Former world champion Alonso hopes for more tension in F1: ‘Still too boring’

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NOS Sports

With two Formula 1 world titles, 32 Grand Prix victories and two victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Fernando Alonso is an icon of motorsport. The 40-year-old Spaniard made his comeback in F1 last season.

The old fox wants to further enhance his honors list in the premier class with the Alpine team. His age is not a stumbling block.

Last year you finished tenth in the World Cup standings. Now you occupy that position again, behind teammate Esteban Ocon. A disappointment?
“No. I’m quite happy with this season. We are quite competitive, but we made a few mistakes and had a lot of bad luck, like yesterday at the start of the sprint race. The car is not reliable enough. As a result, we harvested too little. Still, it’s going in the right direction.”

“We took a big step at the last race in England due to major updates. Red Bull Racing and Ferrari are still a size too big, but the gap has become a lot smaller. We are still losing ground in slow corners. There are areas for improvement. “

The new cars tempted you to return. The races would become more exciting and the playing field more level. Did that work?
“It’s so-so. Unfortunately, Formula 1 is still very predictable. It’s all about Red Bull and Ferrari. Only Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez can win. I don’t know any other sport where it goes like that. “

“The GPs have become more fun and with these cars you can fight better. Still, I think it’s too boring, but it’s also part of F1. There will always be teams that are faster than others.”

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Fernando Alonso celebrates his 2005 World Cup victory after the Chinese GP

“The final phase at Silverstone was sensational, but that was mainly because the safety car collapsed. Suddenly I was an eyewitness and I had a view of the leaders, but there was also a downside. Halfway through the race I was sixth in no man’s land. Not very exciting.”

Does the dominance of Red Bull Racing and Ferrari spoil the fun of your comeback?
“A little bit. Of course I miss the fierce podium duels. Of course it feels great when I can excel for a while, like in Canada when I started in the front row next to Max. That’s nice about this season. I can show things that people don’t anymore “expecting me. That has always been my strength and it makes me proud. It’s what drives me: to be a better driver than in 2021. You also race against yourself in this sport.”

How did that go last year? Did you need time?
“I did have some difficulties and had to adjust my driving style. I didn’t feel completely comfortable in the car at first and then you’re not fast enough. That takes a few races. Now I feel good and I think I’m still there.” stick to it for at least a year. After the summer we’ll see if we’re still happy with each other.”

In Qatar you came surprisingly third last year: your 98th F1 podium. How realistic is such a result now?
“Maybe if other drivers are unlucky, but on our own? Difficult. We are not fighting for victories and I don’t think it will get better soon. Finishing fifth, like at Silverstone; that feels like winning to us. We are aiming for 2023. Then we should have a better car.”

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Fernando Alonso celebrates his third place in Qatar

“I want us to start designing that car soon. That’s a dilemma. You want to build a new one, but also improve the current one. Play chess on two boards. I think we can do that. There really is an opportunity now all teams have to work with the same maximum budget. It’s up to me and Alpine to make it happen.”

Your compatriot Carlos Sainz booked his first F1 victory in England. You yourself won your first race in 2003 (Hungary). Is that liberating?
“Such a first win is important because it takes a load off your shoulders. You always have sky-high expectations, especially when you’re in a Ferrari like Carlos. The pressure is unprecedented; I’ve experienced it myself. All of Maranello wants a win from you. And the longer such a victory takes, the harder it gets.”

“I’m happy for Carlos and knew he had it in him. It was only a matter of time. When you’re in one of the best cars, victories come naturally. Silverstone will not be Sainz’s last win of 2022.”

Something else: you have a bond with the Netherlands. Your name is regularly mentioned at the MP Motorsport racing stable in Westmaas. What’s up with that?
“I help young racing drivers and have set up karting training because I want to give back to the sport that has given me so much. We have brought Formula 2 driver Clément Novalak to MP. We are considering more guys in F3 and F4. I will soon show my face in Westmaas.”

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“I spend a lot of time with my management helping talents get started. They can benefit from my experience and connections and I like that. My whole life revolves around motorsport. It might be the only thing I’m good at. I don’t come into my own.”

There is no cockpit available at Alpine for reserve driver and Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri. Are you not blocking the way for such a talent as a 40-year-old F1 driver?
“I see that differently. Motorsport revolves around the stopwatch. The key question is: are you still fast enough and can you achieve it? If you are slow and perform poorly, then you block the way for up-and-coming talents. Then you have to make way. I’m still fast. It’s other drivers who lock the door to fresh blood.”