Pedro de la Rosa says the strength and longevity of Fernando Alonso’s commitment to motorsport sets him apart from the other drivers.
Alonso is now 41 years old but there are no signs of his Formula 1 career nearing its end, quite the opposite in fact.
The Spaniard has been firing on all cylinders with Alpine this season and once it is over, he will move on to a new challenge at Aston Martin having agreed a multi-year deal with the team.
There he will be joined by his compatriot and ex-Formula 1 driver De la Rosa, who will become an ambassador for Aston Martin. De la Rosa also raced in Formula 1 post-40 with HRT.
Much has been said about Alonso’s age and how much longer he can continue at this level, but De la Rosa feels it is Alonso’s motivation and continued all-encompassing passion for racing which means he is not at the stage yet where a decline begins.
Speaking to The Race, De la Rosa said: “There’s been a lot of talk about the drivers that are old, or getting old, and their performance – I think every one of us is different. And it very much depends on your natural degradation process, which is uncontrollable from our side.
“There’s a lot of things we can do as a human being, as sportsmen, just to avoid this degradation or delay it as much as possible, which is having a healthy life, nutrition, sleep, blah, blah, blah.
“But apart from all this, there’s the other one, which is the motivation. It doesn’t come from outside, it doesn’t come from the clock, it just comes from inside yourself.
“Some drivers lose motivation. Others have other priorities as they age. And Fernando is a person that hasn’t changed in the last 20 years.
“His first priority is motorsport, motor racing, and delivering at the track on a Sunday at 2pm. That’s how he is. That’s his natural ability and the biggest difference from any other racing driver.
“He’s fully motivated. And it might sound like a topic, but it’s not. The people that work closely with Fernando, and we know him, know it’s true.
“He’s motivated in Formula 1 but he’s fully motivated for a 24-hour race in Dubai in December after the whole season.
“It’s his life, racing is in his blood. It’s as simple as that. Not for all of us has racing been in our blood for that long.”
How do Aston Martin keep Fernando Alonso at this level?
Quite simply, it is all about providing a far better challenger than they have in 2022, one that gives Alonso a feeling progress is being made and that he has a goal to fight for.
The retiring Sebastian Vettel has spoken of how finishing P10 no longer satisfies him, having won 53 races and four World Championships, so Aston Martin are likely already well aware such results will not do the job for two-time champion Alonso either.
Aston Martin have verbally made it known they want to challenge for wins and titles in the coming years, matching that with their actions as they have expanded their workforce significantly, including the acquisitions of key staff from rival teams, while a new wind tunnel and factory are under construction.
All the signs then are promising, but if it does not bring results on the track then Alonso, like when he exited McLaren in 2018, could find himself deciding he wants to do something else in racing, not Formula 1.
To De la Rosa’s point, that could be the stage when we see Alonso go off the boil with a lack of motivation to be a Formula 1 driver. If Aston Martin provide the tools, that will not happen in the coming years.