After his podium finish three weeks ago at the Chinese Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso arrived in Barcelona, his home race, to encounter some optimism from his passionate fans and the Spanish media. He won this race here last year, remember, his second win in Barcelona and third on home soil.
But that was his last win and, despite claiming his best result of the year so far in China, the Ferrari driver deliberately burst any hopes of potential victory the media might have been floating in the build up to this event.
In a special feature, brought to us by Spanish colleague Tabatha Valls Halling, we’ll take a close look at the Spanish media coverage of this weekend’s race and assess whether they are buying Alonso’s managed expectations.
“Fernando, is a podium a real goal for you here in Spain?” “How big a step have you brought with you here this weekend in terms of updates?” “How long can you work without a win?” Alonso was sensibly cautious, downplaying any predictions of him fighting for a podium this Sunday. He doesn’t want to disappoint his home crowd, but at the same time he wants to be realistic: “We cannot start the weekend thinking of a podium. Or thinking to win the race, that would be creating false targets to everyone that is here.”
That’s not, however, what the Spanish media want to hear. They want, and more importantly, need him to do well. Alonso might be realistic about his chances here in Barcelona, but the dash of hope and optimism, the “this is sport, anything can happen” philosophy with which Alonso concluded his weekend preview is what the Spanish media are hanging on to.
National sport newspapers such as Marca or Sport have focused on the new parts Ferrari is bringing to the race, hoping for a faster car for the Spaniard. Marca goes further and starts its Friday story by saying that Alonso is convinced that he will have a faster car on Sunday. Right now though, Fernando can only hope for more speed.
Sport buries Alonso’s concerns about it being a difficult weekend right at the end of the page, focusing instead on how important he thinks it is for someone – literally any team – to close the gap to Mercedes. Spanish website Car & Driver uses one of the positive factors in their headline, highlighting Fernando’s belief that characteristics of the Circuit de Catalunya will provide the biggest boost to Ferrari’s hopes this weekend.
And then there’s Diario AS’ story, which we could say is the real reflection of not just how the Spanish media think but also ‘Alonsomaniacs’. The story starts by downplaying any chance of seeing Fernando on the podium on Sunday, with the double champion explaining, “we’re not in a position we’re happy with. We started with some deficit to the top teams, specially Mercedes, so we need to try and get closer and closer to them”. Those are the facts, as stated by Alonso yesterday. But it’s followed by that dash of optimism and hope, as the paper compares this weekend’s situation to that of Valencia 2012.
Back then Alonso downplayed his chances of success and ended up winning the race from 11th on the grid. “A legendary race” is how the Spanish media described it, and they are hoping for a repeat. It’s hardly surprising. It’s not just the media that need Alonso to do well, fans all over Spain cling to the hope that the Ferrari driver will, as he done so many times, deliver the kind of heroics that bring about another Valencia, another China. They always will, no matter what Fernando says.
Tabatha Valls Halling
at the Circuit de Catalunya