MELBOURNE - Ten years after his last Formula One race win with Ferrari, twice world champion Fernando Alonso is delighting in social media-driven support back home in Spain as he chases his 33rd victory at the age of 41 with his new team Aston Martin.
Aston Martin and Alonso have been the surprise package of the season so far, with the team second in the constructor championship standings after Alonso's consecutive podiums in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Spanish athletes and fans have jumped on the bandwagon, with '33' becoming a meme on social media.
Men's world number one tennis player Carlos Alcaraz showed his support by scribbling "33? Soon" with a marker on the lens of a TV camera after winning a match at the current Miami Open.
"It's crazy to see how Spain is now so enthusiastic, again, for Formula One and for everything that is happening," Alonso told reporters at Albert Park on Thursday ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
"So, you know, this is very, very nice to see.
"And hopefully I think they did enjoy these first two podiums, the whole country.
"There are a lot of 33s, all the football clubs, footballers and now tennis ... they are all doing something with 33. So, hopefully we can reach that number in terms of wins, and then we go for 34."
Even reigning champion Max Verstappen is in Alonso's corner, the Red Bull driver saying he would welcome more success for his rival.
"I think Fernando should have won anyway already a lot more races than he has done," said the Dutchman.
"I think he deserves a lot more. I would be quite happy to see him win number 33. But I also, in a way, also I would like to see him win more."
Alonso's third-place finish at Jeddah was also his 100th career podium but the milestone was marred by controversy.
Although he celebrated on the podium after the race, he was soon demoted to fourth by a 10-second post-race penalty following an error on the starting grid.
Officials ended up rowing back on the decision hours after the finish to restore him to third ahead of fourth-placed Mercedes driver George Russell.
Alonso said the way it was handled was "not ideal" but he was unlikely to talk about it much at the drivers' briefing with F1 officials at Albert Park.
"It was not frustrating, let's say, because I was in the podium ceremony and things like that," he added.
"It would be very different if it was not that case.
"But, yeah, the trophy’s at the factory. I haven't been to the factory yet, so I didn't see it. But it’s all good."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Ken Ferris)