Given Ferrari's weaknesses, Silverstone proved to be a perfect storm – not only did the damp track at the start mean there was no requirement for Alonso and teammate Felipe Massa to use the harder tire at the end, but also, for one race only, blown diffusers were reined in by the FIA.
“For Felipe and me, it was the race where we were most competitive,” recalls Alonso, “but also Silverstone was the race where we introduced the biggest package of the year, with new front wing, rear wing and floor. All those changes, plus some help from the diffuser…”
It also happened to be the 60th anniversary of Ferrari's first World Championship grand prix win – an ideal way to celebrate: “It was like destiny!” agrees Alonso. “Right from the morning, the day was a bit different. A sunny day – which is unusual at Silverstone – and everything was perfect. Then I did the laps in the 1951 car [the ex-Froilan Gonzalez car which won at Silverstone 60 years earlier], which I really enjoyed. Overall, Sunday was very special.”
Ferrari has said that in 2012 there'll be a lot more winning. There's been a lot of talk about a more aggressive approach, but talk is cheap. What has Alonso seen that inspires genuine confidence?
“First, this year's cars were built around the blown diffusers,” he replies, “so next year without that possibility, everyone will start more or less from zero. So that will be a help for us, because we were not very well developed on diffusers.
“We also had problems with some of the stuff that we reorganized, and like I said earlier, issues with the wind tunnel correlation. We all made mistakes – with the design of the car and the way we prepared for the 2011 season. But that, in a way, is very positive because we're sure that we will not have those problems again.”
The man charged with turning around Ferrari is chassis technical director Pat Fry, who joined from McLaren on July 1, 2010. Alonso may not have enjoyed his curtailed stint with the British team in '07, but clearly he has a lot of respect for Fry.
“I was happy with him. He was the guy who prepared the 2007 car at McLaren, so I had a close relationship with him, and obviously it's a huge help for Ferrari to have him now in an important role. With many years' experience in motor racing, he knows how to deal with specific problems, and he brings different philosophies to Ferrari, in some of the areas where maybe Ferrari was not especially developed or good. You can learn from everyone.”
Meanwhile, Alonso himself continues to develop. He for one believes he is better now than when he took those two titles with Renault.
“Now I am a much more complete driver,” he declares. “Maybe in a single lap or in a race situation, it hasn't changed too much. But in overtaking maneuvers, at the start, pit stop approach, or in mental preparation to the race, I think in '05 and '06 I was much weaker than now.”
So it's ironic that he hasn't won the World Championship since then. He came within a whisker in '07 with McLaren and in '10 with Ferrari, but he's not too bothered by the title drought.
“I know I could have more championships,” he says, “but you can't move forward by looking back. You need to look at the present and future. I'm totally confident that a championship will come sooner rather than later, because I'm in the perfect team to do that. I have more motivation than ever, so it only needs time.
“Hopefully not much more time,” he adds, “because I'm 30 and I don't know how many years I will be here. But I'm at the peak of my career and I'm in the best team. I don't have any doubts that championships will arrive.”
It's intriguing that Alonso says he doesn't know how long he will be around, given that this year he extended his Ferrari contract until 2017, giving both parties unprecedented security.
“I'm committed to Ferrari,” he states. “The two years that I've spent here have been a great experience. I've felt at home from day one, and I still have this feeling after two years. We share values, we like competition and we like motor racing. The Italian people, the Italian culture and the way they deal with things is very similar to mine.
“So the next five years I'm committed to the team. That allows us to be completely relaxed – not only me, but also the team itself, so it can build a long-term program with no doubts that I'll always be fully committed to Ferrari. And it was important for me to have their commitment to do this, because I'm ready to give 110 percent for them.”
Chances are, it's persevered somewhere, sharp and shiny as ever, utterly adapted to and comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. If trophies could talk, that one would surely say legendary things.
• For the full version of this feature article, plus much more, you'll need the February 2012 issue of RACER magazine, which is NOT available on newsstands. CLICK HERE to subscribe.