Although finding the advice brutal at the time, Fernando Alonso has gone on to carry its significance throughout his racing career.
Alonso these days is known as the veteran presence of the Formula 1 grid and one of the best all-round drivers to have graced it, winning two World titles and coming extremely close to adding to that tally on multiple occasions.
Known as a ruthless competitor intent on taking his Aston Martin team to the Formula 1 summit, this drive stems from some stern, yet life-changing advice from his days on the karting scene.
Fernando Alonso told “second is the first loser”
Speaking during the High Performance podcast, Alonso was asked to reveal the most valuable piece of advice he has received, and on the professional side, that came from a mechanic who brought him back down to Earth with some racing home truths.
“On the personal life, my parents are always giving me the sense of being a good person, humble, trying to take care of yourself and the others,” said Alonso.
“I think this is something that I always appreciated, and my parents are always giving me the best advice.
“On the professional side of things, I remember when I was in go-karts, I was 13 or something like that and I finished second in the world championship the first year that I attempted, and I was so happy. It was my second international race, on the podium in the world championship, that was just incredible.
“And I arrived to the team and it seemed that I was the only one happy. So the head of mechanics back then in the go-karts in my team, came to me and put me in one of the sides of the tent and he said ‘be happy, enjoy, but there is not much to celebrate. Second is the first loser. In this sport, you win, or you don’t’.
“‘To finish second, seventh or 11th is the same. There is only one guy with the trophy and it’s not us. So I understand your emotion, but this is nothing to celebrate’.
“It was shocking, because I was 13 and I thought that was really good and that was really bad for a kid. But then with time I understood that was good advice in general.
“Especially in sports, or when you are competing for something, you win or you don’t. It’s not that you train and you are here at the simulator or at the races or whatever to finish seventh, and seventh is the same as 17th. There is only one guy winning.”
That one guy in Formula 1 right now is Max Verstappen, who is on a run of eighth victories in a row at the wheel of the dominant Red Bull RB19 as he marches towards a third successive title.