After yesterday’s Hungarian Grand Prix Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer gave every indication the team’s star driver Fernando Alonso was going to sign a new contract to remain with them.
Did he expect a straightforward contract negotiation? “Very straightforward.”
Were there any big sticking points in Alonso’s new contract left to resolve? “No, not really. We’ve gone through all that. It’s just a matter of time. Just details. Little stuff.”
Yet, less than 16 hours after Szafnauer spoke those words, Aston Martin issued a press release declaring the two-times world champion had signed a “multi-year” deal to join their team from 2023.
It wasn’t only Szafnauer who gave strong outwards signs that, despite Sebastian Vettel’s impending retirement opening up a seat at Aston Martin, Alonso intended to stay put. The man himself said as much after Vettel made his announcement on Thursday.
“I would like to stay here,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “But there are two parties and I will not put a gun in the head of anyone.”
Aston Martin had unsuccessfully courted him before, said Alonso, following the team’s purchase by Lawrence Stroll, after which it initially competed under the name Racing Point.
“We spoke in 2020 when they were very competitive, obviously, and winning races and in the podium,” he said. “Before I came back. And it didn’t went well and I came with Alpine and I’m happy where I am.”
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But Alonso also indicated his contract discussions were not focused solely on Alpine. “When two parties want to agree on something, it takes 10 minutes. When two parties fight to agree on something, maybe one of the sides is not happy.
“So it will not take more than 10 minutes with whatever I am talking.”
He gave more than one indication he was prepared to look elsewhere. “All the teams are an option as long as they don’t have two drivers signed,” he continued.
“My priority is to be with Alpine because we’ve been working and developing this project together for two years now. We are more and more competitive and probably my wish is to stay.
“But we didn’t sit down completely and move forwards things so still everything’s ongoing.”
When Vettel told Aston Martin on Wednesday of his plans to retire at the end of the year, it didn’t catch them completely off-guard. The team had begun discussions about his future earlier in the year and made it clear they would explore opportunities with other drivers in order to ensure they were not caught on the hop if they needed a replacement.
“The good thing about about our relationship with Sebastian was always that we were very clear that at a certain point we will need to look for other solutions if he will not come to an agreement,” said team principal Mike Krack yesterday.
“This is things that we had discussed already months ago when we started already discussions and he’s happy with that. He knows how this business is run and that you cannot drag until November the decision. So from that point of view, I think we are very transparent him towards us and us towards him and so there is no bad feelings.”
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How would Alonso have weighed up competing offers from the two teams? Undoubtedly the not-inconsiderable matter of his retainer will have had a bearing. “Every driver I’ve ever negotiated with, it’s been a question of money and other things too,” said Szafnauer. “For whatever reason, they want the most money and we want to pay the least.”
“In 2018 I had a lot of marketing commitments, a lot of travelling. I was exhausted mentally, not physically or driving. Now I’m very fresh also travelling-wise.”
But above all what Alonso wants is to compete for wins and titles. He yearns to disprove those who are convinced the 41-year-old’s last grand prix win in 2013 and last championship victory in 2006 will not be repeated.
“I stopped in 2018 because I had bigger challenges in my head. I had the Le Mans, I had the IndyCar. I wanted to try cross-country rally.
“So I had other challenges and in 2018 or ’19, let’s say, the possibilities that I had to race here in the paddock, they were not attractive. There was only one team winning. Bottas and Hamilton, they were fighting for each race and each pole position. So it was for me not the place to be and not a happy place. So I decided to stop. I don’t know if that came to play into Sebastian’s decision as well, having a competitive or not competitive car.
“But in the time away from Formula 1, in my case, we had the pandemic as well. And all the other series, to be honest, they were hit quite badly in terms of sponsors, manufacturers, things like that. And Formula 1 is still quite healthy in that moment. So I felt in that moment the biggest challenge was to come back in Formula 1 and try to do well. So I move always on challenges more than what I think in that moment of my career.”
Based on their current results, Aston Martin looks like a backwards step compared to Alpine. Alonso’s current team won a race last year and are locked in a fight with McLaren for fourth in the championship. Aston Martin are only ninth in the standings.
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But that 2020 campaign and Lawrence Stroll’s huge investment demonstrated the seriousness with which Aston Martin are pursuing success. The competitiveness of their Mercedes power unit is not in doubt, while Alonso admitted recently that whatever gains Renault has made with its motor are hard to gauge because Alpine is the only team that uses it.
At Alpine he is up against a team mate who is sharp enough to cause him problems on race day, as yesterday demonstrated. That on its own was certainly not enough to set events in motion, but Alonso will surely view the ease with which Lance Stroll’s team mates have kept him handled and expect to do the same.
Alonso’s decision to up sticks is a blow to Alpine, even if they have highly-rated Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri waiting in the wings for an overdue promotion to F1. It signals the same loss of faith in their potential that came from Alonso’s predecessor, Daniel Ricciardo, when he announced his planned departure one season into a two-year deal with the team.
“There is not a crystal ball that you can choose,” said Alonso last week of the decision which lay ahead of him at the time. “I guess now with this set of regulations, it seems that Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes are the only capable teams of winning races.
“So if you have an opportunity in 2023 on those three teams, you will try to join forces. There is no opportunity so you just need to trust some other projects that they are maybe wishing that they are competitive in next year.”
In the press release issued this morning, Alonso left no one in doubt which of the projects open to him he has most faith in. “This Aston Martin team is clearly applying the energy and commitment to win, and it is therefore one of the most exciting teams in Formula 1 today,” he said. “No one in Formula 1 today is demonstrating a greater vision and absolute commitment to winning, and that makes it a really exciting opportunity for me.”
View the current list of 2023 F1 drivers and teams
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2022 Hungarian Grand Prix
- Mercedes ‘not close enough to Ferrari and Red Bull to really fight them yet’ – Wolff
- Transcript: Why Ferrari told Leclerc ‘the hard is worse than expected’ but still used it
- What made Verstappen’s 10th-to-first win in Hungary a rare achievement
- Ricciardo eager for summer break after “not the six months I wanted”
- Gasly pleased FIA is considering “different options” for track limits policing in 2023
99 comments on “How did Alpine let its star driver slip through its fingers?”
1st August 2022, 11:58
Great news! Welcome, Piastri!!!
2nd August 2022, 5:45
Funny, when I read the headline I thought they had let Piastri slip through their fingers!
2nd August 2022, 14:57
Define : star driver
2nd August 2022, 20:56
Wouldnt it be funny if Alpine took Ricciardo back, and McLaren got Piastri?
Euro Brun (@eurobrun)
2nd August 2022, 19:22
Haha, this aged well!
1st August 2022, 12:13
The question should probably be how Renault ended up having to choose between Fernando and Oscar while being stuck with Esteban in their second car.
1st August 2022, 13:14
100 percent agree.
2nd August 2022, 9:56
That is clearly the real question.
No doubt it will show in Alpine results next year
1st August 2022, 14:26
@proesterchen I agree, after his fluke mario kart lottery win last year he hasnt done anything to cement his race seat
My theory to why his seat is safe is probably nationalist jingoistic reasons guaranteeing a French driver in the team which isn’t a surprise as Alpine is a sub brand of Renault group which is minority owned by the French government.
1st August 2022, 16:40
It is strange, isn’t it? Ocon is not a team player as he has demonstrated in the Hungarian Grand Prix. Not once, but twice! He even could not get on with Perez at Force India if I recall correctly.
The sad part is that Alonso’s talent will go to waste at Aston Martin …I would love to be proven wrong by them next year.
2nd August 2022, 9:59
Ocon is clearly one of worst team players in the grid currently. I really pray that Aston improves massively next year.
Hope Fallows signing will show some results.
1st August 2022, 19:28
Exactly. First of all, I doubt Alonso wanted big money. He’s more interested in winning. Second of all, I doubt Ocon’s salary is more than about 4-5m absolute max. They could’ve kept him out of a seat and just paid him. Alonso brings enough extra sponsorship to that it likely actually is costing them more money to keep Ocon.
Alpine seems to have gotten overly excited that Ocon was basically on par with Alonso for the first quarter of the season when Alonso was getting used to the new cars and signed him very early (way before Hungary).
Alonso is multiple seconds faster a lap than Ocon in wet conditions and has recently been averaging .7-8 a lap faster than Ocon in the dry.
I hope Alonso has really strong breakout clauses at Aston so in case he gets an offer from a top team, he can leave at any time.
1st August 2022, 19:28
BTW, poor Lance. He’s going to look very stupid driving next to Alonso.
1st August 2022, 21:38
Still Stroll sr seems to think the way to a WDC for his son is learning from the best.
Former WDC alays shows nice.
4th August 2022, 0:22
Nick, Alonso is on 20 million US dollars, Ocon on 5 million. You can see the full list here:
The top four are understandable because of their huge marketing potential for the teams. Ricciardo on 15m must be a headache now for McLaren, and 10m for Stroll looks questionable too.
1st August 2022, 20:38
Because he’s good enough. Alonso fans crying is so good 😂
1st August 2022, 21:57
Yeah, he’s great, except for all the data showing Alonso is performing much better
When talent is everything, the rain:
-Was 2+ secs slower in wet quali in Canada
-in Hungary he was up to 4+ seconds a lap slower in P3 in the wet
Alonso is leading Ocon in quali 8 – 5 + would have bigger lead if it weren’t for FA’s reliability issues result in
1. front row Q3 lap in Australia all the way through turn 13, but it to get destroyed due to a hydraulic failure w/only a few corners to go
2.Not even being able to run in quali due to a tech fault after being much faster than Ocon
3.Spain new engine automatically put him in the back
4.Running a broken floor vs Ocon and going from a .8 second gap to neck and neck
Alonso has higher average finishing position despite
* More reliability problems during races than Ocon (water pump failure, clipping issue, overheating, etc.)
* having lower average start position due to engine penalties, DNS quali and other reliability failures striking during quali.
*having Alpine make critical pit errors during a high finishing potential and strategy errors
So, what exactly was your argument again?
2nd August 2022, 6:00
The qualifying spread should be at least 10-3 with the mechanical issues he’s had in qualy and Alonso is regularly .3-.4 tenths up on Ocon in a lot of the sessions which is lose your seat territory for Ocon. It’s becoming one of the most lop-sided driver pairings and is not close at all.
2nd August 2022, 10:00
Couldn’t agree more.
Alpine really screwed up and they will pay next year
2nd August 2022, 17:31
Agree. It absolutely baffles me what Alpine saw in Ocon to commit him for so long. He’s as mediocre as it gets talent-wise. A 40 year old driver past his prime still eats him for breakfast each weekend. He’s an extremely unlikeable personality. He has zero star factor to him, and just seems like a slimy character in general. He’s a horrible team player.. his main agenda each weekend is to finish in front of his teammate, even if it comes at the cost of a result for the team. He brings in close to zero in sponsorship as well.
1st August 2022, 12:44
Didn’t see that happening!😳. Oh well, time to dig out all the old AM stuff!!😂🤣🤣🤣
1st August 2022, 12:59
As soon as Vettel was shoved out it was clear someone was in.
The Alpine pitwall has missed almost as many opportunities for optimal results as ferrari, also they have a rotten apple on the other seat. Ocon is not fast enough for the trouble he causes, he and Sainz jnr take the cake for problematic drivers.
1st August 2022, 13:26
@peartree What trouble do Sainz and Ocon cause? Behind the scenes with Ocon and Sainz is something that I’m not familiar with
1st August 2022, 13:59
One thing that comes to mind straight away was the scenario with the double overtake from Ricciardo on both Alpines at Hungary into turn two. That was all down to Ocon blocking Alonso instead of blocking Ricciardo. Not the first time Ocon goes hard at it against his teammate.
1st August 2022, 14:07
That in itself (and Snafzauser(?) lack of taking charge) could be enough to jump ship.
1st August 2022, 14:21
I know what you mean but if a teammate being over-aggressive with you and the team not taking charge of the situation is something that makes you want to leave the team, is becoming teammates with Stroll at AM really a good decision?
Mark Reville (@myrrve)
1st August 2022, 19:35
Szafnauer hates Alonso as much as he hated Raikkonen. Alonso was not his appointment so he’s glad to see the back of him in any event
1st August 2022, 19:45
I don’t expect he’ll be having much trouble with Stroll, Pete, simply because I expect Stroll to be slower than Ocon by at least 0.2 sec a lap on average, and Alonso is still faster than Ocon. There’ll be a fluke or two where Stroll will qualify in front, as well as better strategy calls etc., but I expect to see Alonso in front most of the time anyway, and Stroll to be somewhat easier to overtake than Ocon when such need occurs. Although Stroll is not as bad a defender as he’s bad overall.
1st August 2022, 14:19
Ocon, Stroll and Sainz (probably to a lesser extent) not infrequently seem to fight harder against their own teammates than against anyone else.
1st August 2022, 19:20
@3dom they actively focus only on their team mates instead of achieving better results.
1st August 2022, 19:54
It is true, though, that we measure most drivers by direct comparison to their teammates. So do their teams. Sometimes you need to be faster simply to keep your seat, sometimes you need to be slower not to cause trouble, but not by much, so you still score points and allow for creative team strategies. Drivers like Sainz (especially him) or Ocon (perhaps a bit safer in a French team) usually need to prove against their team mates to keep their seat, so it’s not surprise to see them being obsessed by that fight in a way. Stroll, on the other hand, probably thinks he can prove to all of us that he’s not just daddy’s boy and that he deserves to be called an F1 driver, I expect there’s a psychological complex involved, he really needs to be fast to prove himself. He lost all battles (except against rookie Sirotkin, but even then he didn’t really impress in direct comparison, I’m pretty sure Sirotkin is more talented). In a way, it’s not easy being Stroll Jr. That doesn’t make me like him more though, I prefer meritocracy over nepotism. Yes, he’s got his own team to play with, but number or teams is limited and more serious people can’t enter the sport, while a dad and junior play their real life video games in a way.
2nd August 2022, 0:36
Both are clear number twos that need to be put in their place, but their gutless teams can’t order what needs to be done!
1st August 2022, 13:34
Alonso is also problematic. That’s why we, Mercedes and Mercedes fans, do not want him in our team. Red Bull and Ferrari neither need him. Whahaha. There is a reason why he has had nothing since 2007. Maybe he could have just kept it quiet in front of the media.
1st August 2022, 20:55
Well, you seem like an uninformed, bitter baby whose all argument is stuck on something that happened 14 years ago. And if you’re referring to the McLaren Honda days when Alonso had lost all patience with the engine, Lewis would have complaining as loudly or even more loudly. Max too.
2nd August 2022, 9:10
Sorry, but he should have behaved better. No top team wants him. Not with a damaged reputation. Too damaged, too late. Maybe if he behaved better, he would not have had a poor engine in his second stint at Mclaren. Maybe we Mercedes would have wanted him had he not been part of the scandal in 2007 and his words on the media. Sorry, but all his fault. Should have behaved better. Good things reward good people. He is probably lucky to have 2 championships to his name, because it could have easily been 0 or 1.
2nd August 2022, 16:51
“Our team” lol 🤡
1st August 2022, 20:45
A great breakdown of the massive amount of points Alpine has cost him this season: https://youtu.be/m_bQJF9rF2E
R2: Q7 and P7 when he had a water pump failure on lap 36
R3: In quali, Alonso was on lap that would have seem qualify at least on row 2 until a hydraulic failure going into turn 13 threw him off the track due to being unable to downshift.
R4: Q9, but Mick slid and tank slapped and broke his side pod, putting him out of the race.
R6: yet another new PU after only 5 races = going into race #6 means put him at the back yet he still finishes P9.
R7: Q7/P7 in Monaco
R8: Q10/P7 in Baku
R9: Q2 in rain becomes P7 after engine clipping problems and bad strategy that saw him get stuck behind Ocon
R10: Q7 / P5
R11: Just Q8 for sprint due to a damaged floor
Sprint: DNS due to electrical issue
Race: Brilliant race and came out 9th with brand new soft tires, which means he would have finished way higher, BUT ALPINE didn’t get his tire securely on. So he had to pit yet again dropping him to P14, but he made up 20 seconds and pass 4 for cars to make it to P10.
R13: P8 despite a terrible Alpine strategy
1st August 2022, 20:49
That’s not even mentioning races where Ocon was holding up a much faster Alonso and they didn’t at least swap places to see if Alonso could get a lot further up and swap back if I he didn’t, which was something Alonso had been willing to do for Ocon last season the two or three times Ocon looked like he might be faster, but usually Ocon went nowhere.
1st August 2022, 22:15
Vettel was not ‘shoved out’. Get your facts straight @peartree! He decided to stop by his own decision. Mike Krack said multiple times that they wanted to keep Seb for as long as possible, and that it would depend on him if he continues or not.
3rd August 2022, 21:39
That is what EVERYONE says.
2nd August 2022, 10:52
Ocon is much worse than Sainz.
We cannot blame Sainz for Ferrari’s incompetence.
1st August 2022, 13:36
Ocon looking through his mirrors to block Alonso multiple times while lefting the door open on the outside was almost as irritating as Ferrari’s strategy.
I expect him to be even harsher to his newcomer team mate. That’s his thing.
1st August 2022, 15:40
Ocon would be the perfect team mate for Stroll.. They would take each other during each race :)
2nd August 2022, 0:39
Ocons very lucky that he’s had an experienced teammate who knows when to back out. Next year will be hilarious for him!
1st August 2022, 14:13
Alonso has a terrible record in choosing the timing and direction of his moves between teams. But in this case he had little choice I’d guess as Piastri is waiting and the future takes precedence over the past.
If the contract really is 2+1 the Alonso will be just short of 45 when it ends.
I am sure it’ll end in tears. I hope not tragedy too.
1st August 2022, 14:17
“Alpine let its star driver slip..” is this a joke, alonso is a washed up driver in his f1 twilight years. 2021 F2 champion (in his rookie season) Oscar Piastri should’ve got the alpine seat this season because imo he is faster than alonso and he is obviously will be on a smaller contract.
Its actually more infuriating why Oscar was pushed aside and alonso with his overinflated ego got an extra year at team enstone.
Hopefully this means Oscar is racing for Alpine next season or maybe earlier if seb wants to save the earth and leaves AM before the end of the season..
1st August 2022, 16:49
That’s a good example of an unpopular opinion.
1st August 2022, 19:13
lol imagine saying something so silly unironically 🤡
It’s bad take after bad take
1st August 2022, 19:36
You clearly know nothing about F1 or pay attention to the racing. How many drivers on the grid could go from 15th to 9th with a 20 second gap to p10 in just 9 laps like he did at Austria. Making up 20 seconds while also having to pass cars.
Don’t forget, Alonso had qualified, what 4th for Austria, but had to start in the pit cause his car didn’t start and he was up to 7th I believe and was poised to get up to 5th until Alpine botched his SC pit stop and forced him to pit twice on consecutive laps.
Guy qualified 2nd in Canada while Ocon was 2 seconds a lap slower and I believe didn’t even make Q3. He’s also a guy who somehow manages to never hit anybody, unlike Ocon and so many other drivers in the field. A good example of this, is he allowed the team to get a win by holding Hamilton up for 8-9 laps in a car that was two seconds a lap slower by sheer race craft and ultimate car control. He makes superior strategies on the fly. Multiple times he’s allowed Ocon to get higher up by intentionally ruining the tires or the cars behind him.
Washed up? What are you smoking?
1st August 2022, 20:18
Old but gold
2nd August 2022, 13:47
Why bother replying to trolls like @ccpbioweapon
2nd August 2022, 0:40
So washed that he’s been the class of the field for must of the year so far…
2nd August 2022, 3:59
@ccpbioweapon go back to hating on China, it’s why your account exists after all.
1st August 2022, 14:17
I hope that he has an exit clause, that if Aston are still terrible by mid 2023 he can get out. I think he signed three years for McLaren in 2015 without any exit clause and that was a disaster, so hopefully he will have learned.
1st August 2022, 14:26
I can only assume Alpine wanted a 1 year deal while Alonso wanted multi, and Aston offered him what he wanted as he can’t be going there for performance. Alpine look like they’re slowly making progress while Aston look mired, no matter what addition they add in the car’s still lacking pace and swapping essentially a manufacturer team for a Merc customer. Bizarre choice, to be honest. Not a step forward and at best a side step. Might end up going down as Alonso’s most confusing career movement yet.
1st August 2022, 18:51
Nah, nothing is ever gonna top the Honda/Mclaren disaster
1st August 2022, 23:09
In both cases he didn’t have a choice. Ferrari was fed up of him looking round for seats and signed vettel in haste. Alonso wanted to stay. Had to go to mclaren to stay on the grid. This year alpine basically didn’t offer him anything past next year and what if he takes that deal, then what next year? Forced to retire? Seb opened up the seat and he took it so he wouldn’t have to face retirement yet. As a bonus he gets the length of deal he wanted and a pay rise to boot. The winning and title thing is just pr stuff I think.
2nd August 2022, 7:39
Ur comment made me realize just how similar this is to his Ferrari exit. Yep in both cases both team managers didn’t want him despite him performing well.
I’m sure Ferrari regretted it in 2018, time will tell if alpine will too (I think they will)
1st August 2022, 14:26
Alonso joining your team is the kiss of death. He’s a quality driver but seems to carry some sort of curse with him wherever he goes!
Can see Alpine springing forward next year now.
1st August 2022, 15:39
Are they going to go forward though? They’re already 4th and look to be in better shape than McLaren. To go forward, they’d have to be capable of challenging Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull and I can’t see that happening….
1st August 2022, 14:43
I haven’t really seen any other photos of Otmar and Alonso together before but the one included in this article has some pretty interesting body language. Even though Alonso has a smile on his face, his body is bending away from Otmar, and his hand is in his pocket. Both are signs that Alonso is uncomfortable with the situation. Meanwhile, Otmar seems to be taking quite a patronizing stance towards Alonso, with his hand on his shoulder. Maybe this was just an awkwardly timed photo but it makes for an interesting inclusion in an article about how Alonso is leaving the team Otmar runs.
1st August 2022, 19:15
You’re seriously trying to read into a random spur-of-the-moment picture? lol come on.
Now, I agree that those two didn’t really care too much for each other. Especiall Otmar for Fernando. I don’t know why, but from the moment he arrived, he was not complimentary about their star driver
1st August 2022, 23:11
Yeah I got that feeling too from the interviews and press conferences. I don’t think he likes alonso
1st August 2022, 14:50
I’ve generally been very impressed by Otmar Szafnauer in the past but to lose a driver of Fernando’s caliber is a huge mistake and perhaps it shows his inexperience dealing with top talent as well as his “small team” mentality.
I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was Ocon’s driving at the race which was simply inexcusable. Never have we seen a driver try to stop his own teammate with so much fanaticism that in two instances another car overtook both cars. It also shows how ungrateful Ocon and the team were for last year’s defense. Alonso should have let Hamilton by (the same way Norris waved Verstappen by yesterday – comical) and Hamilton would have won last year’s race and championship.
1st August 2022, 16:51
Who knows, but Otmar is also representing Alpine