Fernando Alonso finished the 2023 F1 season fourth in the drivers’ standings, while leading his Aston Martin team to an improved fifth in the constructors’ standings; Alonso, the oldest driver on the grid at the age of 42, has a year remaining on his contract with the team
Last Updated: 12/12/23 5:37pm
Fernando Alonso says he does not expect his performance to drop off any time soon after completing his “best season” in Formula 1 at the age of 42.
In his first season with Aston Martin after joining from Alpine, Alonso finished fourth in the drivers’ standings to claim his highest finish since 2013.
Aston Martin got off to an electric start with podium finishes in six out of the first 10 races, unexpectedly competing with Ferrari and Mercedes, as well as being Red Bull’s closest competitors in the early stages of the season.
While his contract with the team currently only has one season to run, Alonso appears confident of continuing for several years yet.
“I’ve said many times, even before 2018, the day I stop racing is not because I feel not motivated for driving or I feel slow,” the two-time world champion said at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“If I feel slow one day, I think it will be noticeable and I will not be happy with my performance and I will be the first to raise my hand and say it’s time.
“But I don’t think that time will arrive honestly in terms of feeling slow, I have extreme self-confidence in my performance.”
While falling short of an elusive 33rd career race win, Alonso clinched all eight of Aston Martin’s podium finishes, including second-place finishes in Monaco, Canada and the Netherlands.
“I’m happy with the personal performance, I think together with 2012, it’s the best season for me,” Alonso said.
“Personally, I rate the best season in my driving. I was happy with everything, I was motivated, I was fit, I was performing as you said in difficult conditions sometimes, Bahrain, Monaco, Canada, Monza and Brazil will be my top four/five of the year.
“I put Monza on purpose because it was a ninth place, it was not a podium, it was nothing that people will remember. But probably we had the slowest car in Monza or the second slowest and to be in the points it was one of those weekends everything was very good.”
‘Demanding schedule’ could stop Alonso driving
Cancelled races this year in China and Italy saw F1’s record 24-race schedule reduced to 22, but with a full season set for 2024, Alonso feels the sport’s calendar is the only thing that could wear him down.
“But it could be with the calendar and the demanding schedule and things like this one day, I will feel it this time because you know there are other things in life,” Alonso said.
“It’s been a very demanding season only with 22 races, with two cancellations. Next year with 24, the proper calendar, we will have to see how it feels. Even Las Vegas, I saw today it’s a triple header, I don’t know why, I thought Vegas was alone next year and then Qatar and Abu Dhabi together.
“I just found out now, like 10 minutes ago, that it was three races together, these kinds of things will drain my battery, not my driving.”
While Aston Martin surpassed expectations at the start, they struggled in the middle stage of the season, with more disappointing performances in the British and Hungarian Grands Prix, but Alonso accepts the process is part of a learning curve for the team.
“I see only positives as well; those struggles are part of the job and part of the journey of this team,” he said. “I think we started really strong with a car that was surprisingly competitive even to us the step from last year to this year.
“Then we found ourselves maybe in a position that we were not ready for it, fighting with Mercedes, Ferrari, top teams. They are used to fighting at the level.
“I think we need to find some consistency, maybe some of the weak points is the car has to operate in a very narrow window, it’s the same with everybody but it seems we are struggling a little bit.
“It would be nice if we can perform always at a stable level and next year see if we can improve the straight line speed.
“I think that was the [under] performance in numbers, our weak point always (was we were) a little bit too slow on the straights and if we want to be as fast as the others, we need to drop too much the rear wing and we ended up slow on the corners as well, so that was probably the loop we could not go out this season.”
‘Stroll commitment was a surprise to me’
Alonso says the level of commitment shown by his Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll, particularly after a poor run of form for the Canadian, came as a pleasant surprise.
Stroll, who is the son of team owner Lawrence, raced in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix just 12 days after suffering fractures to his hands, wrists and foot in a cycling accident.
Alonso was heard on team radio throughout the season attempting to aid his team-mate in any way possible, and once more spoke of a strong bond between the pair.
“We talk a lot, we are in contact every week on the telephone, in the factory, in the races and we try to make sure we are all in the same direction and we share many things,” Alonso said.
“He’s been through some difficulties this year; the car was just changing its behaviour a little bit and he was just struggling a little bit more than me and now we fix a few things in the car and now he’s back in top form.
“It was impressive to see his dedication, his motivation, in the highs and in the lows. At the beginning of the year with the broken hand, as I said, midway through the season with some difficulties. He was so determined to put things back in place again.
“Eventually he did after I think Mexico and the race in Brazil, the race in Vegas, this was the surprise to me, the level of commitment, the level of motivation he has, this is only good news and good things for the team.”
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Source : Sky Sports