, but with this being pre-test-ban a lot of miles behind the wheel of a grand prix car followed.
Alonso was duly promoted to a race seat in 2003 and instantly impressed. He scored his maiden pole position at round two in Malaysia, eventually finishing the race third while another emerging young star, Kimi Raikkonen, took victory. But Fernando didn't have to wait long to match the Finn. At that season’s Hungarian Grand Prix he triumphed from pole, becoming the sport's youngest race winner at the time aged 22. He ended the year sixth in the standings
2004 brought consistency, though no second win. However with podiums in Australia, France, Germany and Hungary, Alonso was able to finish fourth in the standings, providing a strong base for the following season.
And Alonso made the most of that by exploding out of the blocks in 2005, finishing third at the season opener and then securing three wins on the bounce. The emerging pace of McLaren and Raikkonen was a long-running concern however, with the Finn's MP4-20 quickly developing into a better car than the Renault.
But while Raikkonen was perhaps a little faster, Alonso and his team had far greater consistency and reliability. The Spaniard was on the podium at each of the final six races of the season, wrapping up the title with a round to spare in Brazil and then taking a celebratory victory at the finale in China. At 24, Alonso became the sport's youngest ever World Champion.
His title defence started well, with Alonso finishing either first or second in the opening nine grands prix. However Michael Schumacher came on strong during the second half of the campaign, winning five races to Alonso’s one, and had the great German not broken down in Japan it could have been a very different story.
Nevertheless, Fernando had his second World Championship at the tender age of 25. Most believed many more would follow - though securing number three was his first challenge.
He switched to McLaren for 2007, joining rookie Lewis Hamilton at the team. Alonso began well, winning second time out in Malaysia and also triumphing in Monaco. However Hamilton’s pace and unwillingness to play second fiddle quickly led to intra-team tension. The results remained good, but the situation came to a head in Hungary. The infamous ’Spygate’ scandal soon followed, souring Alonso’s relationship with Hamilton and the team.
That didn’t stop him fighting for the world title, and with three rounds remaining he trailed Hamilton by just two points. A crash in torrential rain at the Japanese Grand Prix would prove costly, but he finished second at the penultimate race in China to head to the season finale just four points from top spot. In the event, Alonso missed out on a third successive title by a single point, finishing level with Hamilton but third on a results countback. Raikkonen was the new World Champion.
His place at McLaren now untenable, Alonso returned to Renault for 2008, but found a team significantly weakened from the one he'd left a little over 12 months earlier. Early season results were hard to come by, with Alonso not taking a podium during the first 14 races of the campaign.
Then came the breakthrough in Singapore where Alonso won following a very fortuitous crash by team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr. Of course, we now know the shunt to have been intentional - though Alonso was not found guilty of any involvement with the so-called ‘Crashgate’ plot. That win proved a springboard, as he triumphed again at the following round in Japan, eventually ending the season fifth.
But there was to be no Renault renaissance. In fact, 2009 was Alonso's worst in terms of results since his maiden campaign with minnows Minardi. Scoring a single podium in Singapore, he eventually finished ninth in the standings. Life wasn't all bad, however, as the Spaniard already had a Ferrari contract in his pocket for 2011. And, when the team elected to pay Raikkonen off a year early, that opened the door for Fernando to switch to the Scuderia in 2010.
Alonso made a dream start to life at Ferrari by winning the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, though he was handed the victory when Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull failed.
Further wins in Germany, Singapore, Korea and famously Monza gave him the points lead heading to the season finale. Everything looked rosy in Abu Dabi, but a bad strategy call left the Ferrari stuck behind Vitaly Petrov for the entire race, allowing Vettel to snatch the title. Alonso's third championship would have to wait.
Following the 2010 title push Ferrari appeared to take their eye off the ball, while reigning champion Vettel went on to dominate the campaign. Alonso secured just one win, triumphing in style at Silverstone on his way to fourth in the standings.
2012 brought another title tilt. Despite the Ferrari being slow out of the blocks Alonso grabbed a surprise victory in Malaysia, then triumphed on home turf by winning the European Grand Prix in Valencia. A further victory in Germany put him top of the standings ahead of the summer break, with the Red Bulls of Vettel and Mark Webber in pursuit.
He seemed capable of clinching the title through sheer consistency, with Vettel the more regular race winner but Alonso always grabbing solid points. However his chances took a blow when Romain Grosjean caused a huge turn one accident at Spa that eliminated the Ferrari. Though he was back on form thereafter, Vettel clearly had the quicker car and took the points lead at round 16 in Korea. An early spin for the German at the season finale gave Alonso hope, but the Red Bull made its way back through the order, consigning Alonso to runner-up by just three points. Once again, the Spaniard had narrowly missed out on a third title.
2013 started well, with Alonso's new Ferrari appearing to have regular race-winning pace. Victory in China and a very sweet home success in Barcelona followed.
However the car seemed to fade thereafter. Alonso remained in the hunt until the summer break, but when racing resumed Vettel went on an incredible run of results, securing nine successive wins to comfortably seal the title. Alonso was runner-up to the German for the third time, though on this occasion the margin was a whopping 155 points.
The 2014 Ferrari is perhaps the least competitive that Alonso has driven, yet he continues to put in incredible performances to secure results that utterly overshadow his new team-mate - long-time rival Raikkonen. Despite the car's inherent lack of pace the Spaniard has scored podiums in China and Hungary, and recorded points in every race until Monza when his car let him down. Rumours continue to circulate suggesting he will leave Ferrari but it would seem that, for the short-term at least, Alonso will remain the Italian squad's prize asset. Meanwhile, his chances of securing that coveted third world title grow smaller with every passing year.