1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve believes Fernando Alonso will be a big boost for Aston Martin and a “huge loss” for Alpine.
Alonso has made the switch from Alpine to Aston Martin for F1 2023, marking the start of a multi-year deal where the two-time Champion hopes to put the foundations in place for the wins and titles which Aston Martin ultimately crave.
Alpine meanwhile have replaced Alonso with former Red Bull and AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly, who alongside Esteban Ocon, forms an all-French line-up at the French Renault-backed team.
Villeneuve, though, is not entirely convinced by Alpine’s new Ocon-Gasly connection at this stage.
“I think that Alpine will be very sad to not have Alonso anymore,” Villeneuve told PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher in an exclusive interview.
“That’s a huge loss. He was really pushing the team forward. And by doing that, he was helping Esteban as well be competitive and so on.
“Now, you have two French guys in a French team in an international sport. I don’t see the point.”
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Alonso now has Lance Stroll, the son of team owner Lawrence Stroll, as his new team-mate, who now faces the task of going up against another multi-time Champion in Alonso following the retirement of Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso has already been very positive when discussing Lance, even describing him as a potential World Champion, but unlike Vettel, Villeneuve says that Stroll now has a former champion who remains at the peak of his powers to test himself against.
And Alonso has not always been one to keep his words soft or sweet when things are not to his liking, Alpine finding this out still in the approach to the new season.
So, while Villeneuve sees Alonso as a big asset gained for Aston Martin, that comes on the provision that he does not “antagonise” Lance or the team.
Asked how Alonso will fare with the politics at Aston Martin, Villeneuve said: “I don’t know. It’s the same scenario that has been seen in the past, in that environment where a World Champion is taken in to make…like when Vettel was taken, Vettel was already finished, he wasn’t the Vettel of his winning days.
“So the goal, the key there is to have a World Champion that’s not quick enough, so make the other driver look good, but that won’t be the case with Alonso.
“So I don’t know how that balance will work out, how the atmosphere will stay, but obviously, Alonso, he’s always been a very difficult guy when things don’t go his way.
“We’ve seen it at McLaren, we’ve seen this in many places, but lately, even last year, he’s been extremely positive in his commentary about Lance, even when they clashed in Austin, where in a similar situation in the past he would have gone ballistic.
“So I don’t know, so he might have actually toned himself down a bit and it might work out, and if he manages to not antagonise Lance and the team, he will be very helpful for the team to move forward.
“And I think it will be very helpful for Lance as well, because Alonso has a lot of experience, and he’s a fighter, he never gives up. So that’s the first time that Lance will have a team-mate that’s really on it, basically. So it will be very, very good for him and the team.
“Obviously, the team, engineering, is capable of making a good car. We’ve seen flashes of speed last year in the car.
“So now with Alonso at the helm, it might bring the whole team up, it might bring the two cars to a level where they’re fighting for podiums every week, we just don’t know, we have to wait and see. But definitely, it should be a big help for the team.”