As one of the elder statesmen on the grid, Fernando Alonso feels Formula 1 drivers don’t slow with age as the sport is largely about “the car.”
Alonso will celebrate his 36th birthday next season as he lines up on the grid in what will be his 16th season in Formula 1.
The double World Champion is still rated by many are one of the best on the grid but it remains to be seen whether he will extend his McLaren stay beyond 2017.
However, when the time does come to hang up his helmet, he says it will be because of he is tired of the life and not because age has slowed him down.
“I don’t see it like other sports that maybe the physical situation is so relevant,” he told F1i.com.
“Here it is just about the machine, about the car, so I don’t think there is a peak and then you go down. Here is just a normal progression line and you get better every time.
“If you stop one day I don’t think it’s because you’re slower, it’s because you’re tired.
“Tired of travelling, of media, when you expose your life for 20 years – you’ve been in the newspaper for 20 years, you’ve been on television for 20 years – maybe you want to stop that because real life is on the other side of that box.
“So you stop because of that, not because you are four tenths, three tenths or half a second slower than 20 years ago.”
He added: “We saw with Michael [Schumacher] he was 37 when he first retired and he was winning, he was fighting for the World Championship until the last race with me in 2006 and decided to retire.
“It’s because you start at 19 or 20 in Formula One and at 37 then 17 years of your life are totally dedicated to the sport.
“There’s not a single day when you don’t do breakfast thinking about what you’re eating. There’s not a single day when you do something not thinking that you don’t want to be hurt because the race is next weekend. So it’s all your life dedicated to the sport.”
Alonso also weighed in on modern day Formula 1, saying in yesteryear the sport was for “heroes and for big men” whereas these days it is about simulators and PlayStation.
“Definitely we have to change a lot with the current regulations. And also I think it helps the new generations to come to Formula One because if you do a lot of simulator, if you do a lot of PlayStation, now the cars are so slow and so delicate to drive that it’s about that kind of feeling that you can get on those tools.
“Whereas before, Formula One was just for heroes and for big men. You need to eat a lot if you want to drive a Formula One car from 2004 or 2003 at 15, 16 or 17 years old – or even 20 years old – you need to eat a lot. And now you are ready in winter testing already because the cars are half Formula One.”
He does, however, believe that only the best drivers make it into in Formula 1.
“I think still the best arrive in Formula One, but they don’t need time to learn the category. They don’t need time to get 100% out of the car, they don’t need two or three years to be physically very strong to finish every single race at 100%. They don’t need the neck or anything, they can be 100% in race two.
“So for this I mean they need less preparation but I still think the best always arrives in Formula One and they show in smaller categories they are winning the series.
“And then when they arrive in Formula One they deliver, because if someone arrived in Formula One and they didn’t show it then after two or three races they change the driver. You have to race in Formula One and deliver the results that teams are expecting because if not then you will not race for long.”