Nevertheless, the Alpine team let Fernando Alonso get away with Aston Martin and did not want to offer him a permanent multi-year contract. This is justified with the case of Michael Schumacher.
At the 2012 European Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher, aged 43, became the oldest driver on a Formula 1 podium since Jack Brabham 1970. It was the tree that hides the forest: On his return to the top flight after a three-year absence, the seven-time world champion was rarely at the level of his team-mate Nico Rosberg in the three seasons together. Rare outbursts aside, Schumacher was also far from his past performances.
Ten years later, Fernando Alonso surprised Alpine by signing with Aston Martin to everyone’s surprise. The decisive factor for his decision seems to be the length of the various contracts offered: in Silverstone, the 41-year-old Iberian receives a multi-year contract, while in Enstone he was only offered one more season with another. optional if the power was still there. Team manager Otmar Szafnauer assumes this approach.
“It is difficult to predict the future”emphasizes Szafnauer. “As I often say, if I could predict the future I wouldn’t be here, I’d be in Las Vegas. We offered a one-year contract with an optional extra year The same level of performance next year at the same time, of course we wanted to choose him and we could go on together. But I think he wanted more security regardless of performance: “I want to stay longer.” That was the crux of the matter, two years an optional versus three or four years an optional.”
“There comes a time when something happens to the pilot physiologically and he doesn’t have the same skills as when he was young. And I think it happened to Michael [Schumacher]. I think it’s fair to say that Michael Schumacher wasn’t the same driver at 42 as he was at 32 or 35. And that happens to other athletes too.”
Fernando Alonso is expected to stay with Aston Martin until at least the end of 2024. Then he will be 43 years old.
“You know, cricket – with all due respect to those of you who play cricket – is not such a physically demanding sport. It’s all about hand-eye coordination, moving the racquet with millimeter precision to protect what’s behind it. But once you’re 32, 33, 34, the best drummer in the world can’t do that anymore because something happens to him, and pilots do too, so we advocate this approach: if you play at a high level, of course we will keep it, but let’s do it one year at a time. I think he wanted a longer duration.
However, Alpine saw the future with the driver offering him his last two world titles of the Renault era until reserving an LMDh seat in the hypercar category in endurance for the two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner. The interested party would have expressed his enthusiasm about it.
“We spoke to Fernando”says Szafnauer. “We told him we would love for him to finish in Formula 1, for him to stay with our family and race more with Alpine. So it wasn’t really a surprise for Fernando because he agreed to take it on. It was a good idea. The question was when, but when the time came he was perfectly happy to go to Le Mans.”
Will the atmosphere at Alpine F1 remain in good shape following the unexpected departure of the man who nevertheless remains emotionally connected to the structure of Enstone through the nine years he has spent there since the start of his career?
Szafnauer reassures: “I’m not worried about the rest of the season. [Alonso] is professional. He has a competitive spirit. As soon as he puts the helmet on, you [journalistes] know as well as I do that if not winning, he wants to get the best possible result. In single-seater racing, he has nothing else on his mind than finishing the race and the championship as high as possible. And he still has that motivation. That’s what he’s here for.”
Interview by Adam Cooper
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