The evolution of Fernando Alonso — 'Aston driver is just enjoying F1'


Fernando Alonso has a tricky reputation in F1. But he's been reinvigorated since moving to Aston Martin and shaken off some of his old traits for a more straightforward approach writes Chris Medland

Alonso evolution image

Getty Images/DPPI

I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when Fernando Alonso hasn’t been box office. Certainly not since he entered Formula 1, and even when he left for two years he was commanding huge interest as he took on the challenges of Le Mans, the Indy 500 and Dakar Rally.

If his return with Alpine was a little underwhelming given where the team was and the results Alonso could achieve, he’s well and truly back in the big time with Aston Martin after the team’s stunning start to the 2023 season.

Alonso finds himself with a car that is not only capable of fighting with all but Red Bull on this year’s evidence to date, but also one that has the potential to close that gap even further as the season goes on. Aston Martin described it as 95% new, and Alonso himself described the car as “very basic”.

And that’s the first hint at the evolution of Fernando Alonso.

Fernando Alonso on grid parade for Alpine in 2022 F1 season

Alpine pace kept Alonso off the front last year

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Throughout his career, Alonso has always been willing to make bold statements in public, including talking up his own performances at times. It was an oft-repeated trick to talk down his chances and the potential of his car in order to then overdeliver and be able to say he had produced something special.

Not any more.

That’s not to say Alonso wasn’t being coy during the two weeks in Bahrain, trying to make sure the expectations on Aston Martin were not getting out of hand. But by the Saturday night, when he had qualified fifth on the grid, he was already more positive about what he was seeing. And then come race day, it hit another level.

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A question was put to him that I was sure was going to lead to the previously standard Alonso response. The Spaniard was asked whether the opening-race podium has him thinking about his 33rd grand prix victory, and it was ripe for Alonso to talk up Red Bull’s advantage and suggest it would need some sort of miracle drive from himself to pick up a win. But that’s no longer the approach.

“Yep,” Alonso replied confidently. “I would say yes because when you are P3 in race one, there are 22 opportunities this season. And even last year, I remember in Canada, wet qualifying, we were in the first row of the grid. You know, anything can happen in 22 races with different conditions.

“I will try my best to have the opportunity. Maybe we need some help. Last year, we needed some help from the top teams just to get the podium. Maybe this year, if there is this help or there is some retirements in front of us or some problems maybe it’s more than a podium. So let’s hope for that.”

It wasn’t one answer in isolation, either. Alonso had been willing to speak about the car’s potential for development and how Aston Martin is in a position where it should be able to make big strides with a new concept, compared to the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari who have been trying to improve upon last year’s designs.

4 Aston Martin Fernando Alonso 2023 Bahrain GP

Aston Martin is confident of unlocking more pace in the AMR23

Aston Martin

There’s a welcome blend of almost-youthful exuberance about Alonso at the start of his latest venture, but coupled with an acknowledgement that he is in the latter seasons of his storied career and doesn’t have time on his side if he wants to taste success again. The latter could have led him to become impatient if it was a tough season for Aston – especially if 2022 was repeated – but that situation was comfortably sidestepped by the excellent job done by the team at Silverstone over the winter.

Alonso’s ticking clock is keeping the pressure on, though. This is a season where Aston Martin genuinely has a chance to work its way to the front of the pack and at the very least be Red Bull’s main rival. With more car development time compared to Ferrari and Mercedes – and much more compared to Red Bull – it has a baseline that it can move forward from significantly. Not only that, it has the personnel to do so, and a new factory coming online in a matter of weeks that really doesn’t look like it will have a negative impact on that process.

It all adds up the most positive Alonso has felt in Formula 1 in a decade.

“I think 2013. Yeah, we were leading the championship, I think, after Barcelona. So we had a contender package but after that I think I didn’t feel as good as now.”

It’s not just in his answers, it shows in other ways, too. Aston Martin managed to persuade Alonso to start a TikTok account to engage with the younger fanbase that is following F1, with his two most-watched videos being a comical reaction to seeing the team’s new car and even more comical attempt at The Griddy dance move in the pit lane.


Am I doing this right? #F1 #F1TikTok

♬ original sound – Barstool Sports

Alonso isn’t worried about taking himself too seriously, or overly concerned about cultivating a specific image. He’s just enjoying this new phase of his career, one that he probably wasn’t expecting to fall into place even when he returned with Alpine in 2021, let alone when that project appeared to be moving far too slowly for his liking.

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Towards the end of his McLaren days, Alonso cut a tired figure who was struggling to escape the frustration of the team’s failure. Internally, certain team members spoke of the improvement in atmosphere when Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris became the driver pairing, having been unaware of the impact of Alonso’s demeanour at the time.

But now Alonso is spoken about in similar ways to the drivers who replaced him, as a further boost to an Aston Martin team that already had the pleasure of working with Sebastian Vettel over the past two seasons.

A combination of Alonso leading a team controlled by Lawrence Stroll will always have the potential for fireworks – and those were potentially one sliver of carbon fibre away from being ignited when Lance Stroll almost took his team-mate out on lap one in Bahrain – but it is quickly showing what a formidable blend it could become.

The double world champion is in a very good place right now, regardless of the car, but Aston is certainly providing the environment that has the potential to get the best out of him.