Ex-teammate opens up on ‘political’ Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso has a reputation of being a trouble maker, with the Spaniard often burning bridges.

Giancarlo Fisichella has provided insights into his past relationship with former teammate Fernando Alonso, as the Spaniard enjoys a remarkable resurgence in his Formula 1 career.

While Alonso experiences a late-career upswing with six podium finishes in the first eight races of 2023, Fisichella, his former teammate, observes from the sidelines following his departure from F1. 

Fisichella has since become a longstanding Ferrari racing driver in sportscars after concluding his F1 career as a stand-in for the injured Felipe Massa at Scuderia Ferrari in late 2009.

Prior to his Ferrari stint and a brief period at Force India, where Fisichella achieved a second-place finish at Spa-Francorchamps, he raced alongside Alonso at Renault during the Spaniard’s title-winning seasons in 2005 and 2006.

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Although Fisichella was considered a promising talent in Formula 1 before joining Renault, he struggled to match Alonso’s pace during their two seasons together.

Now 50 years old, Fisichella, who continues to participate in high-level motorsport, expresses his admiration for Alonso’s exceptional performance at the pinnacle of Formula 1. 

In an interview with Tom Clarkson on the Chequered Flag podcast, Fisichella stated: “I am impressed. 

“But I knew that because, Fernando, you know, how quick he is. He can take the same speed, and he has much more experience than in the past. 

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“Fernando is in one of the best moments of his career and he can win a few races this year with a good car. I’m happy for him and I wish all the best for him.”

Reflecting on their time together at Renault, Fisichella highlights Alonso as his strongest-ever teammate. 

Fisichella has raced alongside renowned drivers such as Ralf Schumacher, Jenson Button, Alexander Wurz, Takuma Sato, and Heikki Kovalainen, and even had a few races alongside Kimi Räikkönen at Ferrari. 

Regarding Alonso, Fisichella stated: “Fernando was my strongest teammate. Fernando was very good in all circumstances; low grip, high grip, and especially in the race, he was very, very consistent and focused. 

“He didn’t make a lot of mistakes and was good in communication with the team, with the radio. 

“He was also political, but that’s part of the job. So Fernando was a very strong teammate.”

Alonso’s adeptness in the political realm has played a crucial role in establishing his leadership within teams he has raced for. 

Fisichella acknowledges this aspect and explains that Alonso quickly utilised his influence at Renault, including the support of team boss Flavio Briatore and the team’s main sponsor, Telefonica. 

Despite Alonso’s influence, Fisichella emphasised that it didn’t cause friction between them, even as Fisichella accepted his role as the second driver.

Within the team, Fisichella acknowledges Alonso’s strength and influence, stating, “In the team, he was quite strong. 

“Briatore was his manager (and the team boss). The main sponsor was Telefonica, which was a Spanish sponsor. So he was quite strong within the team.” 

However, Fisichella doesn’t believe that Renault unfairly prioritised Alonso over him. 

He explained: “No, I think once you lose the possibility to fight for the championship, you need to work for the team, for your teammate. 

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“We worked together  very well. We were sharing telemetry, ideas, and problems with the car. Before the race, sometimes we were playing cards with Flavio Briatore and our physio. It was so fun. 

“It was important for the atmosphere in the team, to work well together, to have a good friendship with your teammate. 

“Once we were on the track, we were so focused. It was important to have a good teammate like Fernando as a reference, or for him having me as a reference on lap time. It was always a good point to find the limit for each other.”