Fernando Alonso is elusive. The summer break in Formula 1 is not easy for many teams and drivers, after the Oscar Piastri imbroglio. The young Australian hopeful, who has never competed in a Grand Prix in Formula 1, did not hesitate to publicly reject the team that nurtured him for many years, Alpine. No, he will not drive for the French team next season. Since then, many rumors have sent him to McLaren, which announced on Wednesday the early termination of the contract of its driver Daniel Ricciardo. A chaos in the summer that “has not been seen since the 2000s”, according to Eric Boullier, director of the Grand Prix de France and former principal of the McLaren team, whose common denominator is Fernando Alonso.
From the first day of this summer vacation, the day after the Hungarian Grand Prix, the Asturian bull announced his surprise departure from Alpine to join Aston Martin, following the retirement of four-time world champion Sebastien Vettel. Then followed the game of musical chairs that we know.
“It surprised me about the timing, no one expected to see such a bomb explode on the first day of the holidays. That he leaves Alpine, that’s not too surprising. By working with Alonso, you learn to translate of it. If he starts criticizing the management of the team a little bit in the press, it means that he will leave. This is the case with Ferrari,” recalled Loïc Chenevas-Paule, Provence journalist and biographer. Fernando Alonso: From Asturias to Alpinepublished in May 2022 in Talent Sport.
Failure of contract
Thursday, during the traditional drivers’ press conference before the Spa Grand Prix [dimanche, 15h]Alonso, two titles in 2005 and 2006 with Renault and a return in 2020 with Alpine, did not hesitate to swing his future former team: “I am happy to express myself to say that all the people who should have been informed. All the management of Alpine, except Otmar [Szafnauer, team principal d’Alpine] who was right when he said he didn’t know, before the announcement. So Lawrence [Rossi, président d’Alpine]President Di Meo [Luca Di Meo, PDG de Renault] but also my engineers, all my mechanics”. Fortunately, the double world champion considers them his “family”. Otherwise what is it?
Through this declaration, he could not do better to put the three thoughts of the team into the sauce, before putting a layer of the Piastri imbroglio: “I said to myself that for Alpine, if I leave , they can offer this steering wheel to a young driver, like Oscar [Piastri]. It’s a win-win”.
Behind this excess of good faith, the length of his contract is sticking. Alpine offered him one last year, before considering the installation of young Oscar Piastri. But Fernando Alonso reiterated that he sees himself in Formula 1 for another “two or three seasons”. “Alonso is a very competitive person, he imposes a great lifestyle on himself and he expects the same from his team. This decision comes from a form of frustration”, believes Eric Boullier who knew him during his disappointing return to McLaren between 2015 and 2018. A disappointment that Fernando Alonso himself said, on the sidelines of the Belgian Grand Prix, in Spa, to explain his departure from Aston Martin: ” They told me that only the performance is important on Saturday and Sunday, and not the age registered in my passport”.
The Aston Martin project
And if the double world champion disappoints, expect surprises. “This is a characteristic of the character that you find from the beginning in Alonso. When he won his first title at Renault, Ron Denis, the team principal of McLaren, approached him to negotiate his future contract for in 2007, when 2005 was over. You have to imagine the atmosphere in the team when ‘Alonso was just champion and Renault brought him a lot. The team had legitimate reasons to feel betrayed. But always thought of Alonso had his career, and we don’t blame him,” recalled Loïc Chevenas-Paule. Formula 1 is indeed one of the most individual team sports.
And it would be too bad if the double world champion joins a team (less) less prominent than Alpine. Aston Martin has recently had two complicated seasons. “As long as the places are blocked by the three leading teams, RedBull, Mercedes and Ferrari, it doesn’t matter. You don’t base your career choices on the ranking of a team. Aston Martin is in the process of making a new factory, something unique, and the team shows ambition in its ways. Behind the team, what attracted Fernando Alonso was the project,” the ex-McLaren boss filled.
Fernando Alonso wants to be at the center of the project, without him actually at Alpine with a contract offer of only one year, when Esteban Ocon’s contract is locked until 2024. At Aston Martin, his teammate should do not reflect on him since Lance Stroll is better known as the son of the boss of the team, Lawrence, than his performance on the track. His experience as a double world champion, and the rebuilding of the team, will allow him to quickly influence Aston Martin.
A project in which he no longer sees himself in Alpine, a year and a half after his retirement. “The people responsible for his return to F1 in Alpine, Alain Prost, Marcin Budkowski and Cyril Abiteboul, and who encouraged him, are no longer there. The major cleaning of Alpine in the winter of 2021 did not please him,” said the journalist .
Because beyond pure performance – he wouldn’t have won a title even if he wasn’t in a top team – it was Alonso who had the impact. “To sum up, Alonso is one of the greatest talents in the history of F1, he is one of the best drivers, and one of the greatest champions. But he also has a volcanic character and he can fall into caricature himself,” recalled Loïc Chenevas-Paule. His departure from Aston Martin could be a chance for him to reset the counters.