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'I'm probably attractive to other teams' – Alonso on Aston Martin, Hamilton and his significance in the driver market

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
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MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 06: Fernando Alonso during an event to celebrate Fernando Alonso and

Fernando Alonso does not waste a word. Everything he says in public is considered and part of a wider strategy. So, when he was asked for his reaction to the news that Lewis Hamilton was joining Ferrari for 2025, he gave his response respectfully, but cleverly moved the conversation onto how the move makes him a significant factor in the driver market. And he’s not wrong.

When it became clear Mercedes had a seat free alongside George Russell from 2025, Alonso’s name was immediately linked, alongside the likes of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, Williams’ Alex Albon, Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon and Mercedes protégé Kimi Antonelli, who is debuting in F2 this year. Of that cast, Alonso is the most experienced and the most decorated.

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The Mercedes is a prized seat. Yes, they’ve had two fallow years, but before that the Silver Arrows won eight constructors’ championships on the bounce. Alonso, more than anything, wants a car that can return him to winning ways. It makes sense, then, that he would consider making such a move if the opportunity presented itself.

Whereas he leapt at the opportunity within hours, when Sebastian Vettel vacated his Aston Martin seat, making such a move so quickly this time is unlikely. He won’t be rushed into making a call or laying his cards on the table, though. There’s more riding on this move.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 02: Second placed Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes and

Fernando Alonso has been linked to the Mercedes seat Lewis Hamilton will soon be vacating

'I’m the only one free of contract next year'

“It’s something I’m not thinking about at the moment,” he told me when we chatted at Aston Martin HQ. “There is so much going on with the new car and winter testing being so short, so intense, you have to do everything in one day and a half.

“But I’m aware at the same time the driver market started a bit earlier this year. Instead of summer time, it’s already in March and there are no world champions available – with Lewis at Ferrari and Max [Verstappen] at Red Bull – probably I’m the only one free of contract next year. I’m not too interested now, but I’m aware of the situation.”

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Yes, he may not be too interested now, but he will be busy working out the pros and cons of where his next contract may lie. And he knows that in terms of past success, he’s the best available driver on the grid.

Though he’s 42, the way he smashed out six podiums in the first eight races shows he’s lost none of his speed.

“I’m in a good spot for sure,” he added. “I think for me the most important thing is to feel competitive, to feel happy, to feel motivated. When I commit to a project, it’s because I know 100% I can give everything to that project, on track, off track.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 05: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the Aston Martin AMR23 celebrates

Fernando Alonso made a number of trips to the podium in 2023

“There are a lot of things going on as a driver, on the marketing side, on the testing, on everything, simulator work. If I commit to the future, I need to be sure I want to commit 100% of my time.

“Let’s see first of all if I want to commit for the future. If I do so, my first priority will be this team because they gave me the opportunity last year. I feel confident, we had a tremendous 2023. But let’s see – I’m very open.”

'I'm probably attractive to other teams'

It is very respectful of Alonso to give Aston Martin first dibs on his services if he does choose to continue. Looking at him right now, he looks fitter and sharper than ever.

He admits “I feel good now” and when he hits the track, it’s likely he’ll be at his very best – just as he was throughout last season. So, for the short term at least, leaving Formula 1 doesn’t appear to be in his thinking.

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Alonso says he hasn’t had any direct contact with Mercedes. Instead, his focus appears to be on testing and the opening races of the season, the double world champion saying his contract is “going to be a question for the first few months of the year”.

I suspect he will assess Aston Martin’s progress in those races, giving them time to prove, not only that they have made another step over the winter, but they have the development plan in place to deliver more consistent progress than they did last year.

Waiting will also give him the chance of seeing how Mercedes perform. The Silver Arrows have ditched their initial concept after two years or trying to make it work and are treading a new path. Alonso will be keeping a close eye on how they come out of the blocks, how the car handles around the track, and what their performance progress is like in the first few races.

Fernando Alonso on his future and targeting podiums for 2024

Staying at Aston Martin will be the more straightforward choice if they can convince the 42-year-old they are on the path to becoming a regular race-winning car and candidate for the world championship. The team love him and moved heaven and earth to sign him. Team Principal Mike Krack has consistently said the squad’s goal is to retain Alonso and his team mate Lance Stroll into next season.

Moving to Mercedes brings with it a world of unknowns and he’ll be racing alongside a Mercedes protégé in George Russell, a driver whom the team have prepped to take over from Hamilton as their driving force.

But unlike most drivers – or indeed other elite sportspeople – Alonso won’t care about that. If he were to move to Mercedes, he would do so in the complete belief that he can get the job done whatever the circumstances, providing the team give him a car capable of fighting at the front.

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Alonso’s self-belief is near unrivalled in sport and he knows he is fit enough to compete at the highest level deep into his 40s. His decision, then, is based on answering two key questions:

  • Does he want to continue racing in Formula 1, a world he knows has consumed his life for the last two decades and requires him to give 11 months of the year to the job?
  • Is Aston Martin or Mercedes best-placed to give him a race-winning car in the short term?

“I want to speak first with Aston Martin, because I feel part of this project very much,” he added. “But if you know we cannot reach an agreement, and I want to commit to racing Formula 1, I know that I have a privileged position.

“I'm probably attractive to other teams, the performance that they saw last year, the commitment. And as I said, there are only three world champions on the grid, and there is only one available…”

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