World champion Fernando Alonso has not only awakened Spain to the joys of four-wheeled racing, but cast a shadow over every other countryman.
Spanish competitors in the FIA’s World Rally championship, Dani Sordo and Xevi Pons, told ‘AS’ newspaper that they now struggle to get a mention either in the sports pages or on TV.
”In Spain, F1 is everything,” Pons moaned. ”My grandmother knows all about Alonso, but nothing about (World Rally Champion) Sebastien Loeb.”
F1’s champion of 1972 and 1974, however – Brazil’s Emerson Fittipaldi – thinks the 24-year-old deserves the plaudits. Last year, Fittipaldi’s record as the youngest ever driver to win the title was beaten by Alonso, and at Montreal Alonso pulled even with fourteen career GP wins.
”In the way he wins he reminds me of Senna,” Fittipaldi, now 59, said, ”but he also reminds me of myself in the way he withstands the pressure.
”I’m sure he will win the title again this year.”
Fittipaldi also denied the theory that Alonso has made a mistake in opting at the end of the year to leave a dominant team, Renault, for the comparatively struggling McLaren squad.
He explained: ”McLaren is one of the best teams in the history of F1 and I am sure they will recover.
”And if Alonso chose to change teams I am sure it was because he knows he is going to have a winning car in 2007.”