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Formula 1

Alonso’s biting comparison between Aston and his past F1 teams

by Matt Beer
7 min read

Ever since signing his shock team-move deal was announced last summer, Fernando Alonso has made a point of finding ever more spectacular ways of describing his enormous happiness to be an Aston Martin Formula 1 driver in 2023.

And unsurprisingly the launch of the team’s AMR23 for the new F1 season offered more examples – including a fairly unsubtle dig at previous employer Alpine (and perhaps even McLaren before that).

Aston Martin is, of course, what was once Jordan, Midland, Spyker, Force India and Racing Point. It’s the first time since his debut season at Minardi that Alonso’s joined an F1 team that hadn’t won titles in its past – and then, in several of those cases, faded. He thinks that makes an important difference.

“I think some of the background of this team, coming from the previous names that this factory had – everyone here is humble, everyone here is hungry for success,” he said.

“Maybe they didn’t experience fighting for wins regularly or championships or podiums every weekend.

“But they trust in themselves, they have self-confidence and they know that they can achieve that. They never did yet, so this is very different compared to any other team that I’ve joined on the last few occasions – where maybe they’d had success in the past and they were just in a comfortable position.

“They were fourth and they were happy with fourth. They were fifth, they were happy with fifth. If they were seventh it was a celebration. Here there are no celebrations until we win, and this is very appealing.”

When Alonso was asked why he looked happier than he did this time last year, he launched into further praise of Aston Martin’s work ethic and atmosphere and Lawrence Stroll’s leadership. But he also suggested that the same elements that made him so delighted to be there were also what had helped Aston Martin pull off its recruitment of significant names from other teams, such as technical director Dan Fallows (ex-Red Bull) and his deputy Eric Blandin (ex-Mercedes).

“Well, because I’m very demanding in everything that I do,” Alonso began.

“I expect a lot from people that I work with. I give my 100% and I expect the same from the people that I work with.

“Since the first day at Aston Martin, I’ve felt exactly the same values from the people around me.

“Obviously we have the leadership of Lawrence, who I’ve known for many years now. He had a lot of success in many things and many different projects in his life and I see there is no doubt that Formula 1 will not be different. He will succeed sooner or later. That’s something that is very motivating.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Mexican Grand Prix Preparation Day Mexico City, Mexico

“The new people that are joining the team – Dan Fallows (above), Eric – the best people in each of the competitors, Aston Martin went there and convinced them. So there is something for sure going on in this team that makes things special.

“You need investment and you need talent in Formula 1. We have the investment, we have the facilities and we have the talent. So it’s just a matter of time. Unfortunately I’m not 20. But I will do my best to help the team.”

That realistic short-term expectations, big long-term expectations – but acceptance that he might not be the driver who benefits from it all – element was one Alonso was as keen to emphasise as his happiness at everything about Aston Martin life.

“They are not giving expectations that are unrealistic. They know where we are,” he said.

“They know that last year only three teams finished on the same lap as the leader – Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes. Everybody else was one lap behind, including Alpine, who finished fourth in the championship, and McLaren.

“We know that those kind of gaps in Formula 1 are very difficult to overcome in two or three months. But let’s see if we can have a good season, enjoy it, have good reliability and make sure that the team grows up during the season.”

The main way in which Alonso wants Aston Martin to grow in 2023 is to make sure it doesn’t have to throw its car concept in the bin at the end of it.

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

Last year it suffered even worse than Mercedes in misjudging how low a car could run under the new ground effect regulations before porpoising intervened. It had to rapidly do an early-season switch to a revised version that chief technical officer Andrew Green – who for 2023 is moving away from the F1 team to the CTO position at the Aston Martin Performance Technologies arm – admitted to The Race last year was “incredibly underdeveloped” when it was brought to the Spanish Grand Prix for its debut.

Alonso’s aim for 2023 performance-wise is that Aston Martin is the best midfield team and closes on the top three. But that’s of secondary importance compared to giving itself a proper useable building block for 2024 and beyond.

“The most important thing for me this year is just to make sure that this car and this baseline is the one with which we will develop the future Aston Martin cars,” he said.

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Abu Dhabi, Uae

“Last year the package had some difficulties, as we all saw from the outside. The team went through a few things during the season and they improved a lot by the end of the year, so those difficulties for sure are very good when you understand them.

“I think this is the first real new car with this set of regulations that hopefully Aston Martin can develop in the future.

“So that for me will be the biggest thing this year: that we can develop through the season and we can finish 2023 knowing that this car is a baseline for the future Aston Martin cars.”

Alonso will turn 42 mid-season, but believes he’s “fitter than ever” – partly because he’s had his first uninterrupted winter of physical training since his 2021 pre-season cycling accident that left him with facial injuries and meant he “could not move for three weeks”, and that he needed plates to be removed from his face last winter.

He expects to need a few races to get fully comfortable and up to speed in the Aston Martin, warning (via a dig at the testing restrictions: “this is the only sport in the world where you do one day and a half of practice then you play a world championship”) that he probably won’t be on team-mate Lance Stroll’s pace at first.

But this is all about the long game. Asked by The Race how confident he felt about having much short-term success given Aston Martin was still yet to move into its new factory and had so many new personnel to integrate, Alonso underlined that 2023 would be a building season.

“It’s year three of Aston Martin and there are a lot of things going on right now with those new people who’ve joined the team and their new ideas,” he said.

“On the new factory and the new windtunnel, it will take time, this is more a long-term benefit we will see.

“But in the short term you will also see with the new car that there are a lot of things that are already visible in how the team can grow up quickly.

“This project is very ambitious and has a lot of things to prove but a lot of things to go through in the next few years. I know that my time is not unlimited behind the wheel but I will try to make this process as short as possible and help the team as much as I can.”

And asked if he thought he could finally win a third F1 world title at Aston Martin, two decades on from his first two with Renault, he didn’t rule it out.

Formula 1 Grand Prix, Brazil, Sunday Race

“I do believe that there is a possibility,” he said.

“I don’t think this year, I’m honest on that and I have my feet on the ground.

“I cannot say to anyone that we will be fighting for victories this year. I would lie if I said that.

“But at the same time we want to have a good car to start with and to work and develop that car through the season and maybe in the second half of the year we can get closer, and if there is an opportunity, changeable conditions, something where opportunity comes, we will not miss that opportunity.”

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