Alpine feared Alonso would suffer the same decline as Schumacher

Alpine feared Alonso would suffer the same decline as Schumacher

The Alpine team has in spite of it let slip Fernando Alonso at Aston Martin, not wanting to offer him a firm multi-year contract. It is justified by the Michael Schumacher case.

At the 2012 European Grand Prix, at 43, Michael Schumacher became the oldest driver on a Formula 1 podium since Jack Brabham in 1970. It was the tree that hides the forest: for his return to the top flight after a three-year absence, the seven-time World Champion was rarely at the level of his team-mate Nico Rosberg over their three collaborative seasons. Apart from rare bursts, Schumacher was also far from his performances of yesteryear.

Ten years later, Fernando Alonso took Alpine by surprise by signing with Aston Martin to everyone’s surprise. The major factor in his decision seems to be the length of the various contracts on offer: at Silverstone, the 41-year-old Iberian will enjoy a multi-year deal, while at Enstone he was only offered one more season with one more. optional if the performance was still there. This approach, team manager Otmar Szafnauer assumes.

“It is difficult to predict the future”points out Szafnauer. “As I often say, if I could predict the future, I wouldn’t be here, I’d be in Las Vegas. We offered a one-year contract with an optional extra year. We told Fernando that s “He was at the same level of performance next year at the same time, obviously we were going to choose him, and we could continue together. But I think he wanted more certainty regardless of the performance: ‘I want to stay longer’. That was the crux of the matter, with two years one optional versus three or four years one optional.”

“There comes a time when something happens to the pilot physiologically, and he doesn’t have the same abilities as when he was younger. And I think it happened to Michael [Schumacher]. I think it’s fair to say that Michael Schumacher at 42 was not the same driver as he was at 32 or 35. And it happens to other athletes as well.”

Fernando Alonso should race at Aston Martin at least until the end of 2024. He will then be 43 years old.

“You know, cricket – with all due respect to those of you who play cricket – is not such a physically demanding sport. It’s all about hand-eye coordination, moving the bat to the millimeter to protect what’s behind. But once you’re 32, 33, 34, the best drummer in the world can’t do it anymore. It’s because something is happening to him. And it happens to pilots too . So we advocate this approach: if you are performing at a high level of performance, obviously we will keep you, but let’s do it one year at a time. I think he wanted a longer duration.”

Alpine, however, saw the future with the driver who offered him his last two world titles at the Renault era, until he reserved for the double winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans an LMDh seat in the Hypercar category in Endurance. The interested party would have expressed enthusiasm about it.

“We spoke with Fernando”says Szafnauer. “We told him that when he finished in Formula 1, we would love him to stay with our family and do more races with Alpine. So it wasn’t really a surprise for Fernando, because he agreed to take him on. do and thought it was a good idea. The question was when, but once the time was right, he was perfectly happy to go to Le Mans.”

Finally, will the atmosphere at Alpine F1 remain in good shape after the unexpected defection of the man who is nevertheless emotionally linked to the structure of Enstone by the nine years he has spent there since the start of his career? ?

Szafnauer is reassuring: “I have no worries about the rest of the season. [Alonso] is professional. He has a competitive spirit. Once he puts on that helmet, you [journalistes] know as well as I do that he wants to get the best possible result, if not win. He has nothing else on his mind when he is in the single-seater, except to finish the race and the championship as high as possible. And he still has that motivation. That’s what he’s here for.”

Interview by Adam Cooper

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