How Aston Martin pulled off its shock Alonso F1 deal

Fernando Alonso has delivered a few shocks in his Formula 1 career, but Monday morning’s announcement of his move to Aston Martin is up there among the biggest.

How Aston Martin pulled off its shock Alonso F1 deal

As the F1 paddock packed down at the Hungaroring on Sunday night, all eyes at Alpine were on a bit of holiday over the summer break and what were anticipated to be some brief talks to secure a new contract with Alonso.

Team principal Otmar Szafnauer seemed relaxed as he concurred with Alonso’s remark from earlier in the weekend that it would probably take just 10 minutes to sort things out.

“Very straightforward,” he suggested about how he viewed negotiations playing out.

Szafnauer insisted that the big-ticket issues at the heart of a contract (including the length of the deal) were all sorted; and it was only a question of detail. But there was an intriguing pause when he was asked about whether or not money was one of the chief areas that the two parties remained wide apart on.

He responded: “Not just Fernando. Every driver I've ever negotiated with, it's been a question of money. And other things too.

“But yeah, for whatever reason, they want the most money and we want to pay the least. And then we end up in some kind of unhappy place for everyone, or a happy place that everyone's willing to sign.”

Unbeknown to Szafnauer though, the wheels were already well in motion elsewhere. In fact, Alonso wouldn’t be continuing any negotiations with Alpine as he was already set on the move to Aston Martin.

After a weekend of intense effort from both Alonso and Aston Martin to keep the deal secret, it was finally announced to the wider team and the public on Monday morning.

When Vettel revealed his intention to retire, Aston moved quickly to secure the best possible replacement

When Vettel revealed his intention to retire, Aston moved quickly to secure the best possible replacement

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Behind the scenes, it is understood that Aston Martin and its owner Lawrence Stroll had been hard at work for several days pulling together a package that was good enough to convince Alonso to commit already, without needing to drag things on to the summer.

It was a dramatic change of plan for the team. For many weeks, Aston Martin’s focus had been on continuing with Sebastian Vettel, but it knew that the German was evaluating whether or not he wanted to continue in F1.

Aston Martin stayed loyal to Vettel for as long as possible but, when the four-time world champion finally informed the team hierarchy on the Wednesday before Hungary that he wanted to retire, it knew it could not sit back and risk ending up with a second-rate choice because other better options were snapped up elsewhere.

That is why, rather than keep Vettel’s retirement intentions secret until much later in the campaign, the wheels were set in motion to get the information out there as quickly as possible. It served the double benefit of lifting a weight off Vettel’s shoulders but also making it pretty clear to every driver on the grid that there was now a clear vacancy.

In effect, Aston Martin played its hand in flushing out the driver market to find out who was available and what the interest was. Those that wanted the seat would obviously be in touch; and Alonso was one of those.

For the Spaniard, whose talks with Alpine had hit a bit of an impasse and needed settling over the summer, he suddenly found himself in a situation where he went from potentially getting a new contract at Alpine to definitely getting one at Aston Martin. As he had said on Thursday when asked if Aston Martin was an option: “All the teams are an option, as long as they don't have two drivers signed.

“My priority is to be with Alpine because, you know, we've been working and developing this project together for two years now.

“We are more and more competitive. And probably my wish is to stay. But we didn't, you know, sit down completely and move forward things. So still, everything ongoing.”

Alonso had publicly declared his intention to remain with Alpine beyond his current contract, but was interested when Vettel's Aston Martin seat became open

Alonso had publicly declared his intention to remain with Alpine beyond his current contract, but was interested when Vettel's Aston Martin seat became open

Photo by: Alpine

In retrospect, the use of that word ‘probably’ is intriguing. It is understood that, at that stage, there had been no formal talks with Aston Martin’s senior management. But, once the Vettel news was out and the possibility of a switch became a genuine option, things moved incredibly quickly.

Read Also:

From Aston Martin’s perspective, it was a no brainer to do what it took to convince Alonso to join – knowing full well that there was a narrow window of opportunity before he could maybe be lost elsewhere. Let’s also not forget there is a little bit of history between Stroll/Aston Martin and Szafnauer….

There may have been more easily available driver options for the team elsewhere – like Mick Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg – but they did not fall in line with the kind of ambitions that team owner Stroll has for his squad to win world championships. And in the end, while Aston Martin’s competitive fortunes on track this year are not great, it is the Silverstone squads’s ambitions that probably spoke most loudly in swinging things for Alonso to finally commit.

No other team is undergoing the kind of investment ramp up and infrastructure improvement as Aston Martin at the moment – which boasts new sponsors, more technology partners and is pushing on hard with its new factory and windtunnel plans.

For Alonso, a man who is motivated to win in F1 and not simply race around in the midfield, he well knows that money still buys a lot in the sport and he can see the potential in what Aston Martin has planned for the future. Alpine has already been through its major investment phase since Renault originally came back to take over the squad as a works team, and now it could well be a case of diminishing returns.

Sure Aston Martin may well be a big gamble for Alonso who, at 41, has probably made the last roll of the dice in his F1 career if he really wants to get back to the front. But he was crystal clear in Hungary, in some prophetic words that, outside of the big three teams right now, every driver is gambling on finding the right spot.

“There is not a crystal ball that you can choose,” he said about the need to be in a winning car. “I guess now with this set of regulations, it seems that Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes: they are the only capable teams of winning races.

“So if you have an opportunity into 2023 with those three teams, you will try to join forces. But if there is no opportunity, you just need to trust some of the projects, that they are maybe wishing that they are more competitive next year. That is is all I hope.”

Alonso knows Aston Martin is a gamble, but is convinced that its significant investment in infrastructure makes it a more likely winning proposition than Alpine

Alonso knows Aston Martin is a gamble, but is convinced that its significant investment in infrastructure makes it a more likely winning proposition than Alpine

Photo by: FIA Pool

shares
comments
Autosport Podcast: F1 Hungarian Grand Prix Review
Previous article

Autosport Podcast: F1 Hungarian Grand Prix Review

Next article

Hungarian Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2022

Hungarian Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2022
The Moss-Ferrari farce that current F1 drivers are thankfully spared Plus

The Moss-Ferrari farce that current F1 drivers are thankfully spared

Recent moves within the driver market have reminded MAURICE HAMILTON of a time when contracts weren’t worth the paper they weren’t written on…

Audi’s innovative first assault on grand prix racing Plus

Audi’s innovative first assault on grand prix racing

It has been a long time coming but Audi’s arrival in Formula 1 is finally on the horizon for 2026. But it won’t be its first foray into grand prix racing, as the German manufacturer giant has a history both long and enthralling

Formula 1
Sep 23, 2022
The seven factors powering Verstappen's 2022 F1 domination Plus

The seven factors powering Verstappen's 2022 F1 domination

After a tooth and nail and, at times, toxic Formula 1 world championship scrap last year, Max Verstappen's march to a second consecutive title has been the exact opposite. But has he really changed in 2022? Here's a dive into what factors have played a crucial role, both inside the Verstappen camp and elsewhere, in the Dutch driver's domination

Formula 1
Sep 23, 2022
Why Hamilton is still the man to keep driving Mercedes forward Plus

Why Hamilton is still the man to keep driving Mercedes forward

Lewis Hamilton’s words in a recent Vanity Fair interview define both his world-view and his approach to this season: one of perpetual struggle against adversity. As GP RACING explains, that’s what Lewis feeds off – and why, far from being down and nearly out, he’s using his unique skillset to spearhead Mercedes’ revival…

Formula 1
Sep 22, 2022
The time lag of ideas that offers intrigue over F1's future fight Plus

The time lag of ideas that offers intrigue over F1's future fight

The pecking order in 2022's Formula 1 season may look pretty static as the season draws to a close, but the unique nature of the cost cap means that preparation for next season takes precedence. New developments are being pushed back to 2023 - which could mask the technical development war ongoing...

Formula 1
Sep 22, 2022
How one retro event could prove an alluring prospect for Formula 1 stars Plus

How one retro event could prove an alluring prospect for Formula 1 stars

While Formula 1 drivers taking part in retro events can prove costly, as Charles Leclerc discovered at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, the Goodwood Revival could prove an interesting experiment for today's stars. As the event's own Tourist Trophy race proves it means serious business, a race for current F1 drivers feels as though it’s in line with where the event is currently at

Goodwood Revival
Sep 21, 2022
The surprise biggest indicator of Ferrari's 2022 F1 points downfall Plus

The surprise biggest indicator of Ferrari's 2022 F1 points downfall

Looking back to the early races of 2022 and Ferrari’s challenge to Red Bull and Max Verstappen was going better than many expected. But it has lost so much ground a surprise rival can even pip Charles Leclerc to runner-up in the standings if given the chance

Formula 1
Sep 20, 2022
How Tyrrell and Stewart forged parallel paths to F1 stardom Plus

How Tyrrell and Stewart forged parallel paths to F1 stardom

The young Ken Tyrrell was barely 
aware of motor racing – until a trip with 
his village football team to the British
 Grand Prix set him on the road to
 becoming a Formula 1 constructor. MAURICE HAMILTON details the humble beginning of Tyrrell and how Ken linked up with Jackie Stewart…

Formula 1
Sep 19, 2022