Formula One

Alonso ‘planned much earlier exit from Formula 1’


At 41, Fernando Alonso is by some margin the oldest driver on the 2023 Formula 1 grid. And he also holds the record for most Grand Prix starts, with 358 in the books since his maiden outing for Minardi in Australia in 2001.

It makes it all the more remarkable to hear Alonso reveal that he intended to leave the sport much earlier, hinting that he had never meant to hang around for long after winning back-to-back world championships in 2005 and 2006.

“I think when I started in Formula 1, my idea was to be here for seven or eight years,” he said in a recent interview for high-end consumer electronics company Bang & Olufsen.

“Then I won the two championships and I thought I will race maybe one or two more years and then I will stop,” he added. “That was my idea. And now I find myself with the longest career ever in Formula 1!”

Alonso’s extended time in F1 has taken in spells with some of the top teams of the sport. He joined Renault in 2003 to collect his two titles, and then switched to McLaren in 2007.

That put him alongside rookie driver Lewis Hamilton and the pair famously fell out, resulting in the Spaniard returning to Renault in 2008. Two years later he got a dream signing at Ferrari, but a hoped-for third title never materialised.

2nd place Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and 3rd place Fernando Alonso (ESP) Aston Martin F1 Team. 02.04.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

A return to McLaren in 2015 ended in deep frustration when the Honda power unit failed to live up to expectations, and a dispirited Alonso quit F1 to race in sportscars, with victory in two Le mans 24 Hour races.

But the appeal of F1 proved too strong and he returned to the paddock with Alpine in 2021, subsequently moving to Aston Martin in 2023 where he’s enjoying a career renaissance with three consecutive podiums to start the season.

Far from looking like the old man of F1, he’s actually looking more like a school boy in a candy store as he takes delight in his new success.

“I’m still fresh, I’m still motivated, I’m still enjoying every single day,” he insisted. “I wake up in the morning and I’m happy of what I’m doing.”

No sign that he’s ready to hang up his helmet anytime soon, then? “There’s a few more years I think for me, and hopefully with a title contender in the future.”

Given his unique insight and close-up knowledge of F1 over the years, Alonso was also asked to name the greatest driver he had been up against on track – and he didn’t have any great difficulty in deciding who that was.

“It is difficult to choose one because they were all great rivals and very talented drivers as well,” he said politely.

“But when I came to this sport, Michael Schumacher was dominating the races,” he declared. “Probably that fight with him would still be the one I would choose. Fighting against Michael was very special, so I would say that.”

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Alonso ‘planned much earlier exit from Formula 1’

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