Fernando Alonso: “I feel fast. I feel fit. I feel motivated.”

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No one has a work ethic quite like Fernando Alonso. Now embarking on his 20th year in Formula One, he’s the oldest (41) and longest-serving driver on the grid, with 358 race starts and counting. Having raced for Minardi, Renault, McLaren, Ferrari and Alpine over the years, it’s fair to say he’s been around the block, ticking off most of the top-end teams and collecting two world championship titles in the process. But despite being one of the most accomplished racing drivers in the world, he’s far from finished. In fact, he’s just started a new job as the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One team’s latest recruit.

“There was an opportunity to join Aston Martin and I think the team is [taking] good steps to become a contender for the championship in the future,” says Alonso, dressed in his new Aston Martin racing green overalls on a crisp February morning at the Silverstone circuit. “This is a very ambitious project, with a lot of investment, so I felt there was something special about it. I was very proud to join.”

After a controversial departure from his previous team, Alpine, Alonso’s arrival at Aston came just three days after former Aston driver and fellow multi-world champion, Sebastian Vettel, announced his retirement from the sport at the end of July 2022, sending the F1 world into a frenzy. Vettel, a four-time world champion had put in two years with the squad before announcing his departure, but few expected Alonso, another world champion, to step into his shoes at the legendary British marque.

“[It’s] never easy to guess what is going to happen,” he says with a smile, “but at the very least, you need to be in a project where they want to win and they want to become the best – at Aston Martin, there is no doubt that they will do.”

When the great British manufacturer announced it would be returning to the top end of motorsport under the leadership of new owner and chairman Laurence Stroll, after a 60-year hiatus, expectations were high. Fronting Aston’s Formula One adventure was Stroll’s son, Lance, and veteran champion Vettel, aided by partners like Italian beer brand Peroni Nastro Azzurro and tech company Cognizant. Together, the driver duo managed a seventh-place finish in 2021, with Vettel securing a podium in Azerbaijan. They maintained this standing in 2022, albeit with less points on the board. Still hunting for the win, the job now falls to Alonso, one of Formula One’s most ruthless and effective drivers, with 32 wins and 98 podiums to his name.

aston martin f1 car 2023

“After 20 years in the sport, I can give some of my experience to the team. I can play that role of leading the team on race weekends,” he admits. “With Lance, I think we have a combination of a very young, talented driver who hopes to become world champion and me, at the end of my career, just trying to help and guide the team. Aston Martin will do whatever it takes to be world champions one day. And this is rare to see in Formula One.”

With so much experience, especially when compared to his teammate Lance Stroll, who’s 17 years his junior, Alonso’s not oblivious to the challenge he faces at his new squad. “We have to have our feet on the ground and know that in Formula One, there are no miracles from one season to the next – it will take a few seasons to fight for the championship.”

Starting out in Formula One in 2001, aged 19, it took Alonso just four years to win the World Championship with Renault, before going on to clinch his second title the year after with the same team. Despite now starting in his sixth squad, it’s clear Alonso hasn’t lost any of the fire that’s driven him to the top.

fernando alonso

“I still think that a third championship is possible. I feel fast. I feel fit. I feel motivated,” he says without hesitation. “Obviously I want to win more races and I want to fight for championships in the future. I worked hard for that and, although it’s difficult to have a guarantee of success in Formula One, everyone that sees me working knows that I will give 100 per cent. I will not give up that easily, so let’s see if we can do it.”

Despite not lacking in passion, joining a team that finished seventh for the past two seasons would be enough to dampen most drivers’ expectations, especially as they enter the twilight years of their career. But Alonso isn’t like most drivers.

“I hate losing,” he says, plainly. “I’m a very competitive person, so every Sunday when you are not winning, I cannot wait for the next Sunday, to have an opportunity to win again.” With a new season fast approaching and his first race with Aston Martin taking place on 5 March in Bahrain, Alonso has a very clear idea about where he expects to finish this year. “I think being in the top ten regularly will be the target, as well as fighting for some podiums when the opportunity comes up.

fernando alonso aston martin f1

“Knowing that the top three teams – Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes – were miles ahead last year, it will be difficult to overcome that gap in just one winter,” he admits. “But 95 per cent of the car is new, which shows how much work the team has put into it. We have a car that we can develop during the season to become faster and faster. This will be the baseline for future Aston Martin cars.”

Arguably more ready than he’s ever been for the start of the season, Alonso could be the making of Aston Martin in Formula One – the man to deliver that all-important win en route to the coveted Constructors World Championship title. “I think it’s one of the most iconic brands in motorsport but also in the automotive industry,” he says as his AMR23 fires up in the back of the garage. “Aston Martin is 110 years old and we have the sticker on the car this year – I don’t think there are many car companies that can say that, so this is very special. I feel very proud to be part of the Aston Martin family.”

With testing complete, it’s time for Alonso to prove his passion for the Aston Martin squad as the flag falls in Bahrain. With more experience than any other driver on the track, the British brand appears to be in safe hands.

“I won’t be happy with anything less than a race win when the season comes to an end,” he says, fixated on the task in hand. “If we win a race, then I think we should be very happy and very proud.”

Peroni is a sponsor of the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One team, visit astonmartinf1.com.

Read more: In conversation with Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali

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