‘We would be crazy not to do it’: Alpine boss on Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso is set to leave Alpine at the end of the season to replace Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin.

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has conceded that Fernando Alonso’s signing for Aston Martin is the first time he has had to deal with such a bizarre turn of events in his career.

Alonso came into the current season out of contract at the end of the year and, despite turning 41 in July, he continues to be one of the fastest drivers on the grid currently.

The double world champion has out-qualified team-mate Esteban Ocon seven times in the opening 13 rounds of the year, beating the Frenchman six times in race trim.

He has not lost any of the speed that took him to the title in 2005 and 2006 with the Enstone side, and he might even have ended up on pole and the rostrum has it not been for a mountain of misfortune that has befallen him at times.

READ: Alpine boss reveals if Fernando Alonso will be replaced before end of 2022

Despite Alpine being very happy with his performances though, there was still one glaring issue – that of his contract.

The Spaniard was reportedly looking for a longer deal than Alpine were willing to give him, partly because they wanted to make sure that they would have the option of putting reserve driver Oscar Piastri in the car in 2024.

The Australian has been looking for a loan move elsewhere next year, but no deal was reached by Alpine in case Alonso chose not to re-sign and, when he did not, they announced that they would be promoting the 21-year-old.

However, Piastri is thought to have made a deal with McLaren after Alpine took too long to decide his future, so the team now have two drivers in their ranks who do not want to work with them.

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To add to the confusion, Szafnauer had asked Alonso in Hungary if he had signed with anyone else on the grid, and he was told no.

However, straight after the weekend, Aston Martin announced that the 32-time race winner had been signed to replace the retiring race winner, all making for a humiliating few days for Alpine.

In all his years, Szafnauer had never seen anything like it.

“It was the first time that I experienced something like this, for sure,” he told El Confidencial.

“Although I’m not completely surprised, because I’ve experienced other situations and stories from both sides, from the driver’s side and from the teams’ side.

“But, in my case, I had never experienced anything like that.”

The 57-year-old acknowledged that a longer deal might have convinced Alonso to stay, but due to his age, this was not something the team could give him.

READ: Otmar Szafnauer reveals how Aston Martin lured Fernando Alonso away from Alpine

“For Alonso, a long-term commitment from the team was very important,” explained Szafnauer.

“I think one of the keys for Fernando was the extension of the contract, he is performing at a very high level and I told him that if he continued at that level, next year we would surely continue, we would be crazy not to do it.

“For everyone, there comes a time when age affects your psychological abilities, your eyes, your brain, your muscles, your nervous system.

“[Michael] Schumacher, at 42, was beaten by [Nico] Rosberg, at 38 it wouldn’t have happened. And it happens to all of us – football players, snooker players, cricket players.

“At a certain age, players are still good, but they can’t do it like when they were younger.

“For this reason, we thought that with Fernando it was a year, plus a year, plus a year, and he wanted a guarantee of more time.”

Alonso is understood to have been given a three-year deal by Aston Martin, with a review taking place at the end of each season.