Kick starting his Aston Martin career with a pair of P3s, Flavio Briatore says it’s “nonsense” to claim his charge Fernando Alonso is “too old” and that he brings more “enthusiasm and ambition” to the team than his predecessor Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso swapped Alpine for Aston Martin during the off-season, a decision that raised eyebrows given his former team was fourth overall last season with Aston Martin only P7.
But back-to-back podiums in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have vindicated the driver with Alonso sitting third in the overall standings.
He’s also smiling more than ever, the double World Champion full of praise for the strides forward Aston Martin have made while also being quick to pat his new team-mate Lance Stroll on the back.
His long-time manager Briatore, who was also his team boss when he won the 2005 and 2006 World titles, believes Alonso is as a fast as he ever was.
“They said that he was too old, that he was not a team man… Nonsense,” he said in an interview with Corriere della Sera.
“Just give him a fast car and he will know how to squeeze it to get good results, he is exceptional.
“At 41 years old, he is faster than someone in his twenties.”
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He reckons in Alonso, Aston Martin have a driver with more “enthusiasm and ambitions” than his predecessor Sebastian Vettel.
“Fernando brought enthusiasm and ambitions never seen before, nothing to do with Vettel’s stage in Aston Martin,” he concluded. “You also need that to beat Ferrari and Mercedes.”
He does, however, acknowledge that the move to Aston Martin came with risks given the team’s position last season. Aston Martin not only failed to reach the podium but also scored 118 points less than Alpine.
“It was risky, but it was worth it,” Briatore said. “They offered us a two-year contract while others, with the excuse of age, only one.”
He says he was also impressed with team owner Lawrence Stroll’s vision and his desire to move forward, unlike “in Alpine”.
“We knew that Lawrence Stroll was forming a great team,” Briatore continued, “we saw the desire for change that there was not, for example, in Alpine.
“I have known Lawrence for 30 years, he is a true F1 fan, he is a successful businessman. He started as a sponsor and then bought Racing Point.
“He took a lot of people from Red Bull and other teams. They were number two or three at the teams and he gave them more responsibilities. He has invested in the wind tunnel and the new factory. If you want to grow, you have to do this.”
The big question now is can Alonso win a race this season given Red Bull’s dominant form. Briatore admits time is still needed but hasn’t ruled it out.
“The Aston Martin is still a new car,” he said, “we will see how much it can grow with evolution. The others still have ‘I have to understand his problems’ whereas Fernando has a car that is easy to understand and drive.
“If he has a chance to win, he won’t let it get away.”