Fernando Alonso says that introducing Formula 1 as a mainstream sport in Spain remains the greatest achievement of his career. The double-world champion walked away from F1 at the end of the 2018 season after 17 years competing.
Alonso was left frustrated after being unable to compete near the front of the grid for a number of seasons due to a lack of competitive cars. The Spaniard has set his focus on winning the Triple Crown of Motorsport, with just the Indianapolis 500 leg left to complete.
The 37-year-old remains the only Spaniard to win a race and a world championship, having racked up 32 victories across his career, some of which contributing to his double championship success.
"I am very proud. I think you only realise with time, when you see how many people follow the sport now in Spain, in my region in Asturias, how many people travel to Oviedo to visit the museum, to have the first go in go-karts,” Alonso said.
“A lot of people started following Formula 1 and not Formula 1, motorsports in general, in my country, which definitely was not a tradition. We were not broadcasting the races in 2001, 2002, I think it started in the middle of 2003. Something that is unthinkable now, when Formula 1 is the second or third sport in Spain, that’s something that I feel really proud of.”
After winning his first world championship in 2005, Alonso was awarded the Premio Principe de Asturias, which is granted for great achievements in science, humanities, public affairs and sport. Despite embedding himself into the history books with his F1 success, Alonso says that the 2005 award trumps his sporting glory.
“The Premio Principe de Asturias is probably the biggest thing I achieved, even more than any Formula 1 championship,” he said. “That kind of award is about changing people’s lives and introducing a lot of people into one sport. So, those kinds of things are much bigger than any trophy.”