‘Aston Martin could have won Monaco with a quicker driver than Fernando Alonso’

Thomas Maher
Fernando Alonso looking serious on the grid. Miami May 2023

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso looking serious on the grid. Miami May 2023

Former F1 and Le Mans racer David Kennedy believes Fernando Alonso’s greatest weakness was on display at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Alonso may have come home in second place at last month’s Monaco Grand Prix, but a victory went begging, according to David Kennedy.

The former Shadow and Theodore F1 racer has suggested that, had Aston Martin had a younger, quicker driver in the cockpit, the AMR23 could have been on pole position and taken the win – the driver having made the difference in a similar fashion to how Max Verstappen did in his Red Bull.

With Alonso having stuck his car on provisional pole in the closing seconds of qualifying, it took a moment of magic from Max Verstappen to pull off the pole position and ensure he gained track position at the most important venue of the year.

Danid Kennedy: The last few milliseconds just slip away with age

“I think he had a car that could have put it on pole in Monaco,” Kennedy told PlanetF1.com in an exclusive interview.

“It was just that last several hundredths of a second.”

Referring to Alonso’s age – he is 41 years old and the eldest driver on the grid – Kennedy said simple biology will have slowed Alonso by enough to have missed out on pole.

“It is just nature’s way and you can’t beat it,” he said.

“There are drivers and whether they take it on one, two, or even three years – it just slips away. We’ve seen it time and time again over the years. It’s a hard fact but that’s nature’s course.”

With 25-year-old Verstappen getting the better of Alonso to establish a track position the Spaniard never overcame, Kennedy compared the lap to an all-time qualifying legend.

“I don’t use the word lightly, it was Senna-esque,” he said.

“What we saw in Monaco was truly a lap of the greats. It’s rare that you see performances like that. Only those who sat at the side of a corner watching Senna throw the car, drifting and controlling the throttle to take it to its absolute limit. It’s flabbergasting to behold. It truly wasn’t his car, I think for that weekend, or his race, but that performance made it. The chips were down and he knew what he had to do. Even though the first two segments didn’t really nail it, the last segment was just outstanding and clearly a lap of the gods.”

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Asked whether he believes the Aston Martin car is perhaps even faster than what Alonso is achieving with it, having scored podiums in five of the seven races so far, Kennedy was resolute.

“Yes, I do,” he said.

“There’s an old Japanese saying, having driven with the Japanese for 10 years, you don’t invest in an old samurai.”

But the Irishman, who raced with Mazda throughout the 1980s in sportscars and at Le Mans, said that while Alonso may be lacking some final fractions of a second, his experience helps make up for it in many other ways.

“Where he will lose in that, he will bring his knowledge of the circuits, his knowledge of the car, and myriad other pieces that a warrior like him can add to it,” he said.

“Even in numerous ways that aren’t as obvious, like encouraging an engineer that he thinks that might have something at his fingertips, or data analysis that’s able to bring in something that they haven’t been able to see and see that they can make a difference. The benefit of his experience is invaluable.”

David Kennedy: Fernando Alonso is smelling the roses as his career winds down

With Aston Martin showing the most marked improvement of any team on the grid over the winter of 2022/23, the former Racing Point/Force India squad are on the verge of the big breakthrough to confirm themselves as a front-running team but haven’t quite reached that lofty height just yet as they zero in on their first win as Aston Martin.

According to Kennedy, there’s no better driver for the position of Lance Stroll’s teammate as they unlock the final pieces of the puzzle, given that Alonso is far closer to the end of his career than to the start.

“He’s probably the right man at the right time for the team, the team owner, and for his teammate, to be able to bring so much to the table,” he said.

“He’s older and wiser now, been through the mill with many machinations with F1 teams and managers.

“I think there’s a great quote in tennis, I think it was Jim Courier who said, ‘Look, it gives me an opportunity to smell the roses along the way’. When you’re on the way up, you don’t see the roses. You see nothing, you’re blind, and you’re focused on one particular spot of winning.

“Now that you’ve been through what he’s been through, you have the sense of perspicacity and he’ll use that to good effect: ‘I’ll get the best of where I am, and what I’m doing is not going to go on forever’.”