Fernando Alonso put in some brilliant drives in his debut season, but the Japanese Grand Prix was something special
The 2001 Minardi PS01 wasn’t the worst car the team had ever built, but generally speaking it tended to spend a lot of time at the back of the field - even with a rookie Fernando Alonso at the wheel.
There were still some epic performances though, notably at the final race of the season in Japan when Alonso put in an absolute giant-killer of a weekend, starting with qualifying, where he put his car 18th on the grid. He was 1.8 seconds faster than his teammate (who was only Alex Yoong, but still) and also ahead of the two Arrows of Jos Verstappen and Enrique Bernoldi, as well Tomas Enge’s Prost.
Just looking at the video you can see how neat and tidy he is, as well as being phenomenally fast. Also that Cosworth engine may have been underpowered, but damn does it sound good!
In the race things got even better. He finished 11th, which wasn’t his best result of the season, but look a little harder and it’s clear just how good a drive it was.
He was just one lap behind race winner Michael Schumacher and on pure pace, he beat Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Prost, Olivier Panis’ BAR, the two Arrows drivers, and his teammate, who was a massive two laps behind him. He even lapped Panis - and he was in a Minardi!
On top of that he set the fastest lap of the race in a performance Minardi boss Paul Stoddart hailed as being 53 consecutive qualifying laps. Soon after Flavio Briatore snapped him up as a Renault tester for the 2002 season and the rest, as they say, is history.