In November the car was given a brief shakedown run at the Circuit de la Ferté Gaucher outside Paris, before being shipped to Abu Dhabi.
Alonso drove it first on Friday, just after FP1. The main compromise he faced was that the car was designed to run on Michelin grooved tyres – which in 2005 had to last for a whole race. The only option available was to use specially made Pirelli slicks, similar to the demo tyres used for filming days or running with two-year-old cars.
Running mediums on the first day, in just a handful of laps Alonso logged a 1min 42.6sec, just a couple of seconds off the times that the Williams and Haas drivers had recorded in the previous session. The huge smile when he climbed out of the car said everything.
On Saturday he switched to soft tyres, which gave him extra grip. However they had a very short shelf life, obliging him to do a cool-off lap between two quick laps. He managed a lap in 1min 39.9sec – as a comparison the fastest lap set in Sunday’s race was 1min 40.9sec, by Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.
For the final run on Sunday he went back to the mediums, and despite pushing even harder than before, the difference in grip levels left him with a best of 1min 40.7sec.
The gulf in weight between the R25 and the current cars was a significant part of the explanation for his quick times, but this was a 15-year-old museum piece that was in no way prepared for optimum lap times.
“Definitely I did enjoy it,” Alonso told Motor Sport. “Because this car is very special to me, and still for the sport as well, to hear the V10 in one of the modern circuits, it was special for everybody.
“And I had the opportunity not only once, three times to jump in the car, which was very generous I think for a demo run. And yeah, I’m happy for that.
“But obviously the guys that rebuilt the car, they did it just for demo laps, and driving in the middle of the track and just waving to the fans.
“So they were not expecting at all for me to push the car, so they were a little bit scared and surprised on Friday! But they were enjoying it by the third day…”
He admitted that he would have liked to have gone even faster in that final Sunday run.
“I think it was more the tyre, which offers more or less grip. We had two days with the medium, and one day with a soft tyre, and it was a big difference in terms of overall grip. So I think the quickest day was with the soft tyre.
“It’s nice to remember that sound that I think made many, many people love the sport”
“It was a nice surprise, because even today the fastest lap of the race was 1min 40.9sec. It was a surprise that that car is that fast, and even on the straight we reached 329km/h, with no DRS, no nothing, so it’s quite fast!
“I think if you prepare that car for race conditions, and do set-up work, and you spend three days on a weekend fine-tuning it, I think it’s going to be quite fast.”
He even locked up the front tyres on a couple of occasions: “I think it was the load of the car, and the slick tyres were not designed for it. I don’t know either what is the brake balance, maybe it has to move a little bit rearwards. Obviously it was not optimised at all.”
It might not have been running to its original spec, certainly in terms of tyres, but Alonso felt at home with the car.