Fresh off the back of the unveiling of Alpine’s A521 came a lot of discussion online as to how well Fernando Alonso looked during his wave, wink and smile to camera. Now, Fernando Alonso’s latest teammate, Esteban Ocon, has been reported on Reuters as saying that Alonso does not look or drive like a 39 year old.
In the Golden era of F1, it was widely regarded that with age came experience and the record books show this. Juan Manuel Fangio holds the title as the oldest person to win an F1 Drivers’ World Championship. The Argentinian racer was 46 years, 1 month and 11 days old when he won his fifth title in 1957. In today’s F1, a sport dominated by youth, Fangio's record is likely to stand the test of time.
Upon his return to F1, Fernando Alonso is 39 years old but his new teammate Esteban Ocon has been quick to explain to people that with Alonso age is but a number.
Fernando Alonso has been off the Formula One starting grid for two years and so it is fair to expect that the 2-time F1 Drivers’ World Champion may take a while to get in his groove. However, at 39 years old, Alonso is only the second oldest driver on the grid seeing how Alfa Romeo’s talismanic driver Kimi Raikkonen’s takes this title - at the age of 41.
Fernando Alonso’s only involvement in Tuesday’s video launching the A521 for Alpine came in the form of a smile, two thumbs up, a wave and a wink. This lack of involvement was the result of Alonso having had jaw surgery last month after a collision with a car while cycling in Switzerland. Alonso did not attend the virtual ceremony in person as he remained in Switzerland working on his recovery and training. Therefore, it was up to Esteban Ocon to speak on behalf of his Spanish teammate which he did so to Reuters:
“What we have seen with Fernando in Abu Dhabi is that he doesn't look like a 39-year-old and he doesn't drive like a 39-year-old,” Ocon told reporters ahead of Alpine’s A521 launch.
“So trust me, he will be ready and he will be performing at top level. No doubt he will be strong but I will do my best against him and push him as hard as I can.”
Fernando Alonso, albeit a 2-time F1 Drivers’ World Champion, has big shoes to fill having replaced Daniel Ricciardo in the team. The announcement of the much-loved Aussie heading to McLaren caught the team (branded Renault at the time) off guard and it was important for them to react. What has followed is heavy promotion of Fernando Alonso ‘returning home’
Fernando Alonso won his two F1 Drivers’ World Championships with Renault in 2005 and 2006 and 15 years later many of the people who worked with him then are still at the Enstone factory now. Couple this familiarity with the fact the Spanish racer has 32 race wins to his name and we can safely assume that Alonso will quickly be up to speed. Esteban Ocon agrees but says that will not provide him any favouritism:
“He's obviously a great champion but the team is going to listen to me as well,” said the Frenchman. “And I have the experience of the car from last year, we know the way that we have to develop it and at the moment Fernando says the same things.”
“He brings his opinion and it's not too dissimilar. The team is trusting me for what I'm giving, for the feedback I'm giving, what we want to achieve basically. It's not because Fernando is coming that all the development is going to be his side. That's not the policy of the team and it will stay like that.”
This may be the policy of the team for now but should Fernando Alonso find the form he is accustomed to it will be down to the performance of the lesser experienced Esteban Ocon to ensure the policy remains the same throughout the season.
A shorter pre-season test will give Fernando Alonso less time than usual to get grips with the car. Elsewhere on the grid though, Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen is happy to see a reduction in this aspect of the sport: