Formula 1™ Fans Association
Fans of Grand Prix Racing
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A review of the Fernando Alonso Exhibition (Dec. 3rd 2013 – May 4th 2014; Centro de Exposiciones Arte Canal, Madrid)
To some people, the Fernando Alonso Collection (displayed at the Centro de Exposiciones Arte Canal in Madrid, until May 2014) is no more than bunch of cars, overalls and trophies jammed together in a dimly lit room. I could not blame anyone thinking that, because it is essentially true. It is a bunch of cars, overalls and trophies. Yet there is a larger purpose to this whole exhibition. A truer truth. Let us even say, a poetic dimension. There is the life of a man laid bare. Obviously those same people might argue that Alonso being in his early thirties, one could hardly describe this exhibition in such powerful terms. But in this instance, they would be quite wrong.
This exhibition is precisely a neatly assembled accumulation of thirty years of memories, success and failure. A life. From the shy smile of a little boy, proudly wearing his first overall sewn by his mother, to the very last custom-made helmet celebrating a record-breaking career in Formula 1, you are invited to take part in a fascinating journey. Personally, I found this to be a fairly humbling experience. I am nearly the same age as Fernando Alonso. But I could never pride myself on being capable to display such a vast array of objects retracing my existence in such a perfectly coherent manner. Nor could I say that I knew what kind of person I would become when I was three years old. I mean... He was already becoming one of the best racing drivers of his generation when I was still playing with Barbie dolls. A paradigm that applies to most athletes, whose early existence determines their paths and with it the sacrifices and hardships eventually leading them to victory or sometimes, sadly, defeat. Alonso says it himself in the foreword of the exhibit's booklet:
“I consider myself fortunate, but I've had to work for that luck.
There have been a lot of day and night trips, doing my homework
and studying for an exam in the back of a car. Missing parties,
birthdays and school outings […] With evenings of frustration,
of tears, of an accelerated maturity.”
The reality of this statement resonates all the more when you walk down the flight of stairs leading to this extraordinary exhibition hall (a former underground water tank) and discover a minimalist setting highlighting dozens of sentimental treasures. Each chapter of a remarkable destiny is shared like a secret, that of an unstoppable, sometimes painful race toward adulthood. A race that reminded me of Rudyard Kipling's words:
“If you can make one heap of all your winnings,
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss,
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew,
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you,
Except the Will which says to them 'Hold on!' […]
You'll be a man, my son!”
Symbolically, this poetry always accompanied my passion for F1 and other sports requiring an absolute dedication to this elusive, unattainable aim that is perfection. A dedication teaching you at a very early age that each success comes with a steep cost and that no failure should ever bring you down. Those lessons are generally learned the hard way. The best way, maybe. And... every single one of the objects displayed represents a lesson of its own. Determination, for the first kart. Patience, for the Minardi PS01. Discipline, for the World Champion trophies. Abnegation, for the Renault R29. You name it.
So, where some will only see the McLaren MP4-22, others will remember that glorious moment during the 2007 Nürburgring GP, when Alonso overtook Massa under pouring rain to claim a much deserved victory. Where some will only see the 2010 WDC runner-up trophy, others will remember that endless run behind Petrov in Abu Dhabi, and the intense frustration caused by this missed chance. Where some will only see cars, overalls and trophies, others will see sweat, tears, doubts, pride, passion and overwhelming moments of joy or sadness. Where some will only see inanimate objects, others will see a life in chapters. Some... will also see that poetic symbolism, that of a little boy wearing his first overall and dreaming of victory who, in the words of Kipling, became a man... aware of the sense in his sacrifice.