Before the turn of the century, Spain was a country with a great reputation for producing motorsporting talent, but mainly in the fields of rallying and motorcycle racing.
Formula 1 and other forms of circuit racing on four wheels was seen as a secondary sport, and we seldom saw Spanish drivers on the F1 grid in the 20th century. But just as Michael Schumacher's championship exploits in the '90s and 2000s inspired a generation of young German drivers to pursue their dreams of becoming Formula 1 driver, so has a certain Fernando Alonso.
We're seeing the effects of this now, as more Spanish drivers are going through the junior ranks than ever before. So, with that being said, here's five of the best drivers to come from the Southern European country:
#5 Jaime Alguersuari
Pedro de la Rosa may have gotten a podium during his time in F1, but he was resoundingly beaten by most of his teammates in Formula 1, so Jaime Alguersuari beats his compatriot to a place on this list.
Alguersuari was only 19-year-old when he made his F1 debut for Toro Rosso midway through 2009 and did a respectable job during his three years in the sport. 2010 was a poor year for STR, as their car didn't have the pace compete for regular points, and Jaime had similar exploits to his teammate Sebastian Buemi.
However, 2011 was more prosperous, as the Red Bull junior team finished in the top 10 on a much more regular basis.
Alguersuari was unceremoniously dropped ahead of the 2012 season in favour of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo, which in hindsight, was absolutely the right decision. However, Jaime's expulsion from Toro Rosso was also his F1 exit, as he failed to secure a drive for 2012.
#4 Alfonso de Portago
Alfonso de Portago is one of only two Spanish drivers to ever stand on an F1 podium, which you'd think would place him higher than fourth on this list, but let me explain.
De Portago, the 11th Marquess of Portago, claimed second place at the 1956 British Grand Prix, but this was thanks to a shared drive with Peter Collins. Alfonso would also get a fourth place the following year in Argentina, but this too was as the result of a shared drive, this time with Jose Froilan Gonzalez.
Those were the Spaniard's only points finishes in Formula 1, which is impressive, but these weren't solely his achievement, thanks to the aid from two of the best ever Grand Prix drivers to not win championships.
However, these aren't the sole factors at play, Portago only competed in five races, thanks to his untimely and early death. After the 1957 Argentine Grand Prix, Portago was involved in a crash during the Mille Miglia road race and both he and his co-driver wouldn't survive.
He was only 27-years-old, a spring chicken by the age standards of the '50s. Had he lived, Portago could've achieved podiums on his own merit, but we'll never know.
#3 Paco Godia
Unlike de Portago, Paco Godia didn't claim any podiums during his time in F1, but he didn't require shared drives with some of the true greats of the sport to score his points finishes.
Godia never completed a full Formula 1 season, but the Maserati stand-in scored a pair of fourth-placed finishes towards the end of the 1956 season. While he lagged behind his teammates in the championship that year, we are talking about Sir Stirling Moss and Jean Behra, two very experienced and fast Grand Prix drivers from the '50s.
Even the most experienced drivers struggle when they race intermittently in F1, just ask Jenson Button, so in the circumstances, Godia did a good job. Whether Godia was better than Portago is debatable, but I'll give Godia a slight advantage, partly because the latter was driving a Ferrari, the car that Fangio went on to win the driver's championship that year in.
#2 Carlos Sainz Jr.
It's pretty bold to put Carlos Sainz this high on the list for someone who is still so young and in the infancy of his Formula 1 career, but let me explain. Like his eponymous father, Sainz Jr. is an incredible motorsporting talent and by many experts' opinions, is a future world champion.
"Chilli", as he's affectionately nicknamed, already has over 80 starts in F1 during the five years he's competed, but is only 24-years-of-age, and has already shown incredible maturity beyond his years.
Since earning his debut for Toro Rosso in 2015, Sainz has been a solid points finisher for all of his teams, and you'd expect him to continue this trend for McLaren this year. Sainz has fantastic car control and an innate ability to avoid danger, abilities that were highlighted best in Singapore in 2017 and Azerbaijan last year.
On both occasions, he dodged the chaos at the front to finish 4th and 5th, respectively. While he's never had a podium, unlike some of the names below him on this list, he's never been in a car able to do so, and if he was in one of the top 3 teams, I believe he'd be on the podium regularly, if not challenging for victories.
#1 Fernando Alonso
It couldn't have been anyone else in the top spot, could it?
Fernando Alonso is not only the best Formula 1 driver to come from Spain, but is also one of the fastest men to ever sit in an F1 cockpit. It may sound like an exaggeration, but the Spaniard's two world titles and 32 Grand Prix victories don't do the Oviedo native's talents justice.
Alonso seemed as though he would one day beat Michael Schumacher's incredible records after he won his second driver's championship in a row at the end of 2006. However, this wasn't to be, as poor team moves (in particular, his returns to Renault and McLaren in 2008 and 2015, respectively) and his tendency to create a disharmonious garage prevented him from adding to his two titles.
While the fantastic consistency which helped him to his world championships was extremely impressive. However, what makes him stand out as one of the greatest drivers of the 21st century for me, was his 2012 campaign.
Alonso stated ahead of the first race of that season, that his Ferrari couldn't win a race. His words appeared to be vindicated, as Fernando finished a lacklustre fifth in Australia, but took a stunning victory at the next round in Malaysia. He drove faultlessly all season, not dissimilarly to Lewis Hamilton in 2018, and only missed out on a third title by 3 points thanks to Sebastian Vettel driving a far superior Red Bull.
Coupled with falling 1 point short of the driver's title in 2007, and 4 points shy in 2010, and you can see why Alonso can be labelled as unlucky. In total, 'Nando was just 8 points off becoming a five-time world champion, as many as Hamilton and the great Juan Manuel Fangio.
But who do you think is the best Spanish F1 driver ever? Is it Alonso or does someone else stand out more for you? Let us know in the comments below!