‘He literally made us feel like idiots on the pit wall’: Ex-Ferrari sporting director on Alonso

Fernando Alonso returned to Formula 1 last year with Alpine after two seasons away.

Former Ferrari sporting director Massimo Rivola has spoken about Fernando Alonso’s ability to read a race, admitting that he often made fools of the team’s engineers.

Alonso claimed two championships with Renault in 2005 and 2006 before eventually moving to Ferrari ahead of the 2010 season to replace Kimi Raikkonen.

He took 11 wins with the Scuderia, but an ultimately underperforming car compared to Red Bull between 2010 and 2013 denied him a fairy-tale championship success with Formula 1’s most historic team.

He extracted a podium finish out of the horrendously poor 2014 car at the beginning of the hybrid era, epitomising his glowing ability to extract every bit of performance out of every car he drives.

But Rivola acknowledges that it is not just the skill behind the wheel that distinguishes the Spaniard, but his innate capacity to think strategically while pushing during a race.

“I’ve never seen anyone read a race like he did,” he told Italian newspaper Il Foglio.

“At some point he literally made us feel like idiots on the pit wall, since he knew everything.

“We had many monitors with data in front of us, but often he reached some of the conclusions before we did – while he was also doing his job in the car.”

This continued when Alonso headed back to McLaren, and could be heard during a race telling his engineer that he was not giving him “useful information,” before demanding to be made aware of the pace of the cars in front in the strategical battle.

Article continues below

Rivola has since left F1 to work with the Aprilia in MotoGP after 10 years at Maranello, and the Scuderia have welcomed in another Spaniard – Carlos Sainz.

The 27-year-old out-performed Charles Leclerc in his debut season last year, scoring four podiums to the Monegasque’s one as he secured a fifth-placed Drivers’ Championship finish.

The Italian reveals that he suggested that Ferrari sign the former Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren driver, so he is not surprised at the impressive capabilities he displayed last year.

“Carlos’ good performances don’t surprise me. For a long time I recommended signing him. He’s always been very strong, fast and intelligent,” he explained.

Sainz and Leclerc will continue to line up for last year’s third-placed Constructors’ Championship finishing side, while Alonso remains at Alpine alongside Esteban Ocon, meaning he will still be racing in the pinnacle of motorsport at the age of 41.