Mere days after his 41st birthday, Formula 1 was shocked by the sudden announcement that Fernando Alonso would switch from Alpine to Aston Martin for 2023 on a multi-year deal.
Of those four teams Alonso has previous raced for – Minardi (now AlphaTauri), Renault (now Alpine), McLaren and Ferrari – the two-time world champion has won races for three of them, only failing to win with Minardi during his debut season in 2001. Something Alonso himself count not be blamed for.
In moving from Alpine to Aston Martin, Alonso is clearly taking a risk. After all, Alpine currently sit fourth in the constructors’ championship, 79 points and five places ahead of Aston Martin. Alonso is clear that he is making this move based on his innate desire to win races and, with it, finally become world champion once again.
“I intend to win again in this sport and therefore I have to take the opportunities that feel right to me,” he said when announcing his switch for 2023.
But with Aston Martin having struggled so much during the transition to the new ground effect cars introduced in 2022, will there be more wins in Alonso’s future?
On the surface, moving from a team fighting for ‘best of the rest’ honours to a team fighting for minor points finishes feels like a big step backwards for Alonso. However, this is a decision made with the long term in mind.
Since being bought by a team of benefactors including Lawrence Stroll, Aston Martin have invested millions of pounds into their facilities and their personnel, hiring some significant paddock figures and building a major extension next to their factory in Silverstone.
“I have watched as the team has systematically attracted great people with winning pedigrees, and I have become aware of the huge commitment to new facilities and resources at Silverstone,” said Alonso.
No other team in recent memory has had such a sudden and sizeable injection of funds and potential growth as Aston Martin is currently undergoing. With Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes holding a virtual monopoly over the podium positions, it’ll likely take the level of investment Aston Martin is receiving for any team to be able to join that upper echelon.
If the team can deliver him a car that can win, there’s also nothing to suggest Alonso has lost his race-winning edge since his return to Formula 1. With age not seeming to slow him down, it could all come down to whether Aston Martin deliver on their promise.
When it comes to success in Formula 1, momentum matters more than many things. Just as it’s easy for teams to fall into negative spirals where poor performance leads to lower prize money which makes climbing back up the field much hard – see Williams for evidence – it’s also true that it often takes success in Formula 1 to get more success.
By switching from Alpine to Aston Martin, Alonso is heading to a team that has declined in form ever since it transitioned from Racing Point into Aston Martin. With the major rules changes introduced this season, 2022 was, in theory, the best opportunity for teams to make a leap up the grid into race-winning contention in many years. Instead, Aston Martin are further behind the fight at the front than they were last season.
Yes, there are plenty of reasons for Aston Martin fans to be excited about the future of the team, with their brand new facility being the first such headquarters custom-built with F1’s modern era and budget cap explicitly in mind. However, F1 history is filled with examples of big teams with big budgets under-delivering and failing to break through to become race winning outfits.
And even if the team succeed in establishing themselves at the front eventually, it will still likely take some time to get there. Then it becomes a question of whether Alonso can continue to maintain his high level of performance into his mid 40s – an age we haven’t seen drivers race at in Formula 1 for many decades.
It would be a very brave person to count out Fernando Alonso – especially after he has shown that he has lost little of the speed he had when he first retired from the sport at the end of 2018.
If he had been occupying one of the Ferrari or Red Bull seats for this season, he would almost certainly have taken a race win by now.
But while Alonso continues to perform at a high level in his early 40s – well past the point most other drivers are already past their prime – it’s another prospect entirely whether he will still be able to keep at this level, say, five years from now.
It still seems possible that Alonso can continue to perform even when his new contract expires, but whether Aston Martin are capable of bringing themselves towards the front of the grid is another matter.
But whatever Lawrence Stroll, Mike Krack and the rest of the Aston Martin team have shown Alonso, it has certainly convinced him that they can help him achieve his goal of getting back onto the top step of the podium once more.
Do you agree that Fernando Alonso will win a grand prix with Aston Martin?
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