We wish Fernando Alonso a happy 32nd birthday today. Unfortunately, that means the Ferrari driver is another year closer to the end of his career instead of the start.
From a World Championship standpoint, that might be a death sentence. If Alonso fails to wrest the crown from Sebastian Vettel this year, 2014 will mark 10 years since a driver in his 30s has won the title.
Michael Schumacher was 35 when he won his fifth consecutive, and seventh overall, World Championship in 2004. Since then, it’s been a young man’s title domain: Alonso set records at 24 and 25 in 2005 and 2006, Kimi Raikkonen was 28 in 2007, Lewis Hamilton 23 in 2008, Jenson Button 29 in 2009, and Vettel 23, 24, and 25 the last three years.
So, Alonso has a lot to think about as he blows out the candles on the cake this year.
The birthday surprise that has emerged this weekend is his possibly being linked to a Red Bull move. Although, as I argued in a previous post, that would seem to make little sense for Alonso and for Red Bull on the surface.
He’s been a star of the sport since his debut back for Minardi in 2001. But time is running out for him to catch – and pass – Vettel from a World Championship standpoint.
Your play, Fernando.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.