Karun Chandhok: “Alonso is still fit enough to deliver at the top level”

“Fernando Alonso is in his forties, but his opening laps are filled with the aggression and energy of a 21-year-old”


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We’ve had two grands prix since my last column, including the first Sprint race weekend in China. As you may have read last month, I focused on Carlos Sainz and the position he’s in when it comes to the 2025 driver market. We now know that one of the options in the 2025 driver market jigsaw puzzle has gone into place with Fernando Alonso committing to a fresh two-year deal at Aston Martin.

The prospect of a driver racing well into their forties is really something that we haven’t thought about in modern F1, but Fernando isn’t just any driver. Fernando lives and breathes for driving more than anyone else I know. He hasn’t got a wife or young family to draw him away from the paddock as Sebastian Vettel had, but he also arrived into the sport in 2001 by which point Michael Schumacher had well and truly raised the bar in terms of driver fitness for the likes of Fernando to emulate. This means that even though he will be 45 when this agreements ends, he is still fit enough and mentally focused enough to deliver at the highest level. It’s hugely admirable to see any human being in any type of work seem so motivated after over two decades and I still love watching the onboard videos of Fernando’s opening laps that are filled with the aggression and energy of a 21-year-old.

Sainz has carried on his strong start to the season with a superb drive in Japan to win the ‘best of the rest’ race behind the Red Bulls. Unlike a lot of people on social media I don’t think Ferrari is regretting that it signed Hamilton when there was a chance to do so. An opportunity to snap up Lewis or Max is not to be missed and even Carlos understands that. It’s great to see him use this rejection as fuel to raise his game and he’s driving with the freedom of a weight lifted from his shoulders.

Fernando Alonso is staying put – an Aston Martin driver until at least 2026

Fernando Alonso is staying put – an Aston Martin driver until at least 2026

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Another driver who has been impressive this year is Yuki Tsunoda. Last year when he was re-signed alongside Daniel Ricciardo I was disappointed because I thought that Liam Lawson deserved a shot after his superb cameo in ’23. As the season has unfolded however, it seems like Yuki has proved me wrong and in fact I apologised to him when we spoke on Sky Sports F1 during the Australian GP coverage!

Tsunoda arrived in F1 as a diamond in the rough – when you compare him to rookies like Oscar Piastri or George Russell who also graduated from F2. He came through the Honda and Red Bull system which is certainly less nurturing than Mercedes or Ferrari are with their young drivers, but fortunately for him the now-retired Franz Tost and the technical team led by Jody Eggington and Jonathan Eddolls at Alpha Tauri/RB were patient with him in the past two years and over the winter it seems like they have started to see the sparkly bits in the diamond.

At the moment, there seems to be some splits in the Formula 1 grid with Red Bull clearly out front, the next four teams close together and then the bottom five teams a step behind. That has led to a situation where basically these five teams are fighting for 10th place in every race unless there are issues for any of the top-five teams like we saw in Melbourne. This has really put the emphasis on drivers like Tsunoda to develop a level of calmness and consistency even when chasing the one point awarded for 10th and so far he’s really been impressive.

Yuki Tsunoda’s decent drives in 2024 led to a public apology from this columnist in Melbourne

Yuki Tsunoda’s decent drives in 2024 led to a public apology from this columnist in Melbourne

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“To my surprise, Ricciardo is playing second fiddle to Tsunoda”

Ricciardo came into this season as someone expected to be challenging Sergio Pérez for the Red Bull seat alongside Max. On early evidence, and to my surprise, he’s been playing second fiddle to Tsunoda, so much so that the rumour mill has already started spinning about him being replaced by Lawson sometime in the next few weeks. Helmut Marko doesn’t waste time when it comes to swapping out a driver who he may perceive to be underdelivering so this may well come true unless Daniel is able to unlock something special very soon.

Tsunoda is in a really interesting position. He’s earned his place in F1 thanks to backing from Honda but that has also tarnished him with the ‘pay driver’ brush on top of the incidents and ranting radio messages in his first seasons. This has meant that he was never really been a contender for a seat at Red Bull but with Honda heading to Aston Martin, could he end up making the bold move away from the Red Bull family for a couple of years before taking over from Alonso in 2027?

A couple of years at somewhere like Haas or Williams for some personal growth before joining the works Honda team again could work out very well for him long term.

A former racing driver in Formula 1, WEC and Formula E, Karun Chandhok is an analyst for Sky Sports F1
Follow Karun on Twitter @karunchandhok