Grapevine: Alonso Wins Top Sporting Award

Formula One title favourite Fernando Alonso was awarded the 2005 Principe de Asturias prize on Tuesday, Spain's top international sporting honour

Grapevine: Alonso Wins Top Sporting Award

The 24-year-old, born in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo where the Principe de Asturias foundation is based, succeeds last year's winner, Moroccan athlete Hicham El Guerrouj.

Renault driver Alonso leads the Formula One championship by 27 points from Finn Kimi Raikkonen with four races go and is poised to become the first Spaniard and the youngest driver to win the title.

"The victories and records that Fernando Alonso holds are the result of an exemplary trajectory that stretches back to his childhood and one that has been characterised by a determination that has opened up new avenues in the history of Formula One in Spain," said the foundation jury that awards the prize.

Alonso began karting at the age of three, going on to win the Spanish, European and world junior championships before switching to cars in 1999, testing for Minardi in 2000.

He joined Renault a year later and won his first Grand Prix in Hungary in 2003. He finished fourth last year and has led this season since victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix in March.

Traditionally, Formula One has been of minority appeal in Spain, but Alonso's success has provoked an explosion of interest with television audiences reaching record levels.

Previous winners of the award include seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, tennis great Martina Navratilova, Spanish golfer Severiano Ballesteros and athletes Carl Lewis and Sebastian Coe.

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