When Fernando Alonso returned to the Formula One starting grid, there was much speculation as to how the 2-time F1 Drivers’ Champion would perform. Would it be that his two years away from the sport – albeit maintaining endurance racing and IndyCar– would see him lose his spark or would his return see him repeat his feat of yesteryear? Due to the fact the British Grand Prix saw the Spaniard extend his points scoring streak to five races, it certainly seems to be the latter. The form of Fernando Alonso is such that he is now saying he feels more like a 25 year old on the eve of his 40th birthday.
Alpine Executive Director Marcin Budkowski has already praised the returning champion, Fernando Alonso, by saying that he believes fans of Formula One are now seeing the two-time champion back to his very best.
In comments shared on f1.com, the official website of the pinnacle of motorsport, Budkowski commented:
“It took him a few races, but he was conscious of it, and he worked hard with the team to rebuild that confidence and that performance, and now I think he’s just there, extracting the maximum from the car. It was quite impressive to see him drive in Austria,” added Budkowski. “The second race, the qualifying, he was really quick and without the unfortunate incident with Seb Vettel in qualifying, we think he would have easily scored a third row on the starting grid in Austria, which says a lot about how he’s back up to speed.”
The F1 Sprint seems to have split opinion on whether it was a success or not but what is not up for debate is the fact that Fernando Alonso was the star of the show on that historic Saturday in Silverstone.
The onboard footage which captured Alonso’s launch off the starting grid from P11 to P5 by the end of the first lap has already gone viral and a finishing place of 7th was just reward for such on track boldness by the Spaniard. Unsurprisingly, Fernando Alonso’s current form seems set to continue this weekend in Hungary but another moment to celebrate is that of the Spanish Champion’s 40th birthday.
This Thursday, Fernando Alonso will join Kimi Raikkonen to become part of the over 40 club – with The Iceman the elder statesman of the F1 starting grid at 41 years of age. However, in comments published on motorsport.com, Fernando Alonso reminded everyone that age is but a number and in actual fact he feels more like a 25-year-old.
Fernando Alonso is known as a hard taskmaster in that he expects from others what he puts in himself – and he puts in a lot! However, the Spaniard is also known for his sense of humour and one liners and when asked about any ways he is preparing for his 40th birthday, he joked about the prospect of shaving his beard and rejuvenating his skin "so you don't ask about age". In these remarks to motorsport.com Alonso quipped:
"I will go on the [sunbed], I will be tanned, I will shave, and I will look very young!...No, I mean, it's going to be a very normal race, no change for me. I feel good.”
Fernando Alonso’s return to F1 was not without incident seeing how the two-time F1 Drivers’ Champion experienced a pre-season cycling accident. Such was the crash that Alonso was left with an upper jaw fracture which inevitably impacted the preparations for his return and led to doubts over his fitness level. Such an anxiety seems to have been felt by Alonso himself:
"Honestly, after the accident at the beginning of the year, in the first couple of races, [there was] still a part of the stress of coming back to the sport. I was concerned about the jaw, about the shoulder as well, that I had the small, small injury. But now, I'm super, super fit and I am 200%. So, you know, is another number. We'll eat some cake. But apart from that, it's going to be a very normal weekend. I feel 25. So whatever number it says in the passport, it's not what I feel."
If Fernando Alonso feels 25 now, it stands to reason that he will feel 26 in 2022 when new regulations come into play as F1 hopes to level the playing field. After all, that is why Fernando Alonso made his return - as confirmed by Alpine Executive Director Marcin Budkowski.
“Fernando, the main reason for his return is next year,” said Budkowski. “That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t push as hard as possible this year, but he sees this year very, very much as a year to get back to his maximum level, but also work with the team, set up his crew and his habits, but also push the team and motivate them for next year.”
Fernando Alonso’s best finish so far this season was 6th place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and that was when the former F1 Drivers’ Champion was not back to his best. Therefore, with all cylinders firing and plenty of lung capacity to blow out the candles on his cake, Alonso is very much a driver looking down the grid at who is in front of him – as opposed to those racers from behind.
Ahead of the 2022 reset, Fernando Alonso still has some trials and tribulations to endure as he is set to undergo further surgery on his jaw. A surgery which will see not one but two titanium plates removed from his body. For many people, everything Fernando Alonso touches turns to gold since he captured his first F1 Drivers’ World Championship at the age of 24 in 2005. Whether this continues in 2022 remains to be seen but for now titanium shall have to do.
However old you may feel Fernando Alonso – we wish you a very happy birthday…and here’s to the next 25 years.