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Fernando Alonso

How Alonso and Hamilton are becoming the sporting norm

Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton are continuing an F1 trend that is beginning to spread elsewhere in the sporting world.

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For some sports, the shelf-life of athletes begins to expire in their mid-to-late 30s as reaction times just begin to fade, recovery post-match takes just a little longer and those niggly injuries begin to take their toll.

For others, such as Golf or Darts, most of the best in the world, Luke Littler excepted of course, are older with years of experience on the tour and youngsters in their teens or early 20s are the exception.

In F1, it is perhaps no surprise that in recent times, the drivers to race into their 40s are Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, and when he lines up for Ferrari in the 2025 season-opener, Lewis Hamilton.

Between them, they've started 1,364 Grands Prix, as of Abu Dhabi 2023, won 17 titles and 247 Grands Prix, or 22.43% of every World Championship Grand Prix, with 1,101 in the books.

Experience in modern Grand Prix racing is as valuable as ever with reduced testing and a converged field making it harder than ever for rookies to establish themselves. It's why Haas brought back Nico Hulkenberg in 2023.

Across the sporting world, an increased focus on sports science and sports nutrition are as key as opposition tactical research with the days of steak, chips and a pint pre-game long consigned to the bin.

Instead, in the case of F1 drivers, their meals are heavily-prepared before every session to ensure they are in the best shape for each session.

For example, in qualifying you need to be alert and senses on edge to eke those last drops of performance out - but that wouldn't quite work in a race where endurance, fitness and energy reserves are key. It's a fine-balancing act.

But there is a change happening in sports. The old guard is mounting their last stand against the next generation.

Tennis

In the Men's professional game, the Big Four of the late 2000s and 2010s is no more.

Roger Federer is gone, whilst Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal are beginning to break down with years of wear and tear as injuries begin to take their toll.

But the final member of the band is still going strong as Novak Djokovic takes on the next generation with the likes of Carlos Alcaraz - a player with shades of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic all rolled into one.

Djokovic turns 37 this year and has a Men's record 24 Grand Slam titles to his name - and in 2023 nearly completed the year sweep, claiming the Australian, French and US Open titles, only losing in the final of Wimbledon to Alcaraz.

Eventually, like all athletes, the one enemy every athlete, even the Alonsos, Hamiltons, Verstappens, and Djokovic's of the world can't beat will defeat them: Father Time, but they're not going down without a fight.

NFL

Like in Tennis and F1, the NFL has seen an interesting dynamic play out over recent seasons in the quarterback position.

Aaron Rodgers is still going, just, but Tom Brady (in the end) and Peyton Manning both retired just as the next generation started to take over with Patrick Mahomes of the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs, Brock Purdy of the San Francisco 49ers, Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills and Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals all breaking through.

But the NFL is different in that the new generation has actually taken over and defeated the old guard.

The NFL is now firmly Mahomes', an investor in the Alpine F1 team, house with three Super Bowl wins since 2020.

In Tennis, Djokovic is still plenty capable of pulling something special out whilst Hamilton and Alonso, if provided the car are more than able to take it to the current standard-bearer in Verstappen.

Other motorsport

Whilst the perception was that an F1 driver would be entering the twilight of their career in their mid to late 30s, in sportscar racing and NASCAR, again experience counts.

In NASCAR, then 47-year-old Kevin Harvick finally called it a day at the end of 2023 following a remarkable career of 826 races since his debut at Rockingham in 2001 after Dale Earnhardt was killed. Harvick only ever missed one Cup race in his career - through suspension.

48-year-old Jimmie Johnson is back after his IndyCar experience running a part-time schedule, whilst perennial title and race-winning contenders Martin Truex Jr, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski are all approaching what was once perceived as the wrong side of 40, with Kyle Busch also nearing the milestone.

But even here, change is sweeping through as well.

The champions since 2020 have been Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney - Logano, a two-timer, is just 33 and Elliott the youngest at now 28.

Elliott, the most popular driver in the Cup Series, has another 20 years in him before he reaches Harvick and Johnson whilst even these 'middle-aged' drivers are beginning to look over their shoulders.

Ty Gibbs is being touted as the next best thing and already has a plum drive at Joe Gibbs (his grandfather) Racing - but it is not nepotism. Gibbs is an aggressive racer who won the XFinity (think Formula 2) title in 2022 fair and square.

The old generation throughout sport won't be around forever and eventually, they will go - but they've still got a few tricks up their sleeves and, especially in Hamilton's case, yearns for the last dance that will clinch him that eighth title he craves and believes was stolen from him that night in Abu Dhabi.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

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