One week into the summer break, many in the paddock have not yet realized how much of a team-man 40-year-old Fernando Alonso has become.
The Spaniard had a reputation for being somewhat selfish during his early years in Formula One. This self-centric approach served him well on occasions, but this also meant that generally Alonso wasn't considered as a good team player.
However, during his eighteen months hiatus away from Formula One, Alonso raced as part of a three-man group with Toyota in the World Endurance Championship, which probably pushed him to learn to be less individualistic.
Alonso-Ocon seems to be forming the dream duo for French Team Alpine.
As Alpine’s CEO Laurent Rossi stated a few weeks back, the two drivers are getting along very well. In addition to helping each other in driving the team’s climbing up to the front of the grid, teammates Alonso and Ocon now have another thing in common: They both won their debut F1 races in Hungary, driving for the team from Enstone.
The French driver Esteban Ocon was the big beneficiary of the first lap chaos at the Hungarionring, climbing up six positions to run P2. He then took the head of the grid after Lewis Hamilton, unlike the rest of the drivers, stayed out on intermediate tyres on a drying circuit after the red flag restart.
Despite the mistaken strategy, the seven-time World Champion could have probably won the race anyway, had it not been for Alonso's stoical defence of P4.
The same Ocon gave his deepest thanks to the Spaniard for his magical performance, crediting him for helping to win his first Formula One race.
They make up nine world Championship together and the impeccable show they enacted on the track perfectly explains why. Hamilton and Alonso nearly touched twice in Turn 4 as they ran wheel-to-wheel, reminding us that albeit not being the youngest on the grid, they are still very, very quick and as feisty as ever.
It took several attempts before Hamilton could overtake the Spanish driver – an overtake which came about only after a brake-locking error in Turn 1 that made the Alpine run wide. However, precisely because of the time lost behind two-time World Champion, Hamilton saw his chances of victory evaporating.
Even Mercedes’ Team Boss celebrated Alonso’s brilliant drive.
“He defended hard, maybe he was a bit too aggressive on the straight, but he did good,” commented Wolff during the post-race debrief with selected media, including MotorLAT.
“He races well, his racecraft is enormous, and you can see the result: he made his team and young teammate win the race. And when you’re out there, this is what you’re supposed to do”
If there’s one thing that’s for sure is that with Alonso age is only a number. In Ocon's words, the now 40-year-old is still “fighting like a lion”, and he still feels “the volcano is still there”. He is certainly enjoying racing as much as we are enjoying witnessing it.