The timing of Aston Martin’s announcement who have won the prized signing of Fernando Alonso was a bit of a shock – but the move itself makes a lot of sense, as F1 correspondent Lawrence Barretto explains.
When Sebastian Vettel revealed ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix on Thursday that he would be leaving Formula 1 at the end of the season, he sent the silly season of the driver market into overdrive.
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His decision caught Aston Martin a little off guard. Of course, they knew there was a good chance he would leave, but they had told the four-time world champion they wanted him to stay for a third year and had done everything to convince him to do so. When he told owner Lawrence Stroll last Wednesday night that he was out, the billionaire accepted Vettel’s decision and reportedly phoned Alonso, whom he has known for many years, directly.
Why did Aston Martin want Alonso?
When Lawrence Stroll renamed Racing Point to Aston Martin, he wanted a big name to headline the relaunch. It was important for the brand – and the prestige of the project – to have someone who was a proven talent and whose signature was seen as a declaration of intent. He had his man in Vettel, one of the most successful drivers in F1 history.
This strategy proved successful, as although the team did not achieve the on-track results demanded by Stroll, the presence of Vettel in the team had a positive impact on the operation and, more importantly, gave them the seriousness needed to achieve impressive results. commercial support and additional investments to strengthen the overall value of the company.
Pursuing this strategy, then, when Vettel delivered his advice, was a no-brainer. Alonso was the only viable option. With Alpine keen to retain the two-time world champion for one more year, having brought him back into the sport for 2021, and Stroll not wanting to look like he was out of control by having an empty seat just sitting there, the billionaire quickly dove in and closed a deal in five days.
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Alonso will give Aston Martin the gravitas Stroll needs, while his immense talent and ability to consistently deliver better results than his car deserves is something worth paying big bucks for. Stroll has already shown he’s willing to spend big on the right people. Luring Red Bull technical chief Dan Fallows is a prime example of this. Doing this for Alonso didn’t require a second thought. In Stroll’s opinion, it is an investment that is a necessity for this project.
The double world champion, who has just turned 41, will be a good mentor for Lance, the son of Lawrence. He is expected to comfortably outperform the Canadiens due to his impressive talent. A signing of his caliber will also provide more motivation for the team working on the ground in the factory and on the track, demonstrating that Stroll is serious about making the Silverstone-based operation a powerful team in Formula 1.
Why did Alonso leave Alpine?
Alonso wanted more than a one-year deal with Alpine, with the Spaniard believing he deserved it given the work he had put in over two years to help the Enstone team, with whom he has spent three separate stints in F1, emerging as the fourth-best team this year.
Alpine was undecided on what to do. They wanted Alonso to stay next year, but are believed to have wanted a one-year deal so they could fit their highly rated reserve Oscar Piastri into the car in 2024, alongside Esteban Ocon, whose contract lasts until the end of this season.
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It is believed that their arrangement with Piastri was that they had to offer him a racing seat somewhere in 2023 or they would lose him. They were therefore considering loaning him elsewhere on the grid in 2023 to gain experience under his belt before stepping in.
They would then offer Alonso an attractive deal to lead their sports car programme, which the French manufacturer sees as a big part of its future, and thus inject significant investment for 2024 and beyond.
The plan didn’t go very well with no team wanting to coach Piastri only to give him away after one season. It dragged on and Alonso was left on hold. He was also growing increasingly frustrated with Alpine’s unreliability this season, which he says robbed him of a significant number of points and left him behind team-mate Ocon in the standings. So when Vettel left, Alonso had some influence.
Stroll offered Alonso everything he wanted in terms of contract length (two years with option), financial package and the potential for the Spaniard to turn things around and be seen as a savior in the twilight of his career. career. Alonso just couldn’t say no – and a deal was quickly struck. I’m told it was done and dusted on Sunday night in the Hungaroring paddock.
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Alonso will know he risks a performance setback. He is currently trading the fourth-best team for the ninth-best. But he will also know that Aston Martin essentially has a blank check and is going all out to make it the best car on the grid. Next year’s machine will be the first where Fallows has had some oversight.
A new plant will be commissioned next year, a state-of-the-art wind tunnel shortly thereafter. He will be the team leader, with the operation fully trusting him and listening to his will to get things done.
And while you might say that at 41 he won’t be around long enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor at Aston Martin, Alonso will tell you otherwise. He’s a different animal and he’ll feel like he can run for years, operating at a level good enough to fight for wins and the championship. Whether or not this is the reality is irrelevant. Alonso wants to be there – and wants to make this project a success and Stroll wants a big name who can make a difference on the right track. It’s the perfect match.