Otmar Szafnauer defends Fernando Alonso amid Alpine driver fiasco

Fernando Alonso has signed for Aston Martin to replace Sebastian Vettel next year, and Alpine are yet to find a replacement.

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has no doubt that Fernando Alonso will continue to give his all for the team before he leaves for Aston Martin at the end of this season.

Alonso has scored points on nine occasions so far in 2022, but it might have been more had it not been for a great deal of misfortune at the beginning of the year.

The Spaniard showed in Australia and Canada, in particular, that he can still compete with the very best in the pinnacle of motorsport at the age of 41, and this is why he wanted to continue with the French team for two or three more years.

READ: ‘Not surprised to be winning races’: Mike Krack on Aston Martin’s plan

However, Szafnauer disagreed with that assessment, expressing concerns that his driver may lose performance as he ages.

The parties could not agree on a new deal, so Alonso turned to Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll, who has reportedly offered him a three-year contract.

However, the Spaniard did not disclose this to Szafnauer, even when the 51-year-old asked him in Budapest, so the Romanian-American was surprised to see Aston Martin’s press release one day after the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The British side have acquired the double world champion’s services to replace Sebastian Vettel when the German retires at the end of the year, so there will be a slight sense of awkwardness when he returns from his summer break.

Nonetheless, Szafnauer has no concerns about the attitude of the 32-time race winner, so has no intention of dropping him mid-season.

Article continues below

“Not at all, why? He is a great driver and he is performing at a very high level,” he said when asked by El Confidencial.

“Fernando is one of the best assets we have, and with Fernando and Esteban scoring points every weekend, that is what can lead us to beat McLaren.”

Indeed, the Enstone-based team lead McLaren by four points going into the summer break as they battle for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, and this is a competition that will continue to motivate Alonso right up until he leaves at the end of the year.

“I am hugely competitive and similar to Fernando, there is nothing more I want than to achieve results – it is what motivates me,” explained Szafnauer.

READ: Franz Tost comments on Pierre Gasly exit clause, Red Bull call-up

“I hate to lose, and I see the same in Alonso, that trait we have in common means that working together is very easy, and the relationship between now and the end of the year is going to be focused on beating McLaren.”

Szafnauer’s ambitions might have extended to third in the championship at the start of the year amid Mercedes’ struggles, but their form has since picked up, so interfering with the top three is probably a step too far now.

“We have to be fourth in the championship, I don’t think we can beat Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, but we can improve and get closer to Mercedes,” he added.

“It doesn’t matter if he goes to Aston Martin next year, once you put your helmet on, you want to do your best – and I am the same.”

Alonso is currently 10th in the Driver’ Standings, with team-mate Esteban Ocon two places and 17 points up ahead.