Spain Goes Wild for Alonso

The 'Alonsomania' reached its climax in Spain on Sunday as Fernando Alonso became Formula One's youngest World Champion with his third place at the Brazilian Grand Prix

Spain Goes Wild for Alonso

In a country where every sport has been overshadowed by football, in two years Alonso has achieved what few thought possible, knocking the world's most popular sport off the newspapers' frontpages.

Spain's top-selling newspaper Marca has rarely had a frontpage without Alonso on its over the past months, as Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' were overshadowed by the youngster from Oviedo.

"Alonso, today we dream we are World Champions," was Marca's frontpage ahead of Sunday's title-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix.

Television audiences hit new records every Grand Prix, with Telecinco collecting the benefits of what was regarded as a risky bet when the Spanish network invested millions to gain the rights to broadcast the sport in the Mediterranean country.

Over 10 million viewers were expected to watch the Interlagos race, more than twice the F1 viewership in previous years.

Before Alonso made his Formula One debut in 2001, no Spanish driver had ever scored a Grand Prix win or a pole position.

Thousands of fans crowded Oviedo's Plaza de America to celebrate Alonso's title, the first for a Spanish driver, on Sunday evening. An estimated 30,000 followers in the region of Asturias watched the race on big television screens installed for the event.

"Fernando's title is something unbelievable that we could not have dreamed of a few years ago," Spain's sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky told the EFE news agency. "Only after a while we'll realise about the true importance of this achievement."

Alonso is the only Spanish Formula One driver to be awarded the Principe de Asturias prize, Spain's top international sporting honour.

One of the first personalities to congratulate the 24-year old was King Juan Carlos, who called Alonso after the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

"He told me he had his fingers crossed all race long," said a smiling Alonso.

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