SportF1Alpine did not trust Alonso to perform at this...

Alpine did not trust Alonso to perform at this level in 2023

The Enstone outfit believed they were on the verge of closing a new deal with the two-time world champion before the Spaniard decided to join Aston Martin earlier this week.

One of the key factors in Alonso ‘s decision to switch teams was that Aston Martin was willing to offer him a long-term commitment, probably up to three years, and take-as-you-want clauses.

Alpine, however, were only willing to offer him a one-year deal plus an optional one, as they were looking for some flexibility should Alonso’s speed slow down as he got older.

Although Fernando Alonso, who is 41, considers such concerns unfounded as he says he still shows no signs of his performance flagging, Alpine insists there comes a time when things change.

Speaking about what Alpine was willing to offer Alonso, team principal Otmar Szafnauer said age couldn’t be forgotten, and that’s why he wanted to protect himself.

“It’s hard to predict the future,” Szafnauer explained. “Like I always say, if I could predict the future, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be in Las Vegas.”

“We offered him a contract of one year plus one. And we talked to Fernando and said: ‘Look, if next year at this moment you are performing at the same level, of course we will continue together’. And that could have continued even longer. beyond 2023”.

“But I think he wanted more security, regardless of performance – he wants to stay longer. And I think that was the crux of offering him one plus one instead of two plus one, three plus one or three years.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1, Pat Fry

Szafnauer said that even the best drivers, like Michael Schumacher, were not as good at the end of their careers as they were when they started.

“There comes a time when something happens physiologically to a driver, and you don’t have the same skills that you had when you were younger,” he said.

“I think it happened to Michael. I think it’s fair to say that Michael Schumacher at 42 years old was not the same driver as he was at 32 or 35 years old. And it happens to other sportsmen too.”

“For cricketers, it’s not such a physically taxing sport. It’s about hand-eye coordination, about swinging the bat to the right millimeters.”

“But after 32, 33 or 34 years old, the best hitter in the world can’t do it anymore. And that’s because something happens to them. And it happens to racing drivers, too.”

“So we were in favor of saying ‘yes, if you perform at the highest level, we will keep you for sure. But let’s do it from year to year’, and I think he wanted a longer duration.”

Szafnauer also denied that Alonso had not taken well to plans to add him to Alpine’s LMDh programme, at a time when he still felt he had much more to offer F1.

Speaking of that project, Szafnauer said: “We had discussions with Fernando and also with [Alpine CEO] Laurent Rossi. It was about, when he’s done in F1, we’d love for him to stay with the family and do other races with Alpine. So it wasn’t really a surprise for Fernando, because he agreed to do it and he thought it was a good idea.”

“The question was, well, when would that happen? But when it did, considering what it’s like to go to Le Mans, he was absolutely happy to continue down that path.”

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