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Formula 1

Red Bull or bust? Alonso's revealing 2025 F1 comments

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
8 min read

On the heels of his top-drawer performance in Formula 1's Japanese Grand Prix weekend at Suzuka, Fernando Alonso hinted that a potential move to Mercedes was not as attractive as it may seem.

But he also indirectly cast doubt over whether staying at Aston Martin would be all that enticing, too.

The two-time world champion is a major player on the F1 2025 driver market - but not the only major player. And despite having the best pedigree among the free agents and still remaining the consensus strongest option in terms of pure performance in the short term, he is not the frontrunner for any of the available seats except for his current one.

Red Bull has at least one seat going, with Sergio Perez out of contract at the end of the year - but has convinced much more recently, and was described by Christian Horner at Suzuka as "the priority" who "just needs to keep doing what he's doing". But Red Bull - both Horner and Helmut Marko - has also been increasingly complimentary of the job its former protege Carlos Sainz is doing at Ferrari.

There could be another Red Bull seat up for grabs if Max Verstappen walks out, but Alonso himself suggested he saw "zero chance of that happening".

And Mercedes, assuming Verstappen can't be lured away, looks to be pulling out all the stops in its push to get Formula 2 driver Kimi Antonelli prepared enough to slot straight in as Lewis Hamilton's replacement.

Alonso has been touted as an Antonelli fallback - as has Sainz - but Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said at Suzuka that the team would not hurry its decision in any way and would be willing to risk having attractive free agents take themselves off the board.

And now Alonso has hinted being a short-term option for Mercedes doesn't really appeal anyway.

This came after he'd told Sky Sports F1 of his Japanese GP weekend that, for as good as he felt it was, "it's going to be completely anonymous, everyone will forget by tomorrow this weekend that we had".

Asked whether it was fulfilling enough to inform his decision on whether to continue beyond 2024 at all, he said: "It goes either way. I have a lot of fun, which is great, to keep on racing. I had one of my best weekends ever, I think, driving, and I'm 44 seconds behind the leader. It doesn't feel attractive, at the same time."

On whether that meant it would be more attractive with a team up the grid, he answered impishly: "That's a very good question". But his reaction to the idea of specifically getting in touch with Wolff and Mercedes sent a different message.

"Mercedes is behind us [today], so it doesn't feel that attractive."


Alonso wasn't trying to say that the Mercedes W15, for all of its current faults, was a lesser package than the Aston Martin AMR24 right now. In fact, he'd acknowledged earlier in the interview he felt it was faster (but just didn't execute perfectly, including with the "bold" decision to take the restart with the hard tyres on both cars).

And it's specifically seeing Aston as a clear fifth-best right now that brought Alonso so much satisfaction from his weekend.

"I think it was my best weekend [in recent times], inside the top five ever for me. P5 in qualifying, that lap and P6 today in the race is completely out of position. Very proud," he said.

"I think we're the fifth-fastest team by a good margin to the fourth and a good margin to the sixth. We're quite established.

"There's no way to compare us with the Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull. To finish P5 and P6 is completely unusual, we did it in Australia as well, finished P6, here P6 again, P5 in Jeddah, we're executing very well the races and the others are experimenting a bit with the strategy and other things.

"We're capitalising on those but we need to improve the pace for sure."

Alonso's assessment of his weekend is typically grandiose but clearly not without merit - you won't be particularly surprised to see where he's ended up in our Japanese GP driver rankings.

And clearly his disappointment about the relative pace is offset at least a little bit by the quality of execution by the race team. He made a point to give major props to Aston for its pitstops in particular.

While it was only the fifth-fastest team by peak pitstop time in Suzuka, Aston's deficit to second place there was just 0.03s (first-placed Red Bull was in another league) - and four of its five in-race tyre changes were within one tenth.

"Actually at the second stop and I saw the green light, I thought maybe they didn't change all four tyres because for me, it felt like the fastest ever, curious to see the times," said Alonso. "Small things here and there that are making possible getting the results."

Ultimately, the combination of Alonso, the car and the race team beat both Mercedes on merit at Suzuka. And Aston Martin's Mike Krack appreciated it when The Race put to him that an Aston-to-Mercedes move was no longer the absolute no-brainer it once would've been.

"It's very nice that you make that observation because we are always focussing on the negatives, aren't we?" he observed. "Which is the nature of racing - but I agree with you, now when you see what happens over the last two or three years, the progress the teams have made, it's nice to see, yeah, there's a possibility there but 'no, maybe I better stay here'.

"You can maybe talk to him in Spanish, try to convince him.

"It shows we've come a long way in a short time, we are still far from where we want to be but Formula 1 is extremely competitive, to manage to get to this first block of five and there are two blocks at the moment, it's a good thing. But we want to get further forward in that block.

"We managed to not be the last on the block in some races like today and maybe also two weeks ago. We need to try and consolidate that come further forward."


Though its start to this season hasn't been the same explosive sensation of 2023, Aston does deserve a lot of credit for consolidating and making itself a genuine alternative to the likes of Mercedes in terms of the driver market.

But this, of course, has also required a major assist from Mercedes itself in now getting three ground effect era cars not quite right at all.

And this is why Alonso's quip about Mercedes cannot be taken as anywhere near a wholehearted show of faith, not when he's also saying things like "fundamentally the pace is not where we want to be".

Alonso has been talking of his 2025 decision as being about whether to continue or not more than about getting the best available opportunity. Part of that is a bit mischievous, but it is also a callback to when he first left F1 at the end of 2018, after an unrewarding stint at McLaren.

The Spaniard said many things about that decision, but one of the main thoughts that kept cropping up is that fifth or sixth, or seventh, eighth, 12th, 17th - it doesn't really matter. Why would it? How could it? He has won two titles and 32 grands prix, and all of the lesser results can never be anything more than a footnote.

All of that is still true, except Alonso is now 42. He almost certainly doesn't have multiple moves left in him. And does anyone really believe that fourth time will be the charm for Mercedes under these regulations, that the W16 will restore it to its prior hybrid-era potency?

If it's a choice between, say, fourth-fifth every weekend at Mercedes and fifth-sixth-seventh every weekend at Aston, it's not a meaningful difference at all for a driver in Alonso's position.

And, crucially, unlike Mercedes - which seems to be favouring Antonelli and would only offer Alonso a short-term, 'seat-warming' deal (the way it approached its contract negotiations with Hamilton makes that abundantly clear - Aston still favours him and very much wants him to re-commit.

"We need to add more," said Krack of the mission of keeping Alonso. "We definitely need to add more.

"But if he can fight and not be in the middle of nowhere, it's already a first step, then we will not stop. We will bring parts over the season, to keep him motivated and happy at Aston Martin."

Krack and co. will have their work cut out for them. Alonso's somewhat wistful post-Japanese GP tone suggests as much, anyway - the idea that he walks away does not sound like an empty threat.

And the only option that is a no-brainer above both an Aston re-signing and retirement is Red Bull. There, he would win again. There, his F1 career denouement would become whole.

Alonso is known to want that move quite a bit and has been pushed hard for it. As he should. But there's no real sign of Red Bull reciprocating the interest just yet.

So, if Mercedes comes calling (seems unlikely), Aston can probably see it off. If Red Bull comes calling (seems unlikely), Aston logically has no chance.

The real battle for it is against the lure of a second foray into post-F1 life. And on Suzuka's evidence, it's clear how very easy it would be for Aston to lose that battle.

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