The rare Fernando Alonso skill that sets him apart from everyone else

Oliver Harden
Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin AMR23 cockpit. Silverstone February 2023.

Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin AMR23 cockpit. Silverstone February 2023.

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has showered praise on Fernando Alonso following his strong start to the 2023 Formula 1 season, claiming his unique ability to manage a race from the cockpit means he doesn’t need a race strategist.

Having swapped Alpine for Aston Martin over the winter, the two-time World Champion has made a fine start to life with his new team, registering a trio of third-place finishes in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

Credited for re-energising the Aston Martin team, Alonso’s productive performances have raised hopes that he could soon end his decade-long wait for a grand prix victory having last won for Ferrari at his home race in Barcelona in May 2013.

Alonso has long been regarded as one of the most complete drivers on the grid, with Steiner identifying the Spaniard’s rare ability to think through a race as his greatest strength.

He told talkSPORT: “Everybody who watches Formula 1 knows Fernando is a driver who has got skills none of the other drivers have got.

“In my opinion, he doesn’t need a strategist or anything.

“He can manage his race from inside the car.

“He’s so good [at that] and he’s very talented driving as well. That’s where he’s so strong.” recommends

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Alonso is currently in his third season back on the grid having stepped away from F1 for two years at the end of 2018 following four bruising campaigns at McLaren.

With the 32-time grand prix winner set to turn 42 in July, Steiner has admitted to being impressed by Alonso’s capacity to defy time and improve with age.

“[Being] over 40 years old has just made him better instead of going backwards, so it’s quite amazing,” he added.

“The call he made last year to move team, it worked out to be pretty good for him.”

The secret of Alonso’s success? Spare brain capacity

What’s the difference between the good and the great in Formula 1? The amount of spare brain capacity with which a driver has to play.

In Alonso’s case, that strength was evident as recently as the last round in Australia, where he was spun to the rear of the field after being tagged by Carlos Sainz at the highly controversial restart.

Most drivers in that situation would find themselves lost in the heat of the moment, unable to see beyond the disappointment of a great result going to waste.

But Alonso? No matter, he effectively told the team over the radio.

If the stewards know what’s good for them, they’ll remember the near-identical situation at Silverstone last year and restore to the order to how it was before the red flag. That third place we’ve just lost? It’s still ours.

Compare and contrast Alonso’s presence of mind to the reaction of Steiner’s former driver, Nikita Mazepin, at Monaco two years ago, when he was so consumed by the act of keeping the car out of the barriers that he struggled to process the request of a routine setting change on the steering wheel.

Alonso’s victory at Fuji in 2008 is regularly cited as the most striking case study of this unique trait, his ability to read the race and call the shots strategically leaving the Renault pit wall in awe.

The less mental energy it requires to drive the car, the more there is to consider factors like strategy and minutiae of the regulations.

Sounds simple, but it is actually the greatest challenge of all.