So just a month shy of being a decade on from that achievement, it raised eyebrows and delighted Formula 1 fans when Alonso put his Alpine on the front row in tricky conditions in Montreal on Saturday.
Alonso’s one-lap has often been overshadowed by his race performances in his career – 32 wins to 22 poles attests to that – and it was an excellent achievement from F1’s resident ‘Wily Old Fox’ (sorry, couldn’t help it) to start alongside Max Verstappen.
His Sunday was altogether less fruitful however, with a sub-optimal strategy combining with engine problems leaving him down in seventh come the finish, before a five-second penalty for weaving dropped him down to P9.
But let’s not focus too much on the race, because a lot has happened since that day in Germany 10 years ago.
What’s changed since 2012?
For a start, only five members of the Hockenheim grid are still racing in Formula 1: Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez.
On top of that, only five of the teams are still racing with the same names as they had a decade ago – those being Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Williams and Red Bull.
Since that season, seven constructors either switching hands, renaming or falling by the wayside altogether (Marussia, Caterham and HRT, we miss you).
Formula 1 cars have also undergone three major regulation changes in that time, with the turbo hybrid era arriving in 2014, followed by the heavily revised technical regulations of 2017 and a near-complete overhaul of the cars once again in time for 2022.
Hamilton has also won six of his seven World titles in that time, Vettel twice, Nico Rosberg took his sole title and Max Verstappen rose all the way up through the junior categories to become World Champion himself in the intervening period.
Alonso’s adventures elsewhere
It’s easy to underestimate just how much racing Alonso has done in his sterling career so far, both in and out of Formula 1.
After several frustrating seasons in an underperforming McLaren, Alonso took a two-year sabbatical in 2018 and 2019 to tick off some more boxes on his motorsport bucket list.
He didn’t exactly do too badly, either, winning the World Endurance Championship, the Le Mans 24 Hours twice in a row, taking top spot in the 24 Hours of Daytona, trying out the Dakar Rally, a few cracks at the Indy 500…
Despite his cars not giving him the opportunities to fight for Formula 1 victories after his final win to date in 2013 – particularly in the years of Mercedes dominance – his talent has not gone anywhere.
The next generation coming through
It’s a well-worn path to take to highlight what younger drivers were doing when a statesman of Alonso’s calibre was making his start in Formula 1.
While the Spaniard was already two World Championships in at this point in 2012, plenty of his current rivals on the grid still had a long way to go before getting to Formula 1.
Max Verstappen was still in karting at the time – and it would be two further years before the current World Champion even stepped in a Formula 3 car in competition.
Elsewhere, Lando Norris was coming to the end of his first year in secondary school, and Yuki Tsunoda, currently the youngest driver on the grid, was still finding his way in junior karting series.
Alonso has repeated that age does not factor into how he thinks about his driving, but his sheer longevity at the highest level is only to be applauded.
That can be best highlighted by the fact that, including those involved at that German Grand Prix, exactly 60 different people have been Formula 1 drivers in the decade since. Bonkers.
Well, if the paddock chatter is to be believed, Alonso will be set to sign a fresh contract with Alpine in the next month or so to take his stay in Formula 1 beyond the end of the year.
This will offer him more opportunities to try and add to his already illustrious statistics, but the team will need to provide him with a solid base to try and compete at the sharp end of the field once again. If nothing else, a driver of his talent deserves it.