F1 | Fernando Alonso: “I am master of my destiny”

F1 | Fernando Alonso: “I am master of my destiny”

Fernando Alonso (Oviedo, 41) arrives on time for the meeting with AS, although traffic has delayed his first commitments of the day. He was a protagonist for the press when he arrived at Zandvoort due to that fight with Lewis Hamilton in the previous race, he had also been one when he arrived at Spa-Francorchamps after his unexpected signing for Aston Martin , from 2023. The repercussion on everything that surrounds the Asturian is enormous, and it makes you think: if he also got into a winning car, this magnitude would be incalculable. With 32 victories (the last, Spain 2013), 22 pole positions and 98 podiums, the next milestone that the double Spanish champion will sign is the record for Grand Prix in Formula 1: he has 348 participations and Kimi Raikkonen has stopped counting at 350. Fernando will become the driver with the most races in the history of motorsport elite. There begins a conversation which allows to understand the deep reasons for the departure of Alpine (although he has already spoken about it in Belgium) and his way of apprehending the sport.

— How important is it to you to become the driver with the most Grand Prix in the history of Formula 1?

“When it is?”

—Two races to go

-How many are they?

—350.

“Well, you see, it’s not very important to me.” But hey, I knew it was going to happen this year at some point. It’s a record that reflects my passion for the sport and the years I’ve spent here, even after spending two years away. However, it is not very important.

— This is perhaps one of the few driver records, because victories, pole positions or titles depend more on the car…

-Yes. But you need the trust of many teams for many years so that they believe in your possibilities and can compete in Formula 1. It will always depend on the car, if you don’t have a good car you will never be there for so many years. But it’s a record that reflects the hard work and sacrifice of the driver.

-This summer, we saw teams interrupting the contract with a driver, performance clauses… how to survive two decades in the “paddock”?

“To have the freedom to choose what you want to do, to be master of my destiny. I had the privilege and the chance to be able to choose when I arrive in a team or when I leave it. And that is, in a way, the secret to continuing for so many years. When you owe a team a lot, or you join a team and get in a car for some kind of grab or cronyism, or for a sponsor’s contribution, or whatever, you might have a date expiration earlier. I was lucky not to depend on so many people.

“What performance clause is he putting on? »

—That of always trying to be at a good level compared to the teammate, who is almost the only reference. Try to achieve the goals that the team sets each year. Whether it’s the top 5 or the podium, or the fight for the championship. Not making mistakes, feeling good, and also giving something extra that comes exclusively from me. Often you go to the strategy meeting on Sunday, before the race, and of all the simulations that are done at night, they give you a forecast of ninth place. Then getting a seventh or a sixth in that race is a small personal achievement that you make. I am always the most demanding with myself.

“Because of experience and speed, I am one of the most complete on the grid”

Fernando Alonso

— Do you think the pilot has lost weight in recent years compared to the “main team”? Ferrari was structured around Schumacher, but now that wouldn’t happen.

-With Michael yes, because he had this power. But I don’t think much has changed. “The main team” was always made up of respected characters and protagonists. Technology has changed in the world, cars are now more technological and there are more simulations, more data, more sensors. Everything is more studied. It’s not that there was improvisation before, but you went to the race on Sunday and after the fifteenth lap we’ll see how things go. Now you know how everything will turn out. The world has changed, but “the main team” still has that power. Before there was Eddie Jordan, Ron Dennis, Flavio Briatore. There were very powerful people.

—What criteria do you use to evaluate a competing driver? Not just titles…

— That they don’t make mistakes, that they are consistent. Let them arrive at Spa and be in the top 10 and let them arrive at Zandvoort, a different circuit, and be in the top 10 as well. Don’t have too many ups and downs. I really appreciate that.

“Do you feel the fastest or the smartest of the twenty? »

(Slow to respond). Hard to know. I don’t know how to answer who would be the fastest of the twenty. But I feel like I’m one of the most complete, I don’t know if the most complete but one of the most complete on the grid thanks to the experience I have and the mix of speed and knowledge of the race.

-When you hear him talking to his engineers during the race, it feels like he’s watching it on TV because of the type of information he manipulates…

—It comes from many years of professional career. I started competing when I was three years old. (in karting). I won the world karting championship when I was 14. I’ve been at a very high level in motorsport for 27 or 30 years whereas the engineers we have in the team right now probably left university about eight years ago. It’s normal that I sometimes have more experience than them.

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Fernando Alonso (Alpine A522). Zandvoort, the Netherlands. F1 2022.ANDREJ ISAKOVICAFP

“If I win a title or two at McLaren, I would still have stopped”

Fernando Alonso

—Alonso is known for his starts, his comebacks, his wins… and his big mistakes?

“You always have mistakes, but not too obvious. In twenty years of career, there are not too many. Fuji 2007, ‘aquaplaning’. Spa 2010, I hit the curb at turn seven on the outside and went inside. There are mistakes that you remember and then you would like to repeat the race. But hey, these things happen.

—The other great champions of this generation have quite famous accidents (Vettel in Germany 2018, Hamilton at Silverstone 2021… or Belgium 2022).

—Yes, the English speak of ‘awareness of the volumes’ for the start, the ability to know where the cars are around you and what place on the track they occupy at that moment. Yet, in that sense, I have this more developed ability; and other less developed things.

—What has been the most competitive Formula 1 that has led these nearly 350 Grands Prix?

“You always have to look at the level of competitiveness compared to your rivals. So I would say the Renault of 2006, the first part of the year had the best car.

“But he’s never had a ten-win-a-year car.”

-No never.

“If I had, would I still be here?”

(Think). Who knows, maybe not. That’s a good question. I remember when I signed with McLaren in 2007, I had signed for three years and my idea was to do those three years and maybe stop, because I had already achieved much more than what I had imagined. If these three years go well and I win one more World Cup, or two more World Cups, I would still have stopped.

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