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.