Damon Hill has predicted how many years he thinks Fernando Alonso has left in Formula 1 and compared it to his own decision of when to call it quits.
Alonso celebrated his 41st birthday in July and while he is still some way off the record for the oldest to compete in the sport (that title goes to Louis Chiron who raced when he was 58 years and 277 days old) he is the oldest current driver on the grid by three and a half years.
The Spaniard took two years off in 2019 and 2020 but is currently competing in his 19th season in the sport and his tally of 93,598 km (58,160 miles) driven is the most of any driver in history.
As with any athlete in the latter stages of their career, talk has turned as to when Alonso may call it quits but, while his new Aston Martin two-year contract will quiet speculation for a little while, there is still much debate as to when the two-time World Champion will retire.
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One man brave enough to put a number on it is Damon Hill, who has predicted Alonso will retire when he is 44, meaning he would have three years left in the sport.
“Fernando is firing on all cylinders, and looking very strong and incredible,” Hill said on the F1 Nation podcast.
“And of course, remember that (Juan Manuel) Fangio, he didn’t start in Formula 1 until he was 38 and he went on until he was way into his mid-40s at a time when it was extremely dangerous.
“So he must have had nerves of steel and incredible skill, which is the same as Fernando Alonso. I think it’s down to whether you love it or not. If you’ve got enough energy, and you keep yourself in good shape, then why not? Why not keep going?
“I’m gonna pick a number, when is he going to retire? I think he will retire when he’s 44.”
Hill also described the factors that influenced his decision to retire and said it was the experiences of his dad, Graham, that made him decide his time was up.
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“I retired when I [had] just turned 39,” the 61-year-old said. “I always had it in my mind that racing drivers should stop before they’re 40.
“I think possibly because my dad kept racing until he was 45 and I remember journalists saying ‘he really ought to stop now. It’s all looking a bit sad and long in the tooth’.
“So I think that might have registered with me as a kind of negative. 1999, that’s when I finished racing. But at the beginning of the year, we went to Melbourne and we had our team photographs.
“I remember standing next to the new drivers who are coming in, I realised they were 20 years younger than me. [It felt like being] invited to a party and the kids were 20 years younger than me, I’d feel a little bit uncomfortable.
“So I started to doubt whether or not I should be hanging out with the kids in Formula 1 aged 40. That was one of my ways of dealing with it.”