Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Age no concern for Alonso on return to F1: “I’m not that old”

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso batted away questions about his age on his Formula 1 return, as the 39-year-old said he isn’t committing to a timeline for success with Alpine.

After winning his two world championship titles with Renault in the 2000s, Alonso changed teams four times before switching his focus to sportscar racing at the end of 2018.

Renault’s rebranded Alpine team ended a five-year wait for a podium last year. Alonso has returned as the team sets its sights on returning to the front of the field when F1 overhauls its technical regulations in 2022.

However he admitted there are “no guarantees” of success on his return.

“I think you just have your own confidence trying to deliver what the team expects from you. There are no guarantees that I will be as in 2018. But I hope so.

“When I decided to be back I was trying to focus into the preparation, not only physically, but also technically, being with the team last year or the second part of the season and trying to be up to speed in the F1 language per se. Which is a little bit more technical than some other categories.”

Alonso is approaching his comeback with the aim without “a clear target or a clear time set on things”, and says age doesn’t come into his commitment.

“I’m so far enjoying and I know that the repeated question is my age, on my comeback, but I’m a little bit surprised because I’m not that old,” he said.

“The world champion and the guy dominating the sport is 36. It’s not that I’m 20 years older or something, to have the repeat question every time.”

He is already signed for the 2022 F1 season, where he is optimistic about what Alpine can deliver.

“The target in terms of results, what I want to do is, is testing myself and try to help the team in this important moment of this transition from Renault to Alpine and the great future that I think this team has for the next coming years and the new set of regulations.”

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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17 comments on “Age no concern for Alonso on return to F1: “I’m not that old””

  1. Ageism is in the same league as racism and sexism. Can we please stop judging people on their age? I hope it does not become a recurring theme among journalists throughout the year. There are more interesting topics to talk about.

    1. Questioning whether age plays a part in F1 success – where reaction times are everything – is absolutely not in the same league as racism and sexism. Quite a strange comment.

      1. Yeah, it is quite well known that in general reaction times and reflexes tend to get slower over time @cduk_mugello.

        It might well be that Alonso is fit enough, and had enough advantage in department over the “average” human being that he is still in the upper 1% or so of race drivers. And that is because he is a very fit and skilled racer and surely kept his fitness at a very high level. Probably also quite a bit above the average human being.

        That is why he is getting another shot at racing in F1, unlike many others. And his reputation and renown also help, since they give Alpine a big PR boost.

    2. Yes, why not let the toddlers vote?

    3. Not exactly ageism, but the ‘aren’t you getting too old’ question is rude and would never be asked the likes of Hamilton for example.

  2. As with so many things with the media, the repeated questioning is probably more down to narrative than any sort of prejudice. I wouldn’t call it ageism. I’d say it’s lazy journalism. Alonso is almost exactly as old as Prost was when he won the WDC in 1992. That was almost 30 years ago. We’ve come a long way in terms of nutrition, recovery management, etc. Also, Alonso has been racing and winning very actively in other categories. He won the WEC championship and being impressive while at it. And yes, the silliest thing is that Alonso is just 3 years older than Hamilton.

    I’m sure age will play a role in Alonso’s career eventually, but I haven’t seen that decline yet. I thought his 2018 season with Mclaren was about as good in terms of maximizing results and grit as 2012 with Ferrari. For F1’s sake, let’s hope we get to see a proper battle again between the two greatest drivers of this generation Alonso and Hamilton.

    1. That is unfortunately not a realistic hope, not because I think alonso is worse than hamilton, but because of the far different car performance.

  3. Fangio dominated the sport up to the age of 46 (his final championship in 1957). So clearly his reflexes and mental faculties were fine at that age. You can argue that, maybe, maybe, today’s Formula 1 makes more physical demands because of the higher G forces and sheer extra number of races. But then physical conditioning, diets, medical care and training are better than ever today so those differences should be counterbalanced. Both Alonso and Hamilton are perfectionists, always looking to improve their craft. As long as that desire to learn still and their general health continues, why shouldn’t they both be racing into their late 40s too?

    1. @david-br and the races were longer back then. Fangio had trained well in long distance races in Argentina, which for some of Fangio’s contemporaries were even more difficult than F1 itself, so much so that they decided to keep racing there instead of forging a career in Europe.

      As you say, today’s world is a lot easier in some ways, or it’s improved in a lot of areas, making sportmen’s careers far longer than they used to be. There’s no reason why Alonso can’t punch just as hard as when he was in F1. And he’s even younger than Kimi, but he doesn’t enjoy the same hype around him that Kimi does….

      1. @fer-no65 That’s true about races in the past often being real endurance challenges, plus the cars were physically far more difficult to handle. As for Kimi Raikkonen, I don’t think even his most ardent fans would claim he has Alonso’s hunger, either past or especially present. That’s where I see the most difference. Kimi was dropped from Ferrari because he just lacked the passion to do better. Not something you could ever say about FA even in the worst days at McLaren.

        1. @david-br I wouldn’t be so sure, Kimi Raikkonen’s most ardent fans are a different breed. They’d happily argue that Raikkonen could have dominated Senna in the same car (obviously treating any argument as if F1 stopped existing after 2007, nothing after that year matters). They claim Raikkonen is the greatest development driver F1 has seen, which should tell you all you need to know.

          1. In raikkonen’s defense, how comes ferrari started going worse when he left?

      2. Agree with all comments, and also I could add that Alonso had a lot of time of karting practice in his circuit during all this period, which is known as a great way of keeping reflexes sharp on a driver. In testing he looked metronomically precise and very consistent on his driving. He can go like this for at least more 5 or 6 years easily.

  4. I firmly believe that as long as a bloke wants to race in F1, and he and a team agree to a contract to do so, age is not an issue, nor an excuse. If it was an issue, then the driver and the team simply do not agree that he should be in the pinnacle of motorsport racing the fastest cars. I said the same thing of MS upon his return with Mercedes. If you’ve got a contract as agreed by the team, and F1, and FIA, then you are every bit as capable as the younger drivers. If there is some slightly lesser reaction time due to a 15 year difference in age compared to younger drivers, that should be not only minute, but more than made up for in experience. For me, in a perfect world, FA’s age should not even be brought up. Oh of course I realize it is natural for it to be, for after all they can’t stay in F1 forever, and for example LH is far nearer the end of his career than the beginning, but my point above still stands. If you’re in that seat, you’re in that seat and fully capable. Full stop. Or you wouldn’t be in the seat to begin with.

    1. Guess that makes sense to not use age as an excuse, however according to mathematical models, alonso is already at an age where he’d lose a few tenths compared to his peak (35 and younger) on average, but he’s not as far above the peak as schumacher was, and raced actively in these years out of f1, so I presume he should be closer to his peak performance than schumacher was in his comeback.

      1. @esploratore What mathematical models? Are you talking of a study done amongst F1 drivers? Where does the ‘two tenths’ come from?

    2. That’s a pretty fair assessment.

      The only thing that bothers me, not that I think we’ll see it in Alonso’s case, is where a once great sportsperson stays in the game for that last season or seasons where they’re just a shadow of their former selves and everyone is too embarrassed for them to tell them.

      Hopefully Alonso will know when it’s time to go when the time comes.

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