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Formula 1

Alonso can rely on a ‘proper’ foundation his comeback lacked

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
5 min read

Fernando Alonso’s 2022 Formula 1 season has already started differently to last year’s. Without wishing to tempt fate, this time he should be able to count on “proper preparation”.

Alonso’s comeback with the Alpine team was compromised in the build-up to pre-season testing in 2021 when he required surgery for a broken jaw following his road accident while cycling in Switzerland.

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He had to have a “fracture in his upper jaw” corrected, which meant a short spell in hospital, a few days of complete rest and a gradual return to full training.

And though the two-time world champion recovered in time for pre-season testing in Bahrain, the unusually short programme – just three days of running in total – meant he went into his first F1 season since leaving at the end of 2018 lower on mileage than would have been ideal.

When Alonso spoke to media including The Race at the end of his 2021 season, the subject of his cycling accident cropped up in a few answers – although he said that it was mainly because he was having two titanium plates removed in January, so it was “in my head”.

A lot is changing in F1 this season with all-new cars and Alonso has had a “different preparation” planned but not in anticipation of new technical challenges as he expects the 2022 machines “will be very similar in terms of driving and forces and lap times”.

“But just because [in 2021], I couldn’t do a proper preparation,” he said.

“After the bike accident, I was just counting the days to go to Bahrain. And it was just on time to go to Bahrain, but not with a proper physical programme.

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

“So this winter, I want to do it a little bit more. Obviously, I don’t train the same now at 40, than when I was 23.

“You have to train more, you have to stretch more, you have to have a different food routine. You have to do many, many other things to be at the same shape, and with the same strength.

“I’m ready to do so, that’s why I came back as well. There are more sacrifices to do. But that’s the plan for this winter, I will be as strong as I can.

“I know that I will have to train and I will have to do more than other drivers because I’m older than them.”

Alonso has always dismissed age as a complication in his comeback. He said in 2020 when he signed his deal to return that he was in the best physical condition of his career and joked that race results have never been decided by the information in someone’s passport.

However, the acknowledgement of the impact his age has on his training shows that it is not an irrelevant factor. It’s just something he must manage.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Hungarian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Budapest, Hungary

And he believes he is capable of doing that, especially as he feels the 2021 season took him “closer” to ‘peak Alonso’ than how he felt when the season started.

“It’s difficult to know when the limit is and where we could get [in 2022],” said Alonso.

“But I think we need a good winter, that’s for sure. And to get ready a little bit better than last year, the accident in February with the bicycle didn’t help last year.

“January, I will have to remove the plates from my face. So, I will have two weeks in January off. But probably I had those weeks anyway, even without the surgery because it’s just time to relax.

“After that, we need to go into winter testing with a good programme physically and also in the car and get ready. And if the car is competitive, I’m sure I will be 100%.”

By now Alonso will be in the proper physical preparation phase and working towards pre-season testing that will be crucial given the major regulation changes.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Race Day Abu Dhabi, Uae

It will also be immeasurably more beneficial for him given it will be a more conventional amount of track time after the paucity of 2021’s offering.

Though Alonso’s own training is hardly a negligible element of his preparation, what matters most are the six days across Barcelona and Bahrain that will ensure he’s on top of whatever car Alpine has produced.

“Probably the one day and a half was the biggest limitation,” he said of last winter.

“If it was a normal winter, that you go four or five days in the car, that was enough to spot a couple of the problems, and to fine-tune the steering and some of the things that I was missing at the beginning of the year.

“So, I would say that was the biggest challenge – not to have a proper winter testing.

“It was not a big issue [for me] but I understand that for some others to have four or five races that I was not competitive it was kind of a surprise because I came back. And even if you are two years out of the sport people have always high expectations, some think that you will be fast immediately. And I was not fast.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Qualifying Day Abu Dhabi, Uae

“I was not sad, but I didn’t like it if I was disappointing anyone. But I was convinced that with time everything will be back to normal as it was at the end of the year.”

What Alonso is ultimately capable of achieving this year will almost certainly be defined by the car rather than the driver.

While there is little guaranteed about F1 2022, Alonso can at least be confident he will not be starting on the backfoot himself.

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