Feature

BARRETTO: Aston Martin’s masterplan is coming together – so can Alonso ‘finish the job’ and lead them to glory in 2026?

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
Share
Barretto-on-Alonso.jpg

Fernando Alonso is a force of nature.

The double world champion, who made his debut more than two decades ago in the 2001 Australian Grand Prix, earlier this month said “I am here to stay” in F1, signing a deal to race for Aston Martin until at least the end of 2026.

By then he’ll be 45 – making him the oldest driver to have raced in Formula 1 since the great two-time world champion Graham Hill.

READ MORE: ‘It’s probably my last contract’ – Alonso reflects on new Aston Martin deal as he predicts ‘things are in place’ to become a ‘powerful team’

Age is but a number to the Spaniard, who reckons he’s leaner and fitter than he’s ever been before. His reactions are seemingly as sharp if not sharper than on the first day he turned a racing wheel – and he’s clearly still got the speed and racing instincts.

In committing to Aston Martin – in what is the longest contract of his career, he says, as it includes a commitment to stay with the brand in a non-racing role when he eventually hangs up his helmet – he put retirement on the back-burner yet again.

“[Retirement] came to mind,” he says when we chatted on the terrace of the Aston Martin hospitality unit in China. “I know that day will happen eventually – and soon. This is probably my last contract in F1 and I wanted to make sure I was in a happy place that was ambitious enough to fight for championships hopefully in 2026.

“We did some great things in 2023 and I think we’re at the start of this journey. It felt natural to keep on the project – and finish the job.”

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 21: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR24 Mercedes

Alonso appears to have lost none of his speed behind the wheel

That last line is significant – “finish the job”. In signing another F1 contract, it confirms Alonso’s belief that not only can he secure a 33rd Grand Prix victory – a decade after his last triumph – but more impressively, fight for and win a world title nearly two decades after his last.

How on Earth does he do it?

“In modern sport, it’s very difficult to keep an athlete performing at a high level for 20-plus years,” he says. “For me, it was important the sabbatical years, in 2019 and 2020, those two years were enough to refresh and recharge my batteries.

READ MORE: Alonso signs new deal with Aston Martin to end speculation over F1 future

“Without those two years I think it would be impossible. At one point, you have to stop this crazy life in F1 – and for me those two years were crucial in prolonging my stay in the sport.”

It was those two seasons away from the sport, having left McLaren after the British team’s partnership with Honda failed to deliver, that allowed Alonso to reboot himself. He tried other racing challenges, such as the Indy 500 and World Endurance Championship, but realised that nothing gave him the same adrenaline spike as F1.

LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 17:  The Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid team driver Fernando Alonso reacts

Alonso won Le Mans during his spell away from F1 – but the lure of Grand Prix racing proved too strong to resist

In signing for Aston Martin, he will work with Honda again, having had a frosty relationship with the Japanese manufacturer as he grew irritated by their unreliability and lack of performance when working with McLaren.

Things have changed dramatically since, though. Honda now have the leading power unit in F1, having played a key role in Max Verstappen winning the last three World Championships with Red Bull.

READ MORE > ANALYSIS: How and why Honda and Aston Martin got together for 2026

The board at the Japanese manufacturer has also changed – and the success they are enjoying has created a buoyant and excited mood within the company. As a result, it made sense for both to link back up again.

“Honda are the world champions and they are dominating the sport,” says Alonso. “It’s a great future for Aston Martin linking with Honda; we are now a works team. There are many positives.

Honda Motor President Toshihiro Mibe (L) shakes hands with Aston Martin F1 executive chairman

Lawrence Stroll has struck a deal for Aston Martin to partner with Honda from 2026

“In my case, it will be fantastic to work with Honda. As you said, we’ve faced so many challenges in the past. We both want another opportunity and a feeling again to work towards a common goal, which is winning a championship.

“I have a lot of respect for Japanese culture, companies and people – I have a samurai tattoo on my back. I have always loved Japan. I was excited to work with Honda in the past – and it’s the same now. Let’s see if it works better this time.”

READ MORE: ‘We will win together’ – Stroll hails Honda partnership as ‘final piece in the jigsaw’ for Aston Martin

As you’d expect, Aston Martin are delighted to have re-signed Alonso. The double world champion chatted to rivals, including, sources say, Red Bull and Mercedes – but ultimately chose to stay with billionaire Lawrence Stroll’s team.

“It’s great to have a champion like that continue with us,” Aston Martin boss Mike Krack tells me. “It shows the trust he has in the project, the trust he has in the 2026 regulations with us, Honda and Aramco.

Aston Martin boss Mike Krack is thrilled to have Alonso signed up for the long term

Aston Martin boss Mike Krack is thrilled to have Alonso signed up for the long term

“You can talk a lot but people look at what you do, not what you say. Fernando is leading by example. He’s there early, he’s asking questions we’ve not thought about. In such a situation, you become better.

“You think, what will he ask us next? Are we prepared well enough? And I think this is pushing us on another level which we have not been before.

READ MORE: Alonso on his new ‘lifetime’ Aston Martin deal, talks with rival teams and a Honda reunion

“On a human side, it’s a good fit. Sometimes, it just works. When he comes to the garage, the engineering office, in all seriousness, he’s also having a joke here and there when it works. Very positive news, and I’m personally very happy.”

Aston Martin are very close to having the ideal set-up in F1. Their multi-million pound state-of-the-art factory is near completion, with the new wind tunnel coming online this season.

aston-martin-f1-factory-render.png

Aston Martin's new campus will be class-leading when it's all finished

They’ll have a works partner in Honda from 2026, in a campaign where for the first time, they will be responsible for the whole car – making the gearbox, suspension and hydraulics in house rather than buying in from Mercedes.

It’ll take time for that to gel, but Alonso can see the potential, particularly given how well the team have and are continuing to approach the project.

READ MORE: Fallows hails Aston Martin factory move as ‘massive step forward’

“Last year we started with a very good car on track, but we were very new on everything else,” says Alonso – referring to taking six podiums in the first eight races last season. “It was unexpected to be that competitive on track and we were not ready to take all those challenges you face when you’re a podium contender.

“This year, we’re not in that position on track but we are in a strong position off track. We have a stronger technical department, we have upgrades coming to car every race, we are improving 360 degrees the team.

Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin Aramco on the podium after the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Canada at

Alonso scored a hat-ful of podium finishes for Aston in 2023

“We have a very strong team now on track and in the factory as well and we have second fastest pit stops this year, only behind Red Bull. There are many different areas that we have put a lot of effort in last year and during winter that is paying off.

“Results are what matters. We are not in that position yet, but we are building the foundations for something bigger in the future. Sometimes you need to take one step back to move two forward.”

LISTEN > F1 NATION: Alonso’s Aston Martin decision and what it means for him – with Pedro de la Rosa and Damon Hill

2025 Driver Market: What happens next?

RACE TICKETS - MIAMI 2024

Don't miss your chance to experience the Miami Grand Prix...

BOOK NOW
Share

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Coming Up

Coming Up

News

ICYMI: How social media reacted to Leclerc's emotional win on home soil in Monaco