McLaren Racing

F1: Fernando Alonso gets special livery for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso will sport a special livery for his final Grand Prix this weekend in Abu Dhabi.

Reflecting his blue, yellow and red paint scheme of his helmet colors, the car will pay tribute to his home region of Asturias in northern Spain.

“We’re incredibly pleased and proud to be able to race a special one-off livery for Fernando in Abu Dhabi this weekend,” McLaren CEO Zak Brown said on the team’s web site. “We want his last grand prix to feel special in every way, and this was just one of the ways we could reflect that.

“We worked closely and collaboratively with Fernando, and then with the FIA and Formula 1 to make the change for this one race, and they were all hugely supportive of the move.

The special livery will highlight the end of Alonso’s 18-year stint in Formula 1 – a career marked by 32 wins in 311 starts (a winning percentage of 10.3%).

This will be the first time since the 1986 Portuguese Grand Prix that McLaren has run a special paint scheme. That season, they sported a special yellow-branded car for Keke Rosberg.

“Hopefully, this will give Fernando’s fans a little something extra to look forward to at what is bound to be an especially emotional weekend.”

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994