Age is just a number. It’s a phrase we have all heard but in sport it’s rarely relatable.
Age normally has a direct impact on a sportsperson’s longevity. It’s inevitable.
Over time you get slower, you get weaker. It’s exactly why you rarely see competitors take part in their desired sport past the age of 40.
And in general Formula 1 is no different. In the early days of the championship it would be commonplace to see drivers in their 40’s and 50’s racing, but F1 wasn’t at the elite level it is today.
In the past 30 years or so, how many drivers have raced past the age of 40? Not many. And of those who have, how competitive have they been? On average not really.
Everyone was quick to condemn Michael Schumacher for returning to F1, stating he was too old and had lost his speed. And while it’s difficult to say he was too old, it was clear that he had lost some sharpness in his reflexes and that does likely come with age.
The same could be said for Kimi Raikkonen. Clearly he’s not as fast as he once was and of late he has made unusual mistakes, getting distracted with settings on his steering wheel for example when he crashed into his team-mate early on this season. Would a younger Kimi have lost his concentration? Probably not.
But while it is clear that age is a factor in Formula 1, Fernando Alonso is doing everything in his power to prove that isn’t really the case.
With Lewis Hamilton bearing down on Alonso in a much faster Mercedes at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix everyone expected him to breeze past, just like he did with the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz later in the race, yet it didn’t happen.
The Mercedes driver predictability cruised up to the rear of Alonso’s Alpine but once there it took 10 laps for him to get through and the defensive display demonstrated by Alonso was nothing other than first class.
Yes, turbulent air played a part, but Alonso did his fair share of hard work. He soaked up the pressure, he placed his car in exactly the right position lap after lap, giving no quarter but breaking no rules.
It was a masterclass in defensive driving and one of the greatest wheel-to-wheel battles we have seen in years.
But it wasn’t just placement of his car that was so impressive about Alonso at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Whilst defending for what seemed like his life at the time, he was also analysing Hamilton’s lines, something he discussed after the race when he mentioned that he felt Hamilton had been taking the wrong lines in the final two corners.
It was multitasking at the highest level, all while keeping decent pace that kept them both in touch with the Ferrari of Sainz ahead.
In a time where everyone believes a sportsperson is past it once they hit their late 30’s, Fernando Alonso is doing his utmost to prove otherwise and at the moment he’s putting up a very convincing argument.
And that’s why whether you love him or loathe him, he is one of the greatest racing drivers in motorsport history.