Fernando Alonso Gives Formula 1 Its Tyler Reddick Moment, but Much More Perplexing
We hardly know where to begin regarding Fernando Alonso jumping to Aston Martin next season. It’s not every day that a Formula 1 team lines up a two-time World Drivers’ Champion to replace a four-time winner.
So many aspects of the development boggle the mind that it makes the out-of-the-blue Tyler Reddick leap to 23XI Racing in NASCAR look like child’s play.
In no particular order, here are some of the reasons Alonso’s planned 2023 move is a jaw-dropper:
Fernando Alonso turned down the same deal before this season
If signing on with Aston Martin is such a no-brainer for Fernando Alonso, then why didn’t he do it a year ago? Sebastian Vettel left Scuderia Ferrari after the disastrous 2020 season and landed at Aston Martin, where neither party came away satisfied with his single podium finish last season.
Aston Martin boss Lawrence Stroll reportedly offered the seat to Alonso, who wanted back in after leaving F1 for two seasons to try his hand at other racing series. Instead, Alonso accepted Alpine’s offer of $20 million.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Alonso are eighth and 10th, respectively, in the driver standings. All things considered that’s not bad. However, it occurred to the Alpine executive suite that Alonso is 41 years old, and one of the ongoing F1 storylines is that the team wants to give Oscar Piastri his shot soon.
Ocon is young and drives for a quarter of what Alpine pays his teammate, so Alonso sees the writing on the wall and is settling for job security. Being teamed with the owner’s son on an inferior team presumably won’t bother him as long as the checks don’t bounce and he can drive for at least two more years.
Fernando Alonso for Sebastian Vettel is a trade of past champions
Sebastian Vettel pulled a surprise before last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix by announcing he will be leaving Formula 1 at the end of the season. Vettel, 35, came to Aston Martin hoping to recapture past magic, but the equipment hasn’t been as good as his driving skills. He’s buried in 14th place with no real prospect of climbing higher than 11th by season’s end.
What we’ll see at the end of the year is one former champion passing the torch to another. Vettel won four straight World Drivers’ Championships with Red Bull beginning in 2010. He managed a pair of second-place showings in six seasons at Ferrari that followed, but that satisfied neither party.
Alonso won his two championships with Renault in 2005-06 and posted second-place finishes of his own with Ferrari during Vettel’s final two title seasons. Five ineffective seasons with McLaren convinced him to try something new, but he came back to Formula 1 last season with Alpine.
The final straw at Alpine
The incessant speculation about Oscar Piastri being the heir to his seat finally took its toll on Fernando Alonso, prompting him to align with Aston Martin next season. The relationship with Alpine apparently deteriorated to the point that Autosport reported team principal Otmar Szafnauer didn’t know what just transpired until he read the Aston Martin press release.
Until then, Szafnauer had been in discussions with Alonso about a new contract while knowing that Aston Martin had entered picture. The stumbling block was the 2024 option; Alonso wanted a firm two-year deal so that he no longer had to look over his shoulder for Piastri.
Szafnauer balked, and now he has a fresh problem: Piastri apparently committed to join the McLaren organization because Alpine’s contract talks with Alonso convinced him that he might have to drive for the Williams team for a year or longer before getting Alonso’s car.
According to Motorsport, the fight is on between McLaren and Alpine over who has the valid 2023 deal with Piastri, who won Formula 3 in 2020 and Formula 2 last season.
Financial data courtesy of Spotrac.com.
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