Fernando Alonso believes he is “the best version of me in these 20 years in Formula 1” at the moment, and taking on a seat at Aston Martin was what he needed to do to achieve it.
Alonso became officially the most experienced driver in Formula 1 history last year when he surpassed Kimi Raikkonen’s tally of overall race starts, before leaving Alpine to join his new team for this season.
In fact, he believes the catalyst for showing this version of himself was the announcement of his move to Aston Martin, and the preparation he was able to do in his final months as an Alpine driver.
There was a noticeable lowering in the quality of relationship he had with team-mate Esteban Ocon as last season progressed, with the two coming together on track at Interlagos in a moment of tension – with Alonso having also bore the brunt of multiple reliability issues from Alpine last season.
But given his flying start to 2023 and now with a car underneath him that is able to help him showcase his talents, Alonso feels the end of his time at Alpine proved to be the warm-up time he needed to hit the ground running with Aston Martin.
“I have prepared well since the comeback with Alpine in 2021,” he said at a recent book launch event, as per SoyMotor. “I was waiting for the new rules to be closer to victories, it didn’t happen in 2022 with Alpine, but it was a year of preparing well.
“From the middle of the year, when I signed with Aston Martin, I started to think about Aston Martin, to prepare myself, to talk to the team, to prepare the car.
“It was like a personal thing, if I didn’t stay at Alpine, the best version of me in these 20 years in Formula 1 was going to be seen.”
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The pace of the AMR23 and the subsequent podium finishes of Alonso have also sparked a resurgence in home support in his native Spain, with the Asturias native also inspiring a new generation of fans to follow his exploits in Formula 1.
He admitted his surprise that the level of excitement has reached the heights that it has, given that Aston Martin are not yet in contention to challenge for race victories in the face of the dominance Red Bull are showing.
“I’m happy and I know that in Spain there is a lot of excitement at the start of the championship,” he said.
“I’m glad it’s like that, I haven’t been back to Spain since the beginning of January, so I’m looking forward to going back, but from what my family and Pedro [de la Rosa] tell me, Spain is very excited.
“And it’s a bit of a shock that the generation that didn’t see me in 2005-2006, are getting excited, that they are so excited, and believe in the fight for a victory or the World Championship, because they haven’t seen me and because we are not in that position yet.”