Why has Fernando Alonso gone so long without F1 success?

For someone like Fernando Alonso, widely regarded as one of Formula 1’s greatest ever drivers, to go nine full years without a race win feels completely baffling – but here we are.

The two-time World Champion (although, with eight extra points combined over three seasons, we'd be talking about a five-time champion, but that's immaterial), heads back home to Spain at the weekend knowing that almost a decade has passed since his 32nd and most recent Formula 1 race win, at the same venue.

But despite this, he still sits sixth on the all-time list of grand prix winners, and with two titles to his name, you'd imagine that most drivers would be happy with their lot if they had those stats in their lockers, considering the company they are keeping.

But with Alonso, there still feels like there's a lingering sense of what might have been for the Spaniard - despite the success.

F1 car trouble

You could of course attribute a significant portion of his misfortune down to what he has driven since 2013, with an uncompetitive Ferrari followed by years of a 'GP2 engine'-riddled McLaren, before he decided enough was enough and he needed a break.

It's not like he lost his competitive edge in that time, either.

Two Le Mans 24 Hours wins, a World Endurance Championship title and a 24 Hours of Daytona victory show that he's still more than capable of taking on and beating the best, but he acknowledged that no matter who you are, you and the car have to go hand in hand.

"This is the nature of the sport," Alonso recently told the BBC when speaking about how your car shapes your chances in Formula 1.

"Sometimes you have a better car, sometimes you have not such a good car and you still need to fight and make some progress.

"This year we see that the driver is very important in F1 but not crucial.

"Lewis (Hamilton) is driving as good as he has been the last eight years. He was dominating the sport and breaking all the records and 100-and-something pole positions. And now he is doing a mega lap - as he said in Australia or somewhere like that - and he is one second behind. So, yeah - welcome."

But it's a world Alonso has inhabited far too long for his liking.

Where next for Alonso?

Fernando Alonso in Miami

While talks over his future at Alpine are due to begin in July, it looks as though other competitive options on the grid would be remarkably slim, despite his illustrious CV.

Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari have both drivers contracted beyond this year, and Red Bull look increasingly likely to keep Sergio Perez alongside Max Verstappen - with Christian Horner recently pretty much shutting down any hope of a Red Bull super-team next season.

While a mouth-watering Max-Fernando partnership would make Formula 1 essential box office viewing, Red Bull's long-term hopes remain with the Dutchman, and Alonso is far from likely to accept playing second fiddle to anyone.

The man himself seems pretty chilled out about the situation when he looks back at his win drought.

Mercedes' dominance meant that even if his car was competitive in the turbo hybrid era, he would have been unlikely to compete anyway, admitting that he'd never had conversations over a move to the Brackley-based team.

Understandable too, considering Mercedes will definitely have seen what happened when he and Hamilton shared a team before…

Circumstances have certainly not helped Alonso over the past decade or so, but with the pressure at Ferrari spilling over in public and his clear distaste for his uncompetitive latter-day McLarens, these moments won't exactly be pointed to in future TED talks for how to rally the troops.

Alonso off the podium top step

And that brings us to the probable crux of why Alonso has had such a lengthy spell away from the top step of the podium.

With other teams setting out their stalls behind one driver in recent years - Hamilton at Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari, Verstappen at Red Bull, the doors have gradually started to shut on the Spaniard as Formula 1's musical chairs are getting removed one by one, and Alonso's arrival at teams has shown in the past that apple carts can be upset.

It's clear that he has been at the wrong team at the wrong time for arguably the whole of the second half of his Formula 1 career to date, but it's looking increasingly likely that it will be success with Alpine or bust for Alonso's remaining time in the sport.

He has a drive with a factory team, but it's looking like decision time is approaching for Alpine to choose between Alonso and Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri for next season.

Alonso is looking as quick as ever, despite his horrendous bad luck so far this year, and he said previously he's keen to carry on for another couple of years.

It was inarguably a heart-warming moment seeing Alonso back on the Formula 1 podium in Qatar last year, but if his time at his current team is to come to an end, his realistic hopes of adding to his roll of honour may well be over.

So it's over to Alpine now, then. If he stays on, it's up to them to bring Alonso the car he needs to compete at the front because, for all the 40-year-old can still do, the stopwatch never lies.

Read more: Is the clock ticking on Mick Schumacher's F1 future?

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