Alonso Riding Wave of Enthusiasm for Long-denied Win at Spanish GP

Aston Martin's Spanish Fernando Alonso attends a press conference at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, Thursday, June 1, 2023. The Formula One race will be held on Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
Aston Martin's Spanish Fernando Alonso attends a press conference at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, Thursday, June 1, 2023. The Formula One race will be held on Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
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Alonso Riding Wave of Enthusiasm for Long-denied Win at Spanish GP

Aston Martin's Spanish Fernando Alonso attends a press conference at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, Thursday, June 1, 2023. The Formula One race will be held on Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
Aston Martin's Spanish Fernando Alonso attends a press conference at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, Thursday, June 1, 2023. The Formula One race will be held on Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)

Back when Fernando Alonso was king of Formula One nearly two decades ago, Spaniards flocked to see their idol at their home race.

With Alonso now back near the top of the standings, his supporters are expected to cram the stands and grassy knolls of the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit this weekend with some 120,000 people estimated to turn out for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Alonso was greeted by several hundred fans chanting “33! 33! 33!” in reference to a long-denied 33rd race victory as he emerged from his team’s garage to soak up their adulation on Thursday following his arrival. Alonso’s fan club from his native Asturias region organized buses to make the 8-hour trip from his hometown of Oviedo and other cities in Spain’s north to come to the race, The Associated Press reported.

The 41-year-old Alonso took his 32nd victory right here in Montmeló a full decade ago back in May 2013 with Ferrari. After that came years of frustration and a stint away from F1 driving in other competitions, including the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. But after finishing on the podium in five of six races this season with the new Aston Martin team, hopes are high among his faithful that Alonso can end the long wait for a win.

After finishing second both in qualifying and the race to defending champion Max Verstappen at Monaco last weekend, Alonso knows it is impossible to curb the enthusiasm of his faithful.

“It would be like trying to build a wall in the sea: at the end you will be overwhelmed,” Alonso said about the euphoria he has unleashed.

Alonso, one of Spain’s top sports figures right up there with tennis great Rafael Nadal and its best soccer players, is more than used to handling the attention. Back in his winning days he happily picked up a full leg of cured Spanish ham that a supporter had hurled over a barbed-wire fence to celebrate a win.

“My fans are pushing this forward on their own and you can only embrace it,” he said.

“The number 33 is being talked about a lot, but I am keeping calm. We have a good car that will give us chances this year. Red Bull is dominating with an iron fist, but we have seen in previous seasons that even when there is a dominant car...there will be opportunities at some point.”

PREPARATIONS FOR ALONSO-MANIA

Track officials estimate the turnout to be as good as last year, when 121,000 sold out the first race to be free of coronavirus restrictions. That will still be below the all-time track record from 2007 when 140,000 people came following Alonso's titles in 2005 and 2006 with Renault. The track’s capacity has been reduced since that heyday of F1 in Spain.

Transport authorities have boosted the commuter train services for the entire three-day event after last year's higher-than-expected turnout led to lines of several hours at the Montmeló commuter rail station. In 2022, some 277,000 people filled the track over the three days.

Spain’s train authorities have boosted rail service to transport an extra 40,000 people, for a total of 180,000 seats, to help ease congestion at the track that is located 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Barcelona.

SAINZ ALSO

Spain also has Carlos Sainz Jr. to cheer for. The Ferrari driver is seeking his first podium of the season after scoring a season-best fourth in the opening race in Bahrain.

“I am just in a better mood when I race at home,” he said. “You just know that the fans are there cheering for you. I don’t know how much that is worth, but being in Spain must mean something because it where I have gotten the most points in my career.”

Sainz Jr. will have his fan club concentrated in the stands at Turn 2 as usual.

Verstappen also has fond memories of the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit where in 2016 he became F1’s youngest winner at age 18.

He also won here last season and is on course for a third straight title: Verstappen leads teammate Sergio Pérez by 39 points and Alonso by 51.



Brazil Coach Dorival Junior Aims for Consistency to Achieve Copa America Success 

Brazil's coach Dorival Junior speaks during a press conference ahead of the Conmebol 2024 Copa America tournament group D football match between Brazil and Costa Rica at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on June 23, 2024. (AFP)
Brazil's coach Dorival Junior speaks during a press conference ahead of the Conmebol 2024 Copa America tournament group D football match between Brazil and Costa Rica at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on June 23, 2024. (AFP)
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Brazil Coach Dorival Junior Aims for Consistency to Achieve Copa America Success 

Brazil's coach Dorival Junior speaks during a press conference ahead of the Conmebol 2024 Copa America tournament group D football match between Brazil and Costa Rica at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on June 23, 2024. (AFP)
Brazil's coach Dorival Junior speaks during a press conference ahead of the Conmebol 2024 Copa America tournament group D football match between Brazil and Costa Rica at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on June 23, 2024. (AFP)

Brazil coach Dorival Junior has identified balance and consistency as the keys to success ahead of Monday's Copa America opener against Costa Rica.

Dorival, who took over in January and has only coached four games, admitted that the Brazilian squad still lacked on-field stability, which he said was natural given their short time together.

"I have to find a balance for a team that was put together only three months ago, and after a certain period of 15 or 20 days of work they have to find themselves again," he said at a press conference on Sunday.

"In football you don't skip preparation phases in training, but that's why we try to accelerate each one of them to have a consistent and confident squad that can then use the individuality of its players to create opportunities."

The coach announced a starting line-up that included two new faces, Real Madrid center back Eder Militao and Atletico Mineiro full back Guilherme Arana.

"The starting line-up will have Militao and Arana. In every game, if necessary, there will be one or two changes. All the players are ready. None of them are below our expectations. We are prepared for any situation," the coach added.

New Real Madrid signing Endrick will not start against Costa Rica and is expected to come on in the second half, as Dorival called for "a bit of patience" with the 17-year-old striker.

"It's something that will happen naturally. It might not take long because he is extremely skillful. I'm in a hurry to get him on the pitch, but you have to have a certain balance. He has excellent skills and is one of the most promising players."

Brazil will also face Colombia and Paraguay in Group D.