How ‘relentless rookie’ Alonso leads Aston Martin F1 by example

Fernando Alonso may be the oldest driver on the Formula 1 grid, but according to his Aston Martin team the energy he exudes still resembles that of a relentless rookie.

Alonso‘s move to Aston Martin from Alpine for 2023 raised some eyebrows when it was announced in the summer of 2022, with the Spaniard having a history of making bold team moves that didn’t always work out.

But the two-time world champion joined the Silverstone squad just as it hit a rich vein of form with the launch spec of its 2023 car, propelling the 42-year-old to six podiums across the first eight races.

And while Sebastian Vettel, the driver Alonso replaced, was praised for his contribution to its great leap forward, it was Alonso’s rookie energy and work ethic that team boss Mike Krack identified as one of the team’s biggest gains. 

“A lot of drivers go down into smaller teams and they try to take what they can take through the end of the career,” Krack said. “This is not what we have seen, it’s actually completely the opposite.

“We had a driver here where you think it’s his first season, he was just full of energy, not only driving us but also driving himself and, and he was really leading by example, being the first in the office.

You come in the morning, and he was sitting there and says ‘Good afternoon, guys’.

“This leading by example has affected the team and has pushed the team. We are a much better team now than 12 months ago.

Obviously, this is also a credit to others, not only to that, but I think this has really made us improve much, much more than we would have if he hadn’t been there.”

The team’s performance director Tom McCullough felt Alonso was “relentless” in his drive to push the team forward and exceeded expectations of what he would be like to work with, having lugged around a reputation of being political and tough on his team-mates.

“He has been a really positive force every single day, from the minute he turned up,” said McCullough.

“He has been relentless. Not really knowing him well, you had a bit of a picture of what he was going to be like, but it’s been very impressive how hard he’s pushed, but also how efficient he is with his feedback, how knowledgeable he is.

How constructive he is inside the team. It’s been really, really impressive.”

Aston Martin’s challenge petered out over the course of 2023, being overtaken for fourth by McLaren as Alonso and the team only managed two further podiums after the summer shutdown.

Team-mate Lance Stroll was hit harder by the team’s reduced competitiveness, finding it tough to overcome some of the AMR23’s weaknesses.

But while that could have led to tensions at some of the two-time world champion’s previous teams, Krack said the squad’s deteriorating form never dented its harmony, which he says is a source of pride.

I think both drivers were suffering from the characteristics that we had,” he explained.

“I’m really happy [with] the way we have handled it, without having huge breakouts in the media, hammering each other or going against each other.

“I’m not the kind of guy that [has a lot of] pride, but if I’m proud of something it’s the way how we stuck together.”

In a video posted on social media on Monday ahead of his seat fit at the Aston Martin factory, it was apparent Alonso’s rookie energy was still there, saying he had “butterflies” ahead of his 21st season in the series.

“Even if it’s the 21st season in F1, it’s still the same adrenaline,” he said. “It’s really quite a unique time of the season, and it’s no different now after a few years in Formula 1. I still get these butterflies.

“I’m constantly thinking about ways of getting faster behind the wheel and be a better driver. You rewatch some of the races that happened this year as well and maybe you see different lines, different strategies for all the teams or the drivers.

“That curiosity from the driver point of view of getting better is always there and you never stop learning and you never stop getting better.”

Alonso, who turns 43 in July, suggested F1’s expanding calendar would play a bigger role in his decision to retire for good than the driving itself.

So with the two-time world champion not showing any signs of slowing down, Krack hopes Aston Martin can extend his expiring contract beyond 2024.

“I really hope so,” he said. “I really hope we can continue. If we maintain the dynamics and the collaboration that we have now, we can go on forever.”

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