How Abu Dhabi test brought back memories of Jaguar 2002 for Fernando Alonso

Jon Wilde
Fernando Alonso leaning over Aston Martin car. Abu Dhabi November 2022.

Fernando Alonso has admitted his first Aston Martin test in Abu Dhabi had evoked memories of a trial he had 20 years earlier with Jaguar.

The double former World Champion is on the move after two seasons with Alpine that marked his comeback to Formula 1 from a sabbatical.

Aston Martin will be the fifth different team for which the Spaniard has raced in F1, but it could have been six because he tested for Jaguar on a wet and windy day at Silverstone in May 2002 while spending a year on the sidelines following his debut season for Minardi.

Alonso, 20 years old at the time, was faster in the test than Jaguar racer Pedro de la Rosa and was among three drivers being evaluated as a potential successor to Eddie Irvine, who was not expected to be kept on for 2003.

The latter scenario was indeed the case, except Alonso was signed up to race by Renault, for whom he had been a test driver in 2002, to replace BAR-bound Jenson Button, while Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia took over from Irvine and De la Rosa at Jaguar.

Nevertheless, although the weather conditions at Yas Marina 2022 were very different to Silverstone 2002, Alonso still saw some parallels – especially with his friend De la Rosa, now an Aston Martin team ambassador, again being present and also when it came to the colour of the unbranded car he was driving.

“We entered the garage this morning together and we saw the green car and we both said ‘this is exactly as Jaguar in 2002’,” Alonso told media including PlanetF1 in Abu Dhabi. “But this is completely a different project for sure.

“And I’m so happy. I cannot be over-confident, for sure, because everything will change for next year, but the feeling I had today in the garage with the guys and the potential of the team, the talent I see in the engineering room here is outstanding so I’m really, really, really happy.”

Alonso’s maiden Aston Martin test comprised 97 laps as he prepares to take over from Sebastian Vettel as Lance Stroll’s team-mate for a squad who will hope to improve significantly on P7 in the Constructors’ standings this year.

“It was in the programme to try and squeeze as many laps in as possible,” said the 41-year-old.

“Lance had a chance then to feel a little bit a few changes we did and we anticipated they were needed for me in terms of the steering feeling and things like that.

“It was good to have Lance in the car as well to see if he feels also benefit on that and if we can run similar settings next year.”

Read more – Esteban Ocon: ‘No need’ for some of Fernando Alonso’s criticism