October 22, 2006, is beginning to feel like a very long time ago for Fernando Alonso.
On that day the Spaniard won his second world title to become Formula One's youngest double world champion, and an era of dominance looked to be in the offing.
Six seasons on and no more championships have come his way, and it is unlikely that being perceived as having driven one of the greatest seasons in F1 to nearly win the title in an uncompetitive car is going to be too much of a consolation as he heads off for his winter break.
Watching Sebastian Vettel celebrate a third successive world title and continue to claim honours and set records that Alonso feels should be his must be a bitter pill to swallow.
Alonso is a man who lives for success and his reputation has soared despite falling short as he has hardly made an error of note in races this season.
The Ferrari he has driven has been unquestionably a poor car. The F2012 was 1.5 seconds off the pace in the opening race in Australia, and while it has improved since then, in dry conditions, there has never been a time when you would have said it was the best car in the field.
Alonso's consistency, and ruthless speed when opportunity knocked, ensured that he got the maximum out of the car in every race of 2012, finishing on the podium 13 times, three of which were victories.
Of all his efforts, Germany was his best race, and arguably the finest of his career.
Yet he led throughout. The key was ensuring that he got his exit on to the main straight of every lap just right and using his Kers (kinetic energy recovery system) to ensure the faster Vettel could not use his DRS (drag reduction system) on him.
To do that once is impressive, but to do that for 67 laps without the cars behind even having a hint of being able to overtake, at a track where passing is very possible, was a supreme example of perfection behind the wheel.
Alonso led for much of 2012 thanks to the unpredictability of the season, and when he left Italy in September with a 37-point lead, all looked good.
But unfortunately Vettel, who also drove the finest season of his career, and Red Bull found their form at exactly the wrong time for Alonso and Ferrari had no answer despite the Spanish driver dragging the maximum out of the car in the final races.
This is the third time since 2006 that Alonso has finished as runner-up and in a parallel universe he could now be talked about as a five-time champion.
Sadly for him that is not the case. All he can do this winter is hope Ferrari give him competitive machinery next year as the Italian team badly let him down this year.
Alonso produced a season of excellence in spite of Ferrari, not because of them, and the best driver in F1 deserves better in 2013.
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