Where Does the Fernando 'Alon5o' Meme Come From?
Any time the Spanish Formula 1 driver comes within a mile of a fifth-place finish, fans online bring out the 'Alon5o' name. But why?
When Fernando Alonso finished fifth at the Australian Grand Prix, the internet paraded its "Alon5o" pet name for the Spaniard once again, as it does every time he comes within radar range of a fifth-place finish. While it feels like a law of Formula 1 that Alonso must finish fifth, justifying the nickname, my memory of the race weekends that earned him said moniker is fuzzy, so I parsed through the stats of his career to see why the number 5 was so often attached to the two-time world champion.
Allow me to first clear up the obvious: Alonso was the 2005 and 2006 champion, but that on its own does not earn a driver a cutesy name. Nobody says Jenson "Butto9," or Sebastian "Vette11." Likewise, Alonso has won the world drivers' championship more often than he has finished fifth in its standings, which he did just once, in 2008.
With championships ruled out, the next statistic to examine became race finishes. Fifth is not Alonso's most common finishing position, as one might guess; that honor belongs to second, with 37 P2 finishes. Just behind are his 32 Grand Prix wins, pushing P5 further down the order. In fact, his P3 and P4 finishes (28 and 26 respectively) both outnumber the races in which Alonso has crossed the line in P5, which total 23 times, making P5 his fifth most common finishing position.
Before you chuckle, Fernando's fifth-most-common race finishing position being fifth is not the reason he is called "Alon5o." Few keep a bead on any driver's finishing positions; fans with a memory of any driver's win count are rare, never mind those who track lowly finishes.
No, Alonso is "Alon5o" because of his career-wide qualifying record. The order of Alonso's most common race finishes is reversed among the five positions listed above, with a mere 14 P2 starts, 23 poles, 54 second-row starts (an even split between third and fourth), and a total of 32 P5 qualifying results, more than any other individual starting position.
'Nando's not done yet: Some strange trends emerge when examining Alonso's P5s in qualifying.
Of the 32, a quarter come from either the Hungaroring or Suzuka, both of which Alonso qualified fifth at during the 2011 and 2014 seasons. The year 2011 saw Alonso post a four-long streak of P5 qualifying results between Australia and Turkey, stopped from being a streak of five by Alonso's narrow P4 in the following Spain, by 0.032 seconds over trailing Jenson Button. The year 2014 saw Alonso beat his single-season record of P5 qualifying results, posting the first of his six P5s in 2014 in Australia, and the last in Japan, which remains his most recent to date.
With McLaren resurgent, Alonso will be playing Go Fish for podiums—and maybe a race win—for the remainder of the year. When he comes up short though, he may have to draw a card, and there are plenty of fives in the deck for him to find.