UNDERCUT | Fernando Alonso: "I am ready"
Inside the mind of Fernando Alonso as he prepares for his first season with Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One™ Team (AMF1). In the latest instalment of UNDERCUT, the double World Champion opens up about why he joined the team, what it needs to do to win and learning from Michael Schumacher.
Fernando Alonso has made a career out of making the improbable a matter of routine.
About to embark on his 21st season in Formula One, the double World Champion still wants more. Dogged. Determined. Defiant. The fire still burns.
As he prepares for his first season as an AMF1 driver, in our latest exclusive UNDERCUT interview he reveals his innermost thoughts and feelings on his bid to recapture past glories and drive the team to the front of the grid.
"Whatever you do in life, you have to have this competitiveness inside you – you have to have this hunger to be the best."
Fernando, are you the best driver in Formula One?
Nobody knows the answer to that question. Every season we keep changing opinion.
We thought for many years that Michael Schumacher was unbeatable and had maybe reached a level that no one had in the history of Formula One. But, throughout the history of the sport, we've seen different drivers dominating – it's impossible to compare them.
What I do know is that I always try to give my maximum. I'm never demotivated. It doesn't matter whether I'm fighting for fifth or 15th, for me, it's like fighting for the win because I have to make sure that I give 100 per cent on every lap of every race.
Do you have to believe that you're the best driver if you want to win in Formula One?
Whatever you do in life, you have to have this competitiveness inside you – you have to have this hunger to be the best. I've had this hunger since I was a kid. I'm always trying to beat everyone at anything I do.
Whether it's a race, a tennis match, a card game, or whatever, it's about winning. It's about taking advantage of your strengths and using your opponent's weaknesses against them. If I can't beat them with Plan A, I go to Plan B. If Plan B doesn't work, I go to Plan C. I have to always beat whoever is in front of me.
There are drivers who are in incredible form right now and I respect all of them. Every driver on the grid is very talented, but I'm also in that group and everyone in that group has different strengths and weaknesses. It's how you use those strengths and weaknesses that sets you apart.
"Michael had this tenacity, this willingness to exploit any opportunity. His determination was outstanding."
You've previously described seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher as a teacher. What did you learn from Michael?
Michael didn't have bad days. Michael never underperformed. That's what impressed me most when I got to Formula One and especially when I fought with him for the championship.
Previously, in all my career and different categories, my rivals had some bad days and those were the days when you would capitalise – you would score many more points than them. With Michael, that didn't happen. He and Ferrari were unbeatable most of the time, but even when they didn't have the car, the tyres, or whatever working in the right window, Michael still finished second or third.
Even after a bad free practice or a bad qualifying, you would still find Michael on the podium on Sunday. He had this tenacity, this willingness to exploit any opportunity – to minimise the damage on the bad days and maximise the good days. His determination was outstanding.
You left a team that was more competitive than AMF1 last season. Why did you join AMF1?
Aston Martin F1 is taking the necessary steps to win in the near future. The team is determined to become a championship contender and will do whatever it takes to get there. This ambition is appealing to any racing driver. You see all the investment, the new factory, the talent joining the team, and you want to be part of it.
"To write the next chapter in the brand's history and become part of the Aston Martin family makes me very proud."
And then there is the name, Aston Martin. It is, and always will be, an iconic brand in motorsport and the automotive industry. To write the next chapter in the brand's history and become part of the Aston Martin family makes me very proud.
This is a very special opportunity for me with this team at this moment in my career. I've been preparing physically and mentally for this challenge, and I see this project as a winning one. It's a matter of time until Aston Martin is winning races and championships. Making that time as short as possible, this is my biggest challenge – but I'm ready for it.
What does the team need to do win the Formula One World Championship?
We have to use our ingenuity and be creative in everything we do.
You have to reinvent yourself every season, every race, to try to outperform your competitors – this is the biggest challenge for any F1 team.
It starts with an idea. But when will it be possible? What do you need to do to make it possible? This is what you have to keep asking yourself. This is what you have to keep working towards.
We have the talent in this team. When we go racing, we need to execute every race to perfection – to maximise the results from the ingenuity that has gone into the car.
"I'm not thinking about timeframes and how long it will take the team to win races. I will take it race by race, season by season. What's important is that we keep making progress."
How long are you prepared to wait for a competitive car? Is this your last chance to win another Drivers' Championship?
I'm not thinking about timeframes and how long it will take the team to win races. I will take it race by race, season by season. What's important is that we keep making progress.
We need to feel happy with each other and help each other: Aston Martin helping me to achieve the results and the targets that I have and me helping the team to progress every race, every year, to get closer and closer to the top positions.
I will use all my experience and all my knowledge to help the team shortcut the time that is needed to become World Champions. Will I be behind the steering wheel when that time comes? Nobody knows. It's impossible to predict. But what is certain is that I will try my best.
"I remember Lance's pole position in Turkey. To perform at that level in difficult conditions you have to have a special feeling with the car."
How will you feel if AMF1 starts winning after you stop driving?
I will still be very proud if the team wins without me in the car. I will be very proud of the process and my contribution to the project.
In Lance, the team has a driver who is super young, super talented and has the possibility to be World Champion. To see him achieve that and have played a part in that, whether that's behind the wheel or not, will be special for me.
How well do you know your new team-mate?
I've known Lance for 11 years. We met in 2012 when I was at Ferrari – he was in the Ferrari Academy. And I've known his father, Lawrence, for many years. He's a great friend of mine. I've been to his house in Canada a few times, doing different sports and enjoying time together.
Just how underrated is Lance as a driver?
He has the speed, and he has the talent. He has shown it many times, especially in wet conditions. I remember Lance's pole position in Turkey and some of his other excellent performances in the wet; to perform at that level in difficult conditions you have to have a special feeling with the car.
"It feels like I've been out of the car for a long time – every year it feels like this. I can't wait to jump in the car and start the season. I feel good."
Are you ready for this season?
I've been training since December. This pre-season has been a lot smoother than the last couple of years. I had the bike accident in 2021 and the following winter some of the plates that were used to reconstruct my jaw needed to be removed.
Finally, this winter, I could focus as much time as I wanted on training. I'm in better shape than the last few seasons.
How important is it to have uninterrupted preparation for a new season?
It's hugely important, especially with a new team. Everything changes when you join a new team: the seat fit; the different procedures on the steering wheel – the different buttons and the lights; the procedures for the pit-stops.
There are certain things that are unique to each team. Learning these things takes time so you want everything else to be as straightforward as possible.
These changes sound very simple, but these new procedures must become automatic. You cannot think about these details when you're racing, you have to be 100 per cent focused on driving.
How excited are you to be back behind the wheel?
When you reach the end of the season, you need some time off to switch off from motorsport. It's good to spend time with family and friends and not think too much about racing.
But, by the time I get to February, it feels like I've been out of the car for a long time – every year it feels like this. I can't wait to jump in the car and start the season. I feel good.
I am ready.
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