Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin: Retirement home or one last shot at glory?

Fernando Alonso's shock move to Aston Martin for the 2023 Formula 1 season looks like a step back, but makes a lot more sense beneath the surface

-

‘Expect the unexpected’ is a cliche, but there’s no better way to sum up Fernando Alonso‘s racing career.

Across his 21-year Formula 1 career the Spaniard has been everything except predictable, but he’s managed to shock the motorsport world yet again with Aston Martin‘s announcement that he’ll be switching to the Silverstone outfit for 2023.

A no-brainer for Aston, the move is more of a headscratcher from Alonso‘s position.

On paper it looks like a step backwards, with Alpine fighting to establish themselves as the fourth-best team on the grid while Aston Martin languish near the foot of the constructors’ championship, ahead of just lowly Williams.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in action during 2022 Austrian Grand Prix qualifying REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

It’s been rumoured that the out-of-contract Alonso was looking for a two-year extension at Alpine but the Enstone team were unwilling to play ball with the prodigious Oscar Piastri waiting in the wings and their French star Esteban Ocon under contract until the end of 2024.

With the sides at an impasse, Alonso seized the initiative presented by Sebastian Vettel‘s surprise retirement and the deal was done.

Why it makes sense

Aston Martin‘s announcement itself offers an insight into the thought behind the move.

Far from the dull usual corporate PR line, his quotes stressed how highly he rates Aston Martin’s potential.

“No one in Formula One today is demonstrating a greater vision and absolute commitment to winning, and that makes it a really exciting opportunity for me.”

Fernando Alonso – Aston Martin’s official announcement

Alonso‘s in his second season at Alpine and also spent a large part of the 2020 campaign around the team, so if anyone’s going to have an idea of their limitations, it’ll be him.

Assuming Alonso made the decision to leave and wasn’t pushed out, it seems he’s decided the French team aren’t on the right track to get closer to the front, or at least quickly enough for the 41-year old to take advantage of.

He’s the second big-name, race-winning driver to pitch up at Enstone hoping to be part of a transformation that’ll catapult the team into contention at the front of races, but unless something wildly unexpected happens he’ll leave as empty-handed as Daniel Ricciardo did before him.

Alonso thrives on the unexpected but that seems a step too far even for him.

Aston Martin offers the umpteenth fresh start of his career, and there are reasons for optimism.

He spoke of how the team has “systematically attracted great people with winning pedigrees”, whilst they’re also working on a new Silverstone factory set to open in 2023 featuring a brand new wind tunnel.

Head honcho Mike Krack – who developed Porsche’s three-time Le Mans winning 919 Hybrid – has joined the team alongside former Red Bull pair Dan Fallows and Andrew Alessi, to bolster the engineering department.

If they do finish ninth they’ll get 30 perccent more wind-tunnel time than the 2022 Constructors’ Champions, and so there’s plenty of potential to move forward especially with their crack team in place.

Meanwhile, Alpine have a long-term plan that doesn’t include him whilst you’d imagine he’ll be the undisputed leader at his new team.

The case against Aston Martin

That’s all a great theory, but how will it work on paper… or tarmac?

These are similar arguments put forward when Sebastian Vettel switched to racing green for 2021, a move that’s certainly not gone to plan.

Aston Martin have gone backwards since taking over the victorious Racing Point for 2020, and their best engineering features have been copied from the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull.

From finishing with the third-quickest car that season, in 2021 Aston Martin slipped to the back of the midfield and have followed that up by uncoupling themselves completely from that battle this season, boasting just two top-eight finishes.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel acknowledges fans ahead of the 2022 Hungarian Grand Prix REUTERS/Lisa Leutner

Whilst Lawrence Stroll effectively has a blank cheque to throw at turning the team into frontrunners, the budget cap means he can’t bring all of that to bear the way he could’ve last decade.

Alonso doesn’t have the best track-record with evaluating the long-term competitiveness of rivals either – his move to McLaren for the 2015 season backfired spectacularly, and seemingly extinguished any hope Alonso had of adding to his two world championships.

Meanwhile, Alpine are still improving. Their reliability hasn’t been up to scratch so far this season but they’ve been one of the most aggressive upgraders on the grid this year and that’s paid dividends with five top-six finishes in the last six races.

It’s been a surprise whenever they’ve qualified outside Q3 and they too have the ambition to reach the top… again.

If they take another step forward next season and Aston Martin don’t then things could turn ugly quickly down at Silverstone.

The verdict – better the devil you know?

It feels like it’ll take a miracle for Aston Martin to be competing at the front any time soon, but a miracle also feels like it’s Alonso‘s best shot of making that feat too.

He knows Alpine, and he didn’t return to F1 to lead the midfield and battle for sixth place on a good day. We’ll find out if that’s the peak for the French outfit, but if Alonso‘s made that assessment and is correct then why not twist and hope for something better.

In a career of backfired gambles for Alonso, his bet on the devil he doesn’t know could be the one that finally pays off.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
- Advertisment -

LATEST NEWS

Adrian Newey, the Chief Technical Officer of Red Bull during 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Aston Martin executive gives cryptic update on Adrian Newey deal

0
Aston Martin’s technical director Dan Fallows has admitted Adrian Newey would be “a great asset” to any team but...
Oscar Piastri with the winners trophy at the 2024 Hungarian GP | McLaren F1 Team

Piastri wants McLaren discussion after Hungarian GP team orders chaos

0
Oscar Piastri called for a McLaren discussion regarding the team orders situation at the 2024 Hungarian GP as he...
The start of the 2024 Hungarian GP | Mark Thompson / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

F1 Driver Ratings – 2024 Hungarian GP

0
Oscar Piastri stunned fans at the Hungaroring by taking his first career victory at the 2024 F1 Hungarian Grand...
Nick Cassidy walking down the pit lane at the 2024 London E-Prix | Formula E

Emotional Cassidy ‘incredibly sad’ to miss out in dramatic Formula E title race

0
Nick Cassidy was almost lost for words after he dramatically lost the 2024 Formula E title to Pascal Wehrlein...
Kyle Larson of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Brickyard 400 | NASCAR / Getty Images

Why NASCAR waited and ended the Brickyard 400 under caution

0
Kyle Larson, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, winning the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the thirty-year anniversary of...
Max Verstappen leads Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes during the 2024 Hungarian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen slams Red Bull over shocking 2024 Hungarian GP performance

0
Max Verstappen slams Red Bull for a shocking display at the 2024 Hungarian GP, calling the car slow and...
Oscar Piastri celebrates winning the 2024 Hungarian GP | McLaren F1 Team

Emotional Oscar Piastri relives maiden F1 win at Hungarian GP

0
An emotional Oscar Piastri said his 2024 Hungarian GP victory was a “dream come true” as he took his...
Colton Herta wins the IndyCar 2024 Grand Prix of Toronto | Penske Entertainment: Travis Hinkle

Colton Herta Triumphs in Toronto, Ending 40-Race Winless Streak

0
Michael Andretti’s jubilant reaction following the IndyCar Grand Prix of Toronto at Exhibition Place was unmistakable as Colton Herta...
Pascal Wehrlein celebrates winning the Formula E championship at the London E-Prix | Formula E

Victory and redemption: Pascal Wehrlein’s road to becoming Formula E champion

0
Following a wide-open battle that boiled down to the very last race of the 2024 season, Pascal Wehrlein officially...
Mitch Evans looks on at the 2024 Portland E-Prix | Formula E

Evans hits out at Jaguar: Team were working against me in Formula E finale

0
Mitch Evans feels his Jaguar team were working against him during the Formula E finale in London as he...
- Advertisment -