Fernando Alonso made the headlines of the summer break after announcing his departure from Alpine, running fourth in the constructor’s championship, to Aston Martin, 9th in the constructors, to replace Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso, who celebrated his 41st birthday on July 29th, is the oldest driver on the grid. However, the Spaniard has proven once and again that his driving abilities are on top form.
In an exclusive interview with motorsport.com, he spoke about his competitiveness accepting he always tries to make the most out of his abilities and to make others make mistakes.
“I'm that type of guy…I need to make 100% of my thing, and I need to kill whatever strengths other people have. But this I do in everything I practice, when I play anything.”
He is not only competitive in F1 but also in everything he does outside a race circuit like, for example, tennis, activity he plays on a regular basis.
“I used to play tennis, and when I play with someone good, I would put the ball very high. Because, like this, you stop the rhythm of them because they are used to hitting the ball very hard. Playing with professionals, the ball arrives very strong for them so they are used to that kind of shot. But when you put the ball high, they make mistakes, because the ball arrives very soft. So, I can play better tennis when putting the ball high. Putting the ball high is my only chance to beat them. So, I do that automatically.”
Nothing says more about his personality like admitting he needs to destroy his rivals
“It's not only on racing I just need to destroy the strengths of the others, and try to maximize mine.”
Experience comes with age and Alonso is aware that he has an advantage.
“I think experience for sure helps in many ways. Start; awareness of things, tyre management, pitstops, the way you approach the mechanics. Also, the way you approach the weekend: free practice, the importance of it, the non-importance of it, sometimes.”
Alonso reflects upon how he has changed over the years after learning from his own mistakes.
“When you're young, you pay so much attention to every lap you do; even FP1 is like the final lap of the championship. So, I think you understand these things. A lot of improvement has been done in wet conditions and damp conditions. Normally wet races are a long shot, you know, things are changing very quickly, there are a lot of safety cars, a lot of dry lines that will appear later on. So, there are more opportunities. Not every lap is the last lap. These kinds of things I used to make mistakes, early in the races that now I try to avoid. And this only comes with experience and with your own mistakes.”
The two-time World Champion doesn´t feel age stops him from doing what he wants and accepts that in 2018 he was mentally exhausted and needed the two years break to recharge batteries for a second stint.
“In terms of the downsides, it's difficult to say anything because I don't feel that I'm missing anything that I had when I was younger, maybe in 2018, I felt that I was exhausted mentally by all the marketing and traveling and things like that. And I needed those two years out. Now I feel okay. So, I don't know if it is just those two years that helped me out. Or it's just a different approach that I have now.”
Being away from the sport gave him another perspective that, now, he benefits from.
“I think watching races from the outside, you don't understand sometimes different things and different behaviours of the race, looking from the outside and looking at 360 degrees.It’s not only your own cockpit and your own strategy, so maybe I have a better understanding of how the race develops. And also the different categories that I drove: I think they teach me different things.”
Alonso didn´t stay at home watching races on TV. During the two years he tried different categories that broaden his mind.
“There are different philosophies of racing, different driving techniques. It's not that they are applicable to an F1 car, but when you lose the car, you have an oversteer, maybe my hands and my feet are doing something that I didn't know before, because I was just driving F1 cars. So in a way, I feel more in control of things now.”