ABU DHABI // Rashid Al Dhaheri, 5, the Emirati boy who wants to be the next Fernando Alonso, has achieved his dream of meeting the man who will have to move over for him.
Rashid met Alonso and his Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa at the Shell Gala dinner at Yas Viceroy Hotel on Thursday.
He waited for his Spanish idol to finish a speech before approaching him.
The champion recognised the small, restless figure from photos he had seen in The National, and made a point of spending time with one of his smallest fans.
“Alonso took a lot of interest in Rashid,” said Ali Al Dhaheri, the boy’s father. “He was a great motivating influence on Rashid and was genuinely interested in his progress.”
Rashid’s parents also praised Massa, the “perfect gentleman”, for the time he spent with their ecstatic son. The teammates also enthusiastically posed for photos with him.
Alonso was particularly impressed to read about the strides the young driver had taken since he started racing competitively this year.
He reassured the boy that he was on the right track, telling him karting was where he learnt to become a champion.
“He told me to keep it up,” Rashid said.
Alonso said he was also happy to see that Rashid’s helmet was an exact replica of his own, before he signed the boy’s red and white Ferrari shirt.
Rashid was overjoyed when Alonso gave him the Ferrari hat he was wearing on the night.
“Since receiving it he hasn’t taken it off his head and he’ll be wearing it at the race,” his father said.
“When he got home he was so excited it was impossible for him to go to sleep.”
Yesterday, the boy fellow drivers call “Little Alonso” was back at Yas Marina, proudly striding the paddock with his new prized possession.
Many fans recognised him, giving him high-fives and handshakes as he, no doubt, looked to see his idol one more time.