Fernando Alonso has gone into detail on his competitiveness both on and off the track, and how this has helped him achieve so much in his Formula 1 career.
The Spaniard has been in the headlines recently for his departure from the Alpine team at the end of the season, which was announced by the British team after the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 41-year-old has assured team principal Otmar Szafnauer that he had not signed with anyone during the weekend in Budapest, but he was announced in a press release one day after the race.
In fact, Szafnauer only found out via Aston Martin’s press release that his driver was going to be leaving the team following the retirement of Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso has also told the Romanian-American that he was going to be in the Greek Islands at the start of the summer break, but he actually spent the first week of his time off karting at his track in Oviedo.
It was symptomatic of the mind games that Alonso has always played, and he described himself as the kind of person that tries to gain an edge over everyone in anything he does.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m that type of guy,” he told Motorsport.com prior to the Aston Martin news.
“I need to make 100% of my thing, and I need to kill whatever strengths other people have, but this I do in everything I practice, when I play anything.
“I used to play tennis, and when I play with someone good, I would put the ball very high because, like this, you stop the rhythm of them because they are used to hitting the ball very hard.
“Playing with professionals, the ball arrives very strong for them so they are used to that kind of shot.
“But when you put the ball high, they make mistakes, because the ball arrives very soft, so I can play better tennis when putting the ball high.
“Putting the ball high is my only chance to beat them, so I do that automatically.
“It’s not only on racing I just need to destroy the strengths of the others, and try to maximize mine.”
With two championships and 32 race wins under his belt in an illustrious career, Alonso has picked up mountains of experience with teams like Ferrari and McLaren, as well as his title memories with the Enstone side in 2005 and 2006, when they raced under the Renault brand.
Both on the track and with the mechanics and engineers, the double world champion’s years of experience have informed his practices today.
“I think experience for sure helps in many ways – start, awareness of things, tyre management, pitstops, the way you approach the mechanics,” added Alonso.
“Also, the way you approach the weekend: free practice, the importance of it, the non-importance of it, sometimes.
“When you’re young, you pay so much attention to every lap you do; even FP1 is like the final lap of the championship, so I think you understand these things.
“A lot of improvement has been done in wet conditions and damp conditions, normally wet races are a long shot, you know, things are changing very quickly, there are a lot safety cars, a lot of dry lines that will appear later on, so there are more opportunities.
“Not every lap is the last lap, these kinds of things I used to make mistakes, early in the races that now I try to avoid, and this only comes with experience and with your own mistakes.”
Appreciating his experience is one thing, but Szafnauer himself conceded that he was concerned about Alonso’s age in the coming years.
However, having returned from a two-year hiatus after leaving McLaren for the second time in 2018, Alonso does not feel as though going into his forties has changed anything for the worse.
“In terms of the downsides, it’s difficult to say anything because I don’t feel that I’m missing anything that I had when I was younger,” he explained.
“Maybe in 2018, I felt that I was exhausted mentally by all the marketing and traveling and things like that, and I needed those two years out.
“Now I feel okay, so I don’t know if it is just those two years that helped me out or it’s just a different approach that I have now.”
Sitting at home and watching the races in 2019 and 2020, while also contesting Le Mans and attempting to qualify for the Indy 500, in Alonso’s mind, has given him a greater appreciation of how a race develops, so he came back last year with a fresh perspective on F1.
“I think watching races from the outside, you don’t understand sometimes different things and different behaviours of the race, looking from the outside and looking at 360 degrees,” he stated.
“It’s not only your own cockpit and your own strategy, so maybe I have a better understanding of how the race develops.
“And also the different categories that I drove, I think they teach me different things, there are different philosophies of racing, different driving techniques.
“It’s not that they are applicable to an F1 car, but when you lose the car, you have an oversteer, maybe my hands and my feet are doing something that I didn’t know before, because I was just driving F1 cars.
“So in a way, I feel more in control of things now.”
Alonso will head to Aston Martin keen to ensure that Lawrence Stroll’s five-year championship ambition becomes a reality.