2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Adieu 'El Nino'
In the next few hours, Fernando Alonso will enter his final-ever Grand Prix.
What's certain is that the venue would be the spectacular Yas Marina Circuit.
What's uncertain are Alonso's thoughts about entering his F1 finale!
Would he be just sad having run to the end of his career?
What will upset him more?
Will he be heartbroken having driven his last F1 race or would it make him sad at finding no more opportunities to push himself or challenge the backmarkers with whom he had gotten used to competing?
For a man who offered an answer- how to drive under pressure, how to score when the going got tough- it's disheartening that Alonso leaves the sport amid a slew of questions.
But is that the only strange thing?
How will his fans accept the possibility of seeing Alonso park his car toward the back of the grid, considering another DNF is avoided?
It will require some guts.
Let's just hope, we are served a miracle, a miracle that only drivers like Fernando Alonso, a double world champion and a living legend can offer: finishing inside top ten with the car as nastily unreliable as that McLaren.
Should Fernando make the most of a final scoring opportunity, it might just trickle the heart of his fans who, in the wake of a horrific start from 2015 up until his last stand, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix of 2018 have put up with peril nightmare.
It's painful to see the decline of a car, let alone a whole team as McLaren.
It's been more than a car; it's a legacy.
In the past decades, it's been a mean machine, call it a bully if you like.
It's constructed an empire of prominence piloted by the maverick genius of someone like Ayrton Senna.
Today, what's more painful is to see a true great of the sport limping into his curtain call in a car that appears anything but drivable. It's a car that has provided a driver most fear and many respect, someone responsible for 2 World Titles, 97 podium finishes- as many as 8 DNFs, including a hat-trick of non-finishes registered at Monaco, Canada, and France.
Modern sport is known to have served great injustices.
West Indies were once a powerhouse of cricket. Today, they run like headless chicken.
The indifferent form of a footballing great called Germany, 2014 World Champions, that lost to South Korea in 2018 in the league stage still gives heartaches.
But nothing hurts as much as remembering the catastrophe that came to arrest a great racer's career.
In case you forgot, here's what Alonso has gathered starting 2015 F1 season:
10 DNFs and 1 DNS (Did Not Start) in the 2017 season, 4 DNFs and a best-place finish of P5 at Monaco in 2016, and finally, 8 DNFs, including 4 back-to-back failures at Spain, Monaco, Austria, Canada in 2015.
Still, only a Fernando Alonso could've managed to score 50 points, thereby managing to stand on 10th on the driver's standings. Let's not forget, he's had to endure as many DNFs as Daniel Ricciardo: 8.
Put him in a different car, drivable to say the least, and you realise the wild things Alonso can do. This is even if his car is far from being a spectacular one.
For instance, the 2014 Ferrari.
In a year where Raikkonen complained endlessly about a weak front-end of a car he went as far as calling a 's*itbox', the Iceman scored merely 55 points to Alonso's 161.
Ever wondered what this huge gap to Alonso means?
Perhaps it captures the Alonso enigma; the thrill he brings despite driving a 'barely there' car, the fire he has been to Kimi's Ice!
We know the lean Scuderia machine was not a patch on the Mercedes and Red Bulls.
Yet, how was it that Alonso mellowed Raikkonen's thunder, both driving the same car?
We've also seen what Fernando Alonso is capable of achieving in more durable cars, of the kinds one saw in the bygone eras of 2012-13: the V8 powered Ferrari's he drove in playing the Dark Knight to Sebastian Vettel's emperor.
In the changing vagaries of the sport where fortunes shuffle at every chicane and where unruliness governs every move, whether sterling or lackadaisical, what didn't change was Alonso's approach: going all out in every contest.
Remember Mexico, 2017, where Alonso just didn't let Hamilton through, putting him his McLaren alongside the Briton's Merc in the closing stages?
Hamilton had to pass an 'Alonso-Test' before he'd claim his P9. It was as if Lewis was being schooled, with El Nino playing the instructor.
What else can define Alonso more than his keenness to fight every possible race?
But before McLaren, actually a decision where the Spaniard shot himself in the foot, let us not forget, he was a consistent scorer.
Yet it's painful to remember when he last scored a podium.
Probably, only die-hard fans would remember that event.
What was the date; wasn't it a light-years ago?
In the current scheme of things, a P2 at the Hungaroring in 2014 holds less relevance as compared to the many P1s that Lewis has hammered his rivals with.
That said, the 4 years of absence at the front, magnified by time period it boils down to- 1460 days- would all happily recede into an unknown corner should Alonso put in a strong lap and if possible, finish inside top ten.
Let's not forget again.
If there's anyone who can elevate the mood of the fans arguably amid such heightened urgency, then it's the man from Asturias: Fernando Alonso of Oviedo.
He's the same bloke who was able to record the fastest lap at the Hungaroring in a McLaren in 2017, scoring a P6, a track that was the scene of his last podium ever.
Drivers there are many, world champions there are a few, but only if a few could get mightily close to matching the emotion that is you: Forza Fernando!