It’s been 10 years since Alonso’s first win, at Hungary in 2003

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The question when Fernando Alonso moved to Renault in 2003 was not if he’d get his first Grand Prix victory, but when. This year marks 10 years since that question was answered, at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix.

From pole, Alonso leapt away from slow-starting second and third-placed Ralf Schumacher and Mark Webber (amazing how some things never change, Webber with a poor start).

Alonso lapped both his teammate Jarno Trulli and, at that time, the five-time overall and three-time defending World Champion Michael Schumacher. Only the top six cars finished on the lead lap as Alonso scored his first career victory to become F1’s youngest ever winner, aged 22.

The podium of Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya was heralded as a “changing of the guard” in F1 and it appeared for the balance of 2003 that either Raikkonen or Montoya would be able to beat Schumacher to the championship. Alas, the Ferrari driver held on.

But much has changed. Alonso, who turns 32 on July 29, has 32 career victories and that places him in fourth place all-time. Still, that mark is just two wins ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who eclipsed Alonso’s youngest to win record with his own win in the 2008 Italian Grand Prix at 21.

Renault, which Alonso drove for then, is now Lotus, Raikkonen’s home at least for the rest of 2013. Of course it was Alonso who replaced Raikkonen at Ferrari, and has struggled to dial in the car’s performance to match Vettel and Red Bull – a driver and team that in 2003, didn’t even exist!

Vettel was just 16 at the time and Red Bull was Jaguar, with a one Mark Webber in his first year at that team. And it’s Vettel who has as many World Championships – three – as does that 2003 Hungarian GP podium (Alonso two and Raikkonen one).

The other bit of stat nerddom to come out of that race was Zsolt Baumgartner making his debut for Jordan, the first and thus far only Hungarian driver in F1 history. He did so at his home Grand Prix but retired with an engine failure halfway through the race.

Schmidt Peterson confirms all-Canadian lineup of Hinchcliffe, Wickens

Photo: IndyCar
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The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is going for a diet of denim, maple syrup, pace and politeness in its 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup, with an all-Canadian pairing of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens confirmed for next season.

Hinchcliffe was known to want a driver of Wickens’ caliber alongside him in the second seat after three less-than-fruitful seasons with James Jakes (2015), Mikhail Aleshin (2016) and a combination of drivers (Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Harvey) rotated through the second car the last three years.

Recent changes have brought them to this point and now leads them to becoming full-time teammates for the first time in a decade, since the defunct country-focused A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008.

Hinchcliffe has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson after three seasons with the team. His first was shortened due to his near life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident in practice for that year’s Indianapolis 500. A rapid and welcome recovery followed throughout the second half of 2015 before his comeback to action in 2016, with an Indianapolis 500 pole and a couple near-misses on wins that followed. In 2017, he won Round 2 at Long Beach but faltered in the second half of the year through a litany of mechanical woes and bad luck.

Wickens, meanwhile, faced an uncertain future when Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this year it would withdraw from DTM at the end of 2018. One of Hinchcliffe’s long-time friends, Wickens hasn’t raced full-time in North America in more than a decade since they were both in Formula Atlantic in 2007, at separate teams (Wickens at Red Bull Forsythe Racing and Hinchcliffe at Sierra Sierra Enterprises). As he pursued his Formula 1 dream and had a wealth of success in the junior series, he never got a proper shot, and has since gone onto several successful years with Mercedes in DTM.

A ride-swap between the two of them came together earlier this year where Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring’s short course, while Hinchcliffe then flew to Italy to sample Wickens’ Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM after the St. Petersburg season opener. Hinchcliffe ended 13th in points in IndyCar, Wickens ninth in DTM this year, both with one win each during the year. Wickens also had a Friday to sample the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Road America this year, but had to relinquish the seat once Aleshin returned from a visa issue.

“Not only am I really excited to be able to say I’ll be back with SPM for next year and beyond, but I am also really looking forward to being teammates with one of my oldest friends,” said Hinchcliffe.

“Robbie and I grew up racing against one another, eventually took different paths, me staying in North America in open-wheel cars and him going off to Europe in sports cars, but it’s pretty neat that we both ended up here and we get to live our dream of being professional racing drivers, together on the same team.

“I think 2018 is going to be a great year for the SPM organization, from having Robbie here to the team’s new partnership with Honda and the 2018 aero kit; I just can’t wait to get back on track and bring some good results home for the Arrow Electronics crew.”

Wickens added: “This is an entirely new chapter to add to my racing career, and I am really excited for this opportunity that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has given me.

“I think everyone knows the story by now that James and I grew up racing against one another in go karts, and to make it to the largest open-wheel racing series in North America together as teammates, it’s crazy to think about.

“I am very thankful for the six years I had with everyone at Mercedes and DTM; those are memories I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to truly see what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about!”