Fernando Alonso admitted there were nerves over signing on the dotted line with Aston Martin, but team owner Lawrence Stroll and Alonso’s manager Flavio Briatore played key roles in convincing him.
With Alpine seemingly reluctant to give Alonso the multi-year contract extension which he craved, the Spaniard made his way to the exit door and embarked on a new chapter with Aston Martin.
This was definitely seen as a risk at the time, Alonso going from a team at the head of the midfield to one fighting to reach that position, but it is safe to say that it is a choice which is paying off.
Five rounds have now passed in the F1 2023 campaign and Alonso has taken to the podium four times, all of those P3 finishes, with Aston Martin P2 in the standings behind the all-conquering Red Bull team, while Alonso is currently P3 in the Drivers’ Championship behind the Red Bull team-mates.
Aston Martin was not an easy sell for the two-time champ though, who even after being convinced by Stroll’s pitch, remained wary of whether this talk of a far improved challenger would actually come true as he took the seat vacated by the retiring Sebastian Vettel.
Asked by Sky Sports F1 if he was nervous about that Aston Martin move, Alonso replied: “Of course. I think back in August every team is optimistic about the following year.
“So I’ve been told that the car will be good and I spoke with Lawrence when Seb retired and he said we have a fantastic team and the car will be very different of what Sebastian and Lance [Stroll] are driving right now.
“And I said okay, yes everyone is thinking the same, but let’s see. You never know the result, you don’t have a crystal ball, but I’m happy with the outcome for sure.”
As it turns out though, it was not only Lawrence Stroll trying to push Alonso towards Aston Martin.
The team has been on a heavy recruitment drive in recent times, and two key signings were Red Bull’s aero chief Dan Fallows, now Aston Martin technical director, and Eric Blandin who headed the Mercedes aero department.
These signings, plus Aston Martin’s investment into a new Silverstone factory, convinced Briatore, Alonso’s manager and former Renault boss, that Aston Martin was the team where Alonso needed to go.
“[Fernando] is the real surprise of this World Championship, with Aston Martin, a team that until last year was not competitive,” Briatore explained to Il Riformista.
“Then they raided the number two of Red Bull and Mercedes, and are investing heavily in technology and the factory.
“For these reasons, I pushed Fernando to join Aston Martin, which is now second after [five] grands prix.”
Alonso secured his latest podium with a P3 at the Miami GP, and while Briatore believes that Max Verstappen and Red Bull already have the titles wrapped-up, he maintains hope that Alonso can deny them a full season of victories, identifying Monaco as a potential destination for this “big surprise”.
“Red Bull is doing a championship of its own, Max Verstappen has strength and style and the World Championship is already his,” Briatore claimed.
“Aston did well in the last round in Miami, although it was not exactly a circuit that suits the car well, but if nothing unexpected happens, the World Championship is already [decided], but some circuits like Monte Carlo can always [create] a big surprise.”
Before Monaco, Formula 1 first heads to Imola for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, a venue where Alonso tasted victory before back in his first title-winning year in 2005.