Alonso says ‘strange feeling’ of protracted Alpine negotiations contributed to shock Aston switch
Outgoing Alpine driver Fernando Alonso has explained the multifaceted reasons behind his switch to Aston Martin for the 2023 season, as the two-time champion implied that his age may have played a part in his departure to the team in green.
At 41, Alonso is the oldest driver on the grid, and despite having taken a two-year sabbatical before joining Alpine to make his comeback in 2021, the Spaniard is just three Grands Prix away from equalling Kimi Raikkonen’s record of 349 starts.
With young Australian driver Oscar Piastri having seemingly been waiting on the sidelines at Alpine – although the Australian would later refute Alpine’s claim that he would drive for them in Alonso’s place in 2023 – Alonso was asked whether he’d felt he had adequate support from his team. He replied: “I mean, I’m trying to perform at my best. Every weekend I try to give my best on track, we had an incredible journey these two years with the team and we grew up a lot.
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“And when it seems that I have to be evaluated every year because my passport says whatever date of birth, it seems strange to me. Other teams think differently; they trust in my abilities and I’m happy for that.
“[With Alpine] we were moving around in different things and we were not maybe agreeing on the principles. It’s not only what you agree in terms of duration of the contract, it’s just also the trust that you feel and how you feel wanted in a place… It was always a strange feeling.
“I felt that it was the right decision to move to Aston because they seemed to really want me and appreciate every performance that I was putting in in the last two years.”
The Spanish driver added that joining Aston Martin involved a series of “very easy decisions” from his side.
“For some months, I’d been chatting with [Alpine] about extending the contract, but nothing officially arrived and nothing officially happened. And Aston called me after Sebastian [Vettel] retired. If Sebastian probably continued, this would not happen, the move to Aston. They were very clear and very easy decisions from my side.
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“I had the phone call from Aston after Sebastian announced that he was stopping at the end of the year. At that point we sat down and we got to this agreement. I think the project is very attractive. Obviously, there is a lot of investment going on in the last few years, a lot of new people came to the team, very talented engineers, designers, new facilities in Silverstone. So, I felt that it was a nice project for the future.
“They were extremely happy to join forces and to have this possibility to grow up together. And we felt that it was the right thing to do.”
One figure that was somewhat left in limbo by Alonso’s departure was Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer, who revealed that he learned of his veteran driver’s impending departure via an Aston Martin press release.
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“It’s true, Otmar probably didn’t know anything,” confirmed Alonso, “but I informed [CEO] Laurent Rossi, [Renault] President Luca de Meo, my mechanics and my engineers before any announcement, so all the people that were involved in the negotiations, they’ve been informed before any announcement on Aston Martin.
“Otmar was not involved in any negotiations, and yes, probably Laurent or Luca didn’t call him before the announcement and he was surprised by that. But all the people that I’ve been negotiation with, they’ve been informed before any announcement. And about my move to Aston, as I said, even my mechanics, and my engineers, I took my time to inform them before any announcement.”