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Alonso: ” there were things I wanted to do more than driving an F1 car”

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Many of you will remember Fernando Alonso from his early career in F1, his 2006 and 2007 championship wins with the Mild Seven Renault F1 Team and more recently his second-place positions in 2012 and 2013 with Scuderia Ferrari. But since his exit from F1 at the end of the 2018 season, what has he been up to?


There has been much debate around the reasoning for Alonso’s departure from F1, some saying it was due to not being able to get a seat in a front running car, and some simply say the sport let him down. Alonso, however, remains adamant that his reasoning was down to more opportunities elsewhere in motorsport.


In 2018 Alonso was racing for McLaren Honda and finished 11th in the driver’s championship and alongside this, he ran in the Indy500 finishing 24th out of 33 which I’m sure was not the result he wanted despite being classed as a rookie. He also raced in the 24 hours of Daytona in that year and finished 13th in his class alongside teammates Phillip Hanson and Lando Norris.


After leaving F1 he continued his motorsport career and raced in the 2018/19 season of the FIA World Endurance championships winning 5 of the 8 races with Toyota Gazoo Racing. This series includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans where Alonso and his teammates Sebastian Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima won in both 2018 and 2019.


Also, Alonso entered the IndyCar series in 2019 racing only in the Indy500. The qualifying consists of speed runs and there are 30 places available for the race, unfortunately, he didn’t have the pace on the day and consequently didn’t qualify. He then returned in 2020 where he qualified 26th after a series of clutch problems, he started amongst the backmarkers but made his way up to 15th but after a long pit stop he fell back to 21st where he finished.


This broad range of motorsport endeavours may seem random but in fact, there is logic behind this! There is an unofficial achievement in motorsport known as the triple crown – it consists of a win in the Indy500, 24 hours of Le Mans, and the Monaco Grand Prix across a career. Currently, the only driver to hold the triple crown is Graham Hill but 19 drivers have completed all three legs of the triple crown and have won at least one event. As it stands Juan Pablo Montoya and Fernando Alonso are the only active drivers to have won 2 out of 3 events. Alonso won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2006 and in 2007 and as mentioned he won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 2018 and 2019.

Graham Hill | 1969 Grand Prix de Monaco | Jim Culp | Flickr

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Alonso has made many comments about his return, but his primary reason seems to be a desire to be ‘back home’. He talks of being the ‘F1 guy’ across the many paddocks he’s been in and he has expressed excitement and nerves.  When talking to Will Buxton Alonso said ‘Formula 1 is still in my heart, i needed some fresh air to breath outside the bubble of Formula One after 18 demanding seasons’. Apparently, the decision to return in 2021 has been in the air for some time as he wanted to return with the regulation changes but thanks to COVID this has been pushed back to 2022. Alonso decided he would return this year to get settled in the team before the regulation changes next year. It is understood that his Alpine contract is for 2 years, giving him a year in the current car, the opportunity to aid Alpine in the development of their new regulation car and then a year to race it.


The season hasn’t gone quite to plan for him despite starting 9th on the grid in Bahrain, his race was cut short at 32 laps as a result of a rogue sandwich wrapper in the brake duct meaning he retried early and didn’t get any points. He then qualified 15th at Imola and managed to avoid the drama to finish 11th but Kimi Raikkonen was handed a 30 second time penalty which promoted Alonso to 10th giving him his first points this season.


But where will we see Fernando in the future? At 39 he is the second oldest driver on the grid with Raikkonen being first at 41 (the average F1 retirement age is mid to late 30’s). We know he will not be attempting the Indy500 this year as he would have to miss the qualifying rounds in order to compete in the Monaco GP but will he return when he departs F1 for good?


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