His wait for a third world title might now stretch into a seventh year but in many people's eyes, Fernando Alonso heads into 2013 having burnished his reputation as the most complete driver in Formula 1.
Driving a Ferrari that was often the third-fastest car at best last season, the formidable Spaniard took three superb victories and 13 podiums. The title fight with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel went right down to the wire at Interlagos, only for Alonso to be pipped to the mantle of youngest triple champion by a measly three points.
There was no shame in his runner-up position, though, and Alonso rightly described 2012 as "by far the best year of my career". Having been able to do no more, the spotlight now turns more than ever on his Ferrari team to provide him the machinery he needs to deliver them the world title in his fourth season at Maranello.
Turning 32 mid-way through this year, Alonso is a well-established, and integral, part of the Formula 1 furniture having made his debut as a 19-year-old with minnows Minardi back at the 2001 Australian GP.
While his machinery at the Italian team was massively limiting, it was still quickly obvious that the Spaniard was too quick to be a mere backmarker and it was no surprise when manager, and Renault team boss, Flavio Briatore promoted him to the role of the Enstone team's tester for 2002 and then handed him a race seat the following year.
Alonso's rise was astonishing. The next 12 months saw him become the youngest driver ever on pole, the youngest to set a fastest lap while his win in Hungary in 2003 made him the youngest ever race winner at the time.
Momentum subsided the following year but Alonso hit back comprehensively in 2005, claiming seven wins and eight other podium finishes on his way to the Drivers' Championship.
Despite announcing in November 2005 that he would be joining McLaren for 2007, Alonso stayed with Renault for the 2006 season where, once again, he partnered Giancarlo Fisichella. He went on to claim back-to-back titles after beating Michael Schumacher in a thrilling season-long duel.
In the end, he only missed out on the hat-trick by a point after joining McLaren the following year. But Alonso's move to Woking proved ill-fated as he spectacularly fell out with team boss Ron Dennis - the emergence of rookie team-mate Lewis Hamilton as a title contender being the sticking point.
The Spaniard was soon on his way back to Renault and although the team were not the force of old come 2008, Alonso still produced results beyond the car's capabilities and a late-season surge saw him finish fifth in the standings.
In 2009, Alonso remained at Renault in a season marred by controversy surrounding his win in Singapore the previous September, when team-mate Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crashed his car.
That car was again uncompetitive and with Alonso angling for a move to Ferrari, it came as little surprise that they decided to terminate the contract of Kimi Raikkonen - who had been underperforming - early.
He started in style, winning the season-opening Bahrain GP. But from there it went downhill, culminating in a row in Germany after Felipe Massa was given team orders to move over, handing his team-mate victory.
The fine that move triggered seemed a very small price to pay as the win sparked a turnaround in form for Alonso, who went on to win the Italian, Singapore and Korean races, putting him firmly in the hunt for the world title.
Heading into the final race in Abu Dhabi, Alonso was leading the fight before a strategic error cost him and allowed Vettel to take the title by four points.
That miss inspired many a comment from Alonso and Ferrari about how 2011 would be better, about how they would atone for their mistakes and about how they would seek revenge. That never happened as the season ended with just one victory at Silverstone.
Last season seemed set to follow a similar pattern as a disastrous pre-season with the new F2012 saw the team line up a second off the pace, and not even able to make Q3, at the season-opener in Australia. But a battling fifth place in race conditions would ultimately set the tone for the year as Alonso repeatedly overcame middling qualifying results.
Next time out in the wet in Malaysia, he went from ninth place to first and then managed to top even that performance, surging from 11th to victory in front of his ever-fanatical home fans in Valencia with a masterclass of clinical passing moves.
A third win in Germany after a wet-weather pole, combined with a 100 per cent points-scoring record at that stage and inconsistencies from the faster McLaren and Red Bull cars, meant that, completely against the odds, Alonso held a commanding 40-point lead at the halfway point of the season.
The impossible dream suddenly seemed achievable but on the resumption of the season, two costly first-corner exits at Spa and Suzuka, and a four-race winning streak from Vettel, swung the title race in the German's favour.
To Alonso's credit, he stayed strong and managed to take it down to the wire. The impossible again seemed possible in Brazil, where Vettel dropped to the back on the opening lap of the race and experienced several more frights.
Vettel ultimately got the points he needed, but Alonso was many pundits' star performer of the year. If he finally gets a faster car in 2013 few will bet against him going one better.