Why Alonso believes he would beat his younger self "with one hand"

If Fernando Alonso's tenacious Hungarian Grand Prix drive taught us anything, it's that he's lost nothing of the canny racecraft that helped him win two Formula 1 world championships.

Why Alonso believes he would beat his younger self "with one hand"

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but 40-year-old Alonso's arsenal of trickery is still up there with the very best. So what is there to teach?

Rather than entertaining the idea he might be edging towards decline, the Spaniard believes he is a much better driver now, in his second F1 career with Alpine, than he was in his early Renault days thanks to the experience he has gained in F1 and through his extra-curricular excursions.

Alonso has made three attempts at the Indianapolis 500 and claimed back-to-back Le Mans 24 Hours victories with Toyota during his title-winning 2018-19 World Endurance Championship campaign.

In a wide-ranging interview ahead of the Hungarian GP with selected media, including Autosport, Alonso admits it has taken him longer than expected to get up to speed on his F1 return after two years out, but regards his age as just a number.

"I was expecting, let's say, three or four races," he says when asked by Autosport how long he thought it would take to get to his best level.

"I knew that Imola was the second race, that the guys were racing on in September, October last year, and for me it was new. And Portimao was race three, so I was thinking that until Barcelona or something like that, race four, I was on maybe 100%.

"And it took me two more races than Barcelona."

Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1

Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Alonso has never been known for being short on confidence. But when he's not at his best he's also acutely aware of any chinks in his armour, which he appears to be much more candid about at this stage of his career.

He reveals that while watching grands prix on TV during his absence, on occasion he had an armchair quarterback moment where he would think he could do a better job than what he was seeing on the screen. But in reality, stepping back into an F1 cockpit proved to be a humbling experience at first.

"I think when you are out of the sport and when you see races on TV, you think that you probably could do that overtake differently, or that performance or that start," he says.

"You have your self-confidence thinking that when you get back in the car you can improve certain things and maybe try to learn from others.

"And this is what I did in the first couple of races. I think I'm not 100% yet in the car. Silverstone was a good learning curve again, on tyre management, on strategy."

Alonso had also been worried about missing mileage on Pirelli's wet tyres, but his display in the opening stages of Hungary's wet-dry thriller proved any concerns were not necessary. But then, that's where experience shines through, and where his longevity in the sport is an advantage.

When asked how long he could continue at the highest level, he says: "What I feel maybe it sounds opposite to the people outside, because it seems that the sport and also how social media is, we seem to get confused about the age and about the performance that a sportsman can do, you know.

"This is not the Tour of France, this is not the Olympic Games, this is not football where at 23 you are at the peak of your performance. If I race now against myself at 23, I will beat him with one hand, you know, it's not the same.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

"It's not the younger you are, the quicker you are, this is not how the stopwatch works in motorsports. There are people that want to see new names, they want to see new hopes, they want to get rid of some of the normal names that they see every weekend.

"But I see myself [racing a] very long time. If it's in Formula 1, great, if it's not in Formula 1, I will try to pursue some of the remaining challenges outside Formula 1, to be hopefully the most complete driver in motorsport ever."

Whether that will lead to more success for Alonso and his Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon will depend on the Enstone team's ability to produce a capable package for the new 2022 regulations, which has been its focus for some time.

Alonso has been a keen observer in the factory to monitor the 2022 project's progress, but says it's too early to get any indications of what the team is capable of.

"We are working on next year's project but it's very early days and no one knows what the numbers are because you have nothing to compare against," he explains.

"We are all a little bit realistic and yet waiting for February because we will see many surprises when the cars are uncovered for everyone."

Alonso's demeanour suggests he could still be around if and when Alpine gets to reap the fruits of its labour, suggesting he didn't make any demands while negotiating his current 1+1 season contract with the French manufacturer.

"I didn't negotiate too much, you know, and I was happy with whatever the team was willing to offer," he claims.

"There was no discussion on that, there was no discussion on salary, no discussion on anything. I'm here to perform and I'm here to help the team, not to ask for anything. I'm not in that part of my career."

Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1, 1st position, and Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1, celebrate in Parc Ferme

Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1, 1st position, and Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1, celebrate in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

shares
comments

Related video

Tost sees ‘no alternatives’ to current driver line-up for F1 2022
Previous article

Tost sees ‘no alternatives’ to current driver line-up for F1 2022

Next article

The last hurrah for a former British F1 superpower

The last hurrah for a former British F1 superpower
Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver Plus

Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver

Many doubted Lewis Hamilton’s move from McLaren to Mercedes for the 2013 Formula 1 season. But the journey he’s been on since has taken the Briton to new heights - and to a further six world championship titles

Formula 1
Feb 2, 2023
Why new look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era Plus

Why new look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era

OPINION: With teams outside the top three having struggled in Formula 1 in recent seasons, the rules changes introduced in 2022 should have more of an impact this season. How well Haas does, as the poster child for the kind of team that F1 wanted to be able to challenge at the front, is crucial

Formula 1
Feb 2, 2023
The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff Plus

The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff

OPINION: Although the central building blocks for Mercedes’ recent, long-lasting Formula 1 success were installed before he joined the team, Toto Wolff has been instrumental in ensuring it maximised its finally-realised potential after years of underachievement. The 10-year anniversary of Wolff joining Mercedes marks the perfect time to assess his work

Formula 1
Feb 1, 2023
The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate Plus

The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate

Alpine’s signing of Pierre Gasly alongside Esteban Ocon revives memories of a famous all-French line-up, albeit in the red of Ferrari, for BEN EDWARDS. Can the former AlphaTauri man's arrival help the French team on its path back to winning ways in a tribute act to the Prancing Horse's title-winning 1983?

Formula 1
Jan 31, 2023
How do the best races of F1 2022 stack up to 2021? Plus

How do the best races of F1 2022 stack up to 2021?

OPINION: A system to score all the grands prix from the past two seasons produces some interesting results and sets a standard that 2023 should surely exceed

Formula 1
Jan 31, 2023
Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022? Plus

Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Who was the fastest driver in 2022? Everyone has an opinion, but what does the stopwatch say? Obviously, differing car performance has an effect on ultimate laptime – but it’s the relative speed of each car/driver package that’s fascinating and enlightening says ALEX KALINAUCKAS

Formula 1
Jan 30, 2023
Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return Plus

Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return

He has more starts without a podium than anyone else in Formula 1 world championship history, but Nico Hulkenberg is back for one more shot with Haas. After spending three years on the sidelines, the revitalised German is aiming to prove to his new team what the F1 grid has been missing

Formula 1
Jan 29, 2023
The potential-laden F1 car that Ferrari neglected Plus

The potential-laden F1 car that Ferrari neglected

The late Mauro Forghieri played a key role in Ferrari’s mid-1960s turnaround, says STUART CODLING, and his pretty, intricate 1512 was among the most evocative cars of the 1.5-litre era. But a victim of priorities as Formula 1 was deemed less lucrative than success in sportscars, its true potential was never seen in period

Formula 1
Jan 28, 2023