If Alonso never wins another title, he’s in good company…
Alberto Ascari 1952, 1953
Between the 1952 and 1953 Belgian Grands Prix, Alberto Ascari won every world championship F1 race. He’d even tried his hand at the Indy 500. But a move from Ferrari to Lancia in 1954 left him without a car, because the D50 failed to arrive until the end of the season. Then, in May 1955, he died testing a Ferrari sportscar.
Jim Clark 1963, 1965
Like Ascari, Jim Clark was peerlessly quick – in 1967 he put his Lotus 49 on pole at the Nürburgring by nine seconds. He was in his element at the most demanding tracks, winning at Spa for four years in a row, and would have been champion in 1964 and ’67 had his cars been more reliable. He was killed in an F2 race at Hockenheim in 1968.
Graham Hill 1962, 1968
Although perhaps not as naturally gifted as some of his contemporaries, Hill earned his success through grit and determination, taking BRM by the scruff of the neck to develop a title-winning car in 1962, and galvanising Lotus in the aftermath of Clark’s death in ’68. His F1 career declined after he overturned his Lotus at the 1969 US Grand Prix and broke both his legs.
Emerson Fittipaldi 1972, 1974
The talented Brazilian won his first world title just three years after touching down in Europe as a promising rookie. In 1972 he had the best car in the field – the Lotus 72 – and made the best use of it; at McLaren in ’74 he honed the extant M23 chassis into a championship winner. Then he joined his brother’s newly formed team and the cars were never competitive enough.
Mika Häkkinen 1998, 1999
F1’s quintessential ‘Flying Finn’ remains an enigma; his F1 career was seven seasons old by the time he found himself in a car capable of winning races regularly, and by then he had already come back from a life-threatening accident. He blew hot and cold during 2000 and 2001 as McLaren lost reliability, then went “on sabbatical”, never to return.