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Formula 1

A glimpse of the Alonso vs Hamilton era F1 should’ve had

by Edd Straw
3 min read

When Fernando Alonso walked away from McLaren at the end of the infamously acrimonious 2007 season, the stage seemed set for his ongoing battles with Lewis Hamilton to define the next decade or more of Formula 1.

Yet the pair’s dramatic battle in the recent Hungarian Grand Prix was a reminder of what F1 has missed out on for much of this time.

Astonishingly, 2007 is the only time when Alonso and Hamilton have truly battled each other for the title.

It’s true that both went into the famous 2010 title decider in Abu Dhabi in contention, but Hamilton was a rank outsider in the four-horse race.

It captures the essence of their frustrated battles over the past 15 years that just as Hamilton’s results slumped in the final six races of 2010, so Alonso’s picked up as he claimed three wins to come close to the title.

Hamilton and McLaren also had the pace to be part of the 2012 title fight, but unreliability and operational weaknesses meant that it boiled down to a scrap between Ferrari driver Alonso and Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull. The prospect of a true Hamilton vs Alonso battle had tantalised us, but not quite come to fruition.

The pair have crossed swords on track, but not as often as you might think.

Their battle in the closing stages of the 2017 Mexican Grand Prix springs to mind, as does the irrelevant scrap for 17th place during the 2009 British Grand Prix that had the crowd on their feet – albeit with a sense of irony given how uncompetitive McLaren and Alonso’s Renault were that weekend.

Fernando Alonso Renault British Grand Prix Silverstone 2009

But this falls far short of the battles for the ages that felt inevitable at the end of 2007. They have been tantalising glimpses of what could and should have been in F1, only to be thwarted by the incompatible ebbs and flows of their careers – mainly for the better for Hamilton and for the worse for Alonso.

The decisive turn came at the start of the V6 turbo hybrid era in 2014, which set Hamilton on his path to becoming a seven times world champion and marked the start of Alonso’s many years in the F1 wilderness.

And he’s still there, as despite the key role he played in ensuring team-mate Esteban Ocon won in Hungary, the Alpine still isn’t a car worthy of his abilities.

There’s still hope that Hamilton and Alonso might one day reprise their 2007 title fight, but it seems unlikely.

Both are in their final stretch in F1 and while Mercedes can reasonably be expected to be at the front once again for next year’s new regulations, it’s perhaps asking too much for Alpine to provide Alonso with a title-challenging car.

But then again, at the end of 2007 what could be confidently predicted was thwarted by the fact the future rarely goes as anticipated.

Fernando Alonso Alpine Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Hungarian Grand Prix 2021

So perhaps our expectations will once again be confounded and we will see Alonso up against Hamilton in a title fight. Imagine those Hungarian GP laps repeated on the grandest stage over a whole season – perhaps with Max Verstappen added to the mix.

If not, then those 11 laps of the Hungarian GP when they did battle will remain forever as a brief glimpse of what might have been.

Aug 02 : Hungarian Grand Prix review
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