Why Has Fernando Alonso Joined Aston Martin And Why Do They Want Him?
Trading a P4 team for P9 might seem like insanity — but for F1’s biggest veteran, things aren’t quite so simple
Pulling off one of the most interesting mid-season plot twists in the history of modern Formula 1, Alpine’s veteran two-time world champion Fernando Alonso has just confirmed a multi-year signing with none other than Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team.
NEWS: @AstonMartinF1 announces Fernando Alonso for 2023.— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) August 1, 2022
We are delighted to confirm that two-time #F1 World Champion @alo_oficial will join the team from next season on a multi-year contract.
Tap below to read more. ⬇️#WeClimbTogether
Coming in hot just a few days after Aston Martin announced the post-season retirement of Sebastian Vettel, the move shook expectations for plenty of Alonso’s fans — many of whom see the driver as dangerously competitive, even in his forties.
While the announcement is surprising, the deal itself has a lot of benefits for all parties involved, so let’s take a closer look.
Why Did Aston Martin Hire Alonso?
While most teams’ financial decision-making remains obscured by rows of C-suite executives and several boardrooms’ worth of backers, Aston Martin’s futures are largely decided by one man — Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll.
When Stroll launched Aston Martin’s F1 revival in 2021, he sought to accomplish three basic goals; develop his son Lance Stroll into a top-class driver, establish a championship and race-winning team, and hire well-established talent to guide development and crucially, attract financial interest.
While on-track results don’t quite match up to most of these expectations, Stroll has certainly benefitted from recruiting Vettel — extending the team’s business value and helping coordinate the owner’s sustained push towards top-tier development facilities at the team’s Silverstone HQ, while poaching major talent from other teams, such as Red Bull’s ex-aerodynamics chief, Dan Fallows.
“I have known and admired Fernando for many years and it has always been clear that he is a committed winner like me,” touted Stroll in Aston Martin’s press release.
“I have set out to bring together the best people and develop the right resources and organisation to succeed in this highly competitive sport, and those plans are now taking shape at Silverstone.
It seemed natural therefore to invite Fernando to be part of the development of a winning team, and we very quickly established in our recent conversations that we have the same ambitions and values, and it was logical and easy to confirm our desire to work together.”
It stands to reason then, that Stroll would continue honing Aston Martin’s edge with another championship winner, perhaps one that has proved himself to be the superior driver over time — at least in the words of Formula 1’s CEO, Stefano Domenicali.
While this can be debated endlessly, what matters is that while Vettel seems to be done with the stresses of F1 at 34, Alonso is still going strong at 41 — a rare achievement for athletes in any sport.
Apart from his wealth of experience, Alonso also brings in a much wider variety of racing acumen than the average F1 driver, having bagged multiple accolades in top-tier endurance competitions. This combination between a solid mentorship for Lance and a firm hand at the wheel — one that has consistently pushed forward research and development at every team Alonso has been part of — is just what Aston Martin Cognizant needs as the team enters its third year in the sport.
Why Did Alonso Agree, Anyway?
The Vettel-Alonso switcharoo also brings up the opportunity to discuss one of the less-asked questions in motorsports — why keep racing?
It’s a touching, almost philosophical question regarding the risks, physical challenges, and intense mental strain involved in the process. Much of Vettel’s own heartfelt goodbye message to fans touches upon this, especially the way in which Vettel’s career has kept him away from his family — a grounding influence for many F1 personalities, both on and off the grid.
Alonso — much like Hamilton — hasn’t been so tied down. At 41, the Spaniard seems to still hold the same tenacity and inventiveness he had back in the 2000s, whilst largely avoiding ‘settling down’ ever since his divorce with Spanish singer, Raquel del Rosario. Instead, he seems to enjoy racing, which he successfully pursued even during his F1 hiatus, and if the words ‘multi-year contract’ are anything to go by, this desire hasn’t faltered in the least — even if he’s switching from a P4 team to one languishing in P9.
Apart from continuing to race at the top level of motorsport, Alonso has also reflected his beliefs that Aston Martin are ‘the most ambitious’ team on the grid, a fair position given how committed Stroll is to the sport.
“I have known Lawrence and Lance for many years and it is very obvious that they have the ambition and passion to succeed in Formula One. I have watched as the team has systematically attracted great people with winning pedigrees, and I have become aware of the huge commitment to new facilities and resources at Silverstone,” Alonso said following the announcement.
“No one in Formula One today is demonstrating a greater vision and absolute commitment to winning, and that makes it a really exciting opportunity for me. I still have the hunger and ambition to fight to be at the front, and I want to be part of an organisation that is committed to learn, develop and succeed.”
Big words, but in simple terms, it’s three things that will hold Alonso’s interest: freedom, money, and intention. In the words of F1 correspondent Lawrence Baretto:
“Stroll offered Alonso everything he wanted in terms of length of contract (two years with an option), financial package and the potential for the Spaniard to turn things around and be seen as a saviour in the twilight of his career. Alonso simply couldn’t say no – and a deal was quickly thrashed out. I’m told it was done and dusted on Sunday night in the Hungaroring paddock.”
What Stroll has ultimately presented Alonso with is a team with nowhere to go but up, a blank cheque, and a career-defining purpose at an age where several F1 drivers seem content with sitting at home, polishing old podium trophies — and that’s certainly a great deal more than what Alpine is currently offering him.
Out With The Old, In With The New
The rather quiet third-party to this deal is none other than Alpine, which has now capped off a relatively short ‘21-22 sprint with Alonso that could, in fact, be compared to Vettel’s with Aston Martin.
The French team faced a potentially messy situation in trying to have its cake and eat it next season, keeping Alonso for another year while trying to find another team to take their hugely talented F2 champion and reserve F1 driver, Oscar Piastri.
After dumping loads of effort into Piastri’s short but successful career, it stands to reason that Alpine needed to clear up a spot, which Alonso’s deal has very conveniently accomplished, making way for the Aussie upstart. This also means that Alpine has an advantage over other teams aiming to secure Piastri’s talent such as Mclaren, who have both expressed interest in Piastri and shown disappointment at Daniel Ricciardo’s dismal 2022 performance.
While sudden, Alonso’s move represents an exciting shift in the dynamics of F1, and opens the way for a fantastic new talent to join the grid.
(Featured Image Credits: Formula 1)