With two Formula 1 championships in hand, 40-year-old Fernando Alonso has nothing left to prove in Formula 1.
And that’s a good thing since he hasn’t reached so much as a podium in Formula 1 since 2014 and hasn’t won an F1 race since 2013. His last F1 win came at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix—121 races ago, and counting.
He stepped away from the sport in 2019 and 2020 to take on other challenges. He’s won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice, taken on the Indianapolis 500 a couple of times with mixed results and even cleaned off the dirt of Dakar from his racing helmet during his hiatus from F1.
But Alonso’s heart is clearly still in Formula 1, and on Thursday announced that he had signed a new deal to remain at Alpine for 2022. The signing was part of what Alonso described as a “one plus one” deal for 2021 that included an option for 2022.
“On my head, it was all planned for 2022 and the new regulations,” Alonso said in Belgium during media availability on Thursday. “That’s probably the reason why I came back to the sport, as well, for next year. But then, you need to have the trust of the team and you need to execute good races in this first part of the season.
“It was not in doubt. The contract was one plus one, so at one point we have to agree for 2022. I’m very happy with the team, very happy with the comeback and looking forward so much into next year.”
Alonso has spent the 2021 season at the front of the midpack in terms of competitiveness. He’s 11th in the points standings and has scored top-10 finishes in the past six races and eight of 11 races overall.
“The team has been happy with my job so far, so we took one minute to make a decision,” Alonso said.
Added Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi, “Fernando has impressed us all since he returned to the sport at the beginning of this year. His dedication, teamwork and focus to extract the maximum from the team is incredible to be a part of and certainly special to witness.”
Alonso had an interesting summer break, one that included an exhibition run of a Formula 1 car on the Le Mans race circuit ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race on August 21. The run in a older Renault F1 chassis with Alpine livery is believed to be the first time an F1 car has made the full 8.5-mile run at Le Mans.
“It was very special, to be honest,” Alonso said at Spa. “Being back at Le Mans, it was special for me, especially after the two wins there. It was a special day for Alpine, being there with a WEC car, with a Formula 1 car, with a road car together in a parade lap felt very nice—being a French manufacturer in a French track and with all the history behind and also being the first Formula 1 car to run in the Le Mans circuit.
No, Alonso didn’t get a chance to really see what an F1 car would do at Le Mans.
“Unfortunately, we could not complete the lap and see what times we can do and push the car a little,” Alonso said. “It was more of a demo lap, even though it was very emotional.”
Predicting a lap time or the compatibility of an F1 car at Le Mans had Alonso’s attention during the exhibition.
“The simulation says like something under 3 minutes, but then you have to execute the lap, and it was not that easy,” Alonso said. “Honestly, with the F1 car, I felt the straits were a little bit unusual for our tires, our cars. So, the breaking points after the straights were a little bit tricky because the front tires were trying to lock up. If you really go for it and you push, it will be quite stressful. So in a way, I was happy it was just a demo lap.”
What would it take for F1 to one day run at Le Mans?
“It could be fun, for sure, to race there,” Alonso said. “It would not take too much in terms of preparation or engineering to go to tracks like Le Mans, even with very short time. I think our car was basically prepared to do that demo lap, and it was close to a race situation, but I don’t know at those speeds and talking about safety standards, they would probably have to change a few things.
“It would be way too fast and way to narrow in some of the sections. So, potentially, it would require more changes, more of the track than basically from the F1 community.”
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