It seems like two minutes since the 2022 Formula 1 season was brought to a close. Max Verstappen picked up his record-breaking 15th victory of the year at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last November, the final race of last season.
Believe it or not, the new campaign is less than two months away, the curtain is set to be raised in Bahrain on March 5th, and the upcoming season promises to be one of the greatest in recent memory.
Lewis Hamilton will be aiming to put last term behind him. The 2022 campaign was the first in the seven-time world champion’s illustrious 15-year career in which he hasn’t picked up a victory. He will be hoping his Mercedes team provides him with better machinery this season so that he can attempt to seal a record-breaking eighth world championship.
Charles Leclerc is also aiming to put a disappointing 2022 behind him. Ferrari’s main man looked set to fight for the world championship last season, but a number of catastrophic decisions from the Scuderia pit wall meant that he finished a whopping 146 points behind the eventual champion.
Verstappen is the man to beat in 2023
But in the end, Max Verstappen is most definitely the man to beat. Online bookmaker Bovada’s F1 bets have made the reigning champion the odds-on favorite to make it three championships on the bounce next season, and it’s clear to see why.
The Flying Dutchman was head and shoulders above the competition last term, and it will take a herculean effort from both Mercedes and Ferrari if the title is to be ripped away from the 25-year-old.
But it wasn’t just Super Max who made the headlines last season. Fernando Alonso stunned everyone in the second half of the campaign when he announced that he would be leaving Alpine to join Aston Martin. The Spaniard is now 41 years of age, but he still has talent in abundance.
That talent was on full display in the mid-2000s, when Alonso romped his way to back-to-back World Championships, becoming the youngest World Champion in the process.
He captured the top spot in the world of motorsport in 2005 and 2006. The Spaniard was an unstoppable force, taking victories in a record number of races and dominating the competition.
Alonso’s time in the limelight
Alonso made his F1 debut in 2001 with the Minardi team, but it was in 2003 that he really announced himself to the world. Switching to the Renault team, he captured his first victory in Hungary and finished the season fourth in the Drivers’ Championship.
Two years later he was crowned Champion of the World, taking seven victories and 11 pole positions throughout the season. He became the youngest driver to win the title, aged 24 years and 59 days, and also delivered Renault their first Drivers’ Championship. Throughout the campaign, he had plenty of competition, primarily from McLaren’s Kimi Kimi Räikkönen.
The pair traded victories throughout the midpart of the season. But in the end, reliability issues with the Flying Finn’s car allowed Alonso to pull away in the championship, a title which he secured in Brazil with two races to spare.
But it was in 2006 that he truly established himself as a world-class driver. This time, with the help of the legendary Michael Schumacher, Alonso beat the German to the championship title, being the first driver to go toe-to-toe with the seven-time champion and come out on top. Alonso took eight wins and 12 pole positions that season as he became the youngest double champion in history.
The Ferrari years
Alonso came close to winning further championships in 2010 and 2012, but in both of those seasons, he lost to Sebastian Vettel in the final races. In the former, the Spaniard held the lead in the title race right up until the final Grand Prix of the campaign.
However, typical poor strategic decisions from his Ferrari team left Alonso stuck behind Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, while Vettel would go on to take the victory and the championship.
In 2012, Alonso arguably had the third fastest car on the grid, some distance behind the Red Bull’s and the McLaren’s. Regardless, however, he managed to take the title fight down to the wire in one of the most impressive performances of any driver in history. And it looked like he would take the title back to Maranello when Vettel spun on the first lap.
Alonso will drive for Aston Martin in 2023
But in the end, the talented young German came roaring back through the field and secured the sixth-placed finish he needed to pick up his third consecutive title. But while Vettel’s – a man who is some six years younger than Alonso – career is now over, the Spaniard’s campaign at the highest level of motorsport continues.
Alonso’s finest overtake came in Japan in 2005 when he overtook Michael Schumacher with a famous around the outside of 130-R at around 150mph. He was widely praised for his bravado, and it was a moment that will live long in the memory of motorsport fans.
Alonso’s back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006 are a testament to his incredible talent and drive, making him a true racing legend. It is highly unlikely that he will pick up another championship in his latter years, but Formula One fans the world over will be hoping that he provides us with more spectacular moments.