The 2023 Formula One season has only had three races so far, but there is already a plethora of talking points. The continued plight of Charles Leclerc and Ferrari – who looked like title candidates barely 12 months ago – is one of them. Another is the continued blistering pace of back-to-back world champion Max Verstappen.
The Flying Dutchman stunned Lewis Hamilton back in 2021 when a controversial victory in the final race of the campaign stopped the Brit from becoming a record eight-time world champion and secured Super Max’s first crown in the process. Then in 2022, Red Bull’s main man had a record-breaking season as he romped to glory and by some distance. But this season, he may well have a new challenger in the form of veteran fan favorite Fernando Alonso.
The 41-year-old Spaniard took a massive gamble last year as he announced he wouldn’t be renewing his contract with Alpine, the team that took him to two world championships throughout the mid-noughties. Instead, he chose to replace Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin, who was a back marker last term. Gambling with his own career is not as easy as gambling in casinos or online sites like Joe Fortune but he made a bet and it paid off.
The British team has produced a stellar car for the current campaign, and they are arguably the second fastest car on the grid. And in honor of Alonso’s epic performances so far this term let’s start with him. Here are three Formula One drivers that competed well into their forties.
As we have mentioned, the 2023 campaign promises to be an epic one for Fernando Alonso. And if his Aston Martin team can eek some more pace out of their car, he may very well give Max Verstappen a title fight this term, rather than seeing the reigning champion race off into the sunset. That’s what he did last year, but in Alonso, there is a driver that is willing and able to go toe-to-toe with the Dutchman, provided he has the tools necessary for the job.
Arguably so far, only Lewis Hamilton has taken on Max Verstappen head-on. Charles Leclerc and Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez were both obliterated last seasons. But if there is one thing we know about Fernando Alonso, it’s that he will never back down from a fight.
His fighting spirit was on full display at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix. In a much slower car, he managed to battle Lewis Hamilton and keep the seven-time world champions silver Arrow behind him for much of the race. LH44 would finally get the overtake done late on, but by then, Alonso had done just enough to ensure that Hamilton couldn’t catch Alonso’s teammate Esteban Ocon, he claimed his maiden race victory.
Back in 2005 and 2006, Alonso shocked the world as he became the youngest world champion – and then youngest double world champion – in Formula One history. He and his Renault team had threatened to pick up race victories for several years, and that finally came to fruition throughout two glorious campaigns. Alonso almost added to his tally in 2009 and 2012 however, was narrowly pipped to the crown by the Vettel, whose dominance was unmatched throughout the late noughties and early 2010s.
The man who Alonso pipped to his maiden crown in 2005 was Kimi Räikkönen. The talented Finnish driver ran Michael Schumacher close in the battle for the world title two years prior before eventually being defeated by the legendary German. During his days at McLaren, he was perhaps the best pound-for-pound driver on the planet, and had it not been for reliability issues, he may well have picked up a championship for the British outfit.
That elusive maiden crown would eventually come in 2007. Räikkönen had to move from McLaren to Ferrari to secure the title, and he did so in dramatic circumstances. Heading into the final two races of the season, the Finn needed to win both races and hope that Lewis Hamilton endured a catastrophic couple of races to claim the crown, and that’s exactly what happened.
Räikkönen finished his career at the end of the 2021 season. Despite having plenty left in the tank, he decided to hang up his boots to enjoy family life. He was 41 years of age when he retired, and he is still a beloved figure in the world of Formula One, despite not competing anymore.
No Formula One list is complete without mentioning the iconic Michael Schumacher. The German sensation is tied with Lewis Hamilton for most world championships with seven and prior to the Brit’s emergence, many thought that he would go down in history as the greatest driver that’s ever lived. Whether he will do or not is still to be seen, but there can be no doubt that ‘Schumi’ took fans on one hell of a ride throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
The now-54-year-old picked up back-to-back world titles in 1994 and 1995 with Benetton. He would then move to Ferrari and restore the Scuderia to their throne at the top of global motorsport. Between 2000 and 2004, Schumacher secured five consecutive world championships, before competing for another against Fernando Alonso in 2006, eventually finishing in second place.
He originally retired at the end of that unsuccessful campaign at the age of 36, before returning to the sport with the upstart Mercedes team in 2010 at the age of 41. He would race for the Silver Arrows for two years, before retiring in 2012 at the age of 43.