Alonso never considered two-decade F1 career
By Mat Coch
Tuesday 17th August, 2021 - 10:16am
Fernando Alonso has admitted he’d never considered the prospect of racing in Formula 1 at the age of 40.
The veteran celebrated his 40th birthday last month on the Thursday of the Hungarian Grand Prix, an event he won back in 2003 – his first F1 win.
Since then, he’s won 31 more times and claimed two world championships across a career that, to date, sees him ranked as the equal second most experienced driver in the sport’s history (tied with Rubens Barrichello on 322 starts).
It’s a long way from his debut in the sport with Minardi in 2001 as a 19-year-old.
“You live only the present, you are not thinking too much about the future at that age,” Alonso said when asked if he’d ever imagined surviving in F1 for two decades.
“You are just focused on the race weekend, and you hardly imagine yourself more than two or three years in time from that moment.
“Now it’s a different thing,” he added.
“I’m more used to the sport, to Formula 1, and all the things that are quite unique here.
“When I came into the sport, I was from a very small town in the north of Spain with no experience, no background, no nothing.
“You arrive into these walls and you’re shocked for five, six, seven years until you are used to everything.
“Now it’s a little bit different; you know how things are and you are enjoying it more.”
Though he’s twice won the world championship, Alonso has been famed for his propensity to join the right team at the wrong time.
He joined McLaren in 2007 in what proved to be a disastrous season dominated by internal politics, the following year returning to a Renault squad which was not what it had once been.
On three occasions he finished second to Sebastian Vettel in the championship during a spell at Ferrari which lasted from 2010 to 2014 before joining McLaren for another demoralising period.
Alonso returned to F1 this season following a two-year hiatus and has quickly demonstrated that he’s lost little over the passing years.
“The first race that Fernando was back this year, we had some wheel-to-wheel and I was actually smiling in the cockpit,” said Vettel.
“I’m looking forward to more of it this year.
“I think his talent is without doubt,” he added.
“I think the skills on track are the biggest that the sport has seen.
“He’s done something that I thought was impossible to do, which is beating Michael [Schumacher].”
Now 34 years old himself, Vettel’s own career is beginning to approach its natural conclusion.
However, the German has been rejuvenated since joining Aston Martin this year, sparking suggestions he might carry on for longer than first thought.
“I don’t think so,” he ventured when asked if he might hang around in F1 for his own 40th birthday.
“But as you asked, Fernando would never know, but right now I would say no.”
Set to turn 42 later this year, Kimi Raikkonen is the oldest driver on the grid, and the most experienced in F1 history with 340 career starts.
When Alonso lines up for the Belgian Grand Prix later this month, he will surpass Barrichello’s tally of 322 F1 starts and become the second most experienced driver in the sport’s history.