Alonso’s age a factor in why Alpine would not commit to long-term F1 deal

Alpine says that uncertainty about the impact of age on Fernando Alonso’s performances in Formula 1 was why it didn’t want to offer him a guaranteed long-term contract.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1 Team, speaks to the media

The Enstone-based squad had been on the verge of a fresh deal with the two-time F1 world champion before the Spaniard made a shock call to join Aston Martin earlier this week.

One of the key factors at the heart of Alonso’s decision to move teams was that Aston Martin was willing to offer him a much longer-term commitment – which is believed to be as long as three years including options.

PLUS: The traits that fuelled Alonso's unexpected Aston Martin move

Alpine, however, was only ready to commit to a one-year-plus-one-year deal as it wanted some flexibility in case Alonso’s speed shows signs of waning.

While Alonso, who is 41, felt that such a concern was unfounded, as he says he is showing no signs of his form dipping yet, Alpine insists that there comes a point when things do turn.

Reflecting on what Alpine was ready to offer Alonso, team principal Otmar Szafnauer said that age could not be discounted, and that is why it wanted to protect itself.

“It's hard to predict the future,” explained Szafnauer. “Like, I always say, if I could predict the future, I wouldn't be here. I'd be at Vegas.

“We offered a one-plus-one deal. And we discussed with Fernando that: look, if next year at this time, you're performing at the same level, of course, we will take you. And that could have carried on.

“But I think he wanted more certainty, independent of performance: 'I want to stay for longer'. And I think that was the crux of the going one-plus-one as opposed to two-plus-one or three-plus-one or three years.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1, Pat Fry

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1, Pat Fry

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Szafnauer said even the greatest drivers like Michael Schumacher were not as good at the end of their careers as they were when they started out.

“There does come a time where something happens physiologically to a driver, and you don't have the same abilities you did when you were younger,” he said.

“I think it happened to Michael. I think it's fair to say Michael Schumacher at 42 was not the same driver he was at 32 or 35. And it happens to other sportsmen too.

“For cricketers, it's not such a physically strenuous sport. It's all about eye hand coordination, moving the bat to the right millimetres such that you protect [the stumps].

"But after 32, 33 or 34, the best batsman in the world can't do it anymore. And that's because something happens to them. And it happens to race car drivers too.

“So we were in favour of: yes, if you're performing to the high level, for sure we'll keep you. But let's do it one year at a time and I think he wanted a longer duration.”

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Szafnauer also denied suggestions that Alonso had not taken kindly to plans being made for him to join Alpine’s LMDh programme, at a time when he still felt he had plenty more to offer F1.

Speaking about that project, Szafnauer said: “We had conversations with Fernando and so did Laurent [Rossi, Alpine CEO]. It was regards, when you do finish in F1, we would love for you to continue with the family and go do other racing with Alpine. So it wasn't really a surprise to Fernando, because he agreed to do that and thought it was a good idea.

“The question was, well, when will that happen? But when it does happen, going to Le Mans, he was absolutely happy to continue down that road.”

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