One of the most fascinating subplots to Formula 1 in 2023 will be how Fernando Alonso’s bold decision to join Aston Martin pans out.
While the two-time world champion is renowned for his devastating speed and superlative race craft, his career decisions have often proved wayward with the benefit of hindsight.
His first spell at McLaren lasted just one combustible year, his move to Ferrari failed to deliver a third world title, while his return to McLaren was an unmitigated disaster. However, had he hung on for another season, instead of bowing out of F1 at the end of 2018, he could have spearheaded the Woking team’s revival back to the front of the midfield.
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After two years competing in other series, Alonso returned to the Renault stable with Alpine for one last crack at the big time. If the last two years are anything to go by, the Spanish veteran appears to have lost none of his speed and fighting spirit.
The big question is, has he managed to shed his habit of taking wrong turns off the track? Leaving Alpine, the best of the rest behind the big three teams this season, for backmarkers Aston looks like a huge gamble.
But given the ambitious plans the Silverstone-based outfit has under owner Lawrence Stroll, Alonso feels it is a risk worth taking as he looks to return to race-winning contention.
Aston have signed the 41-year-old for his ability to drive a team, as well as a car, and team principal Mike Krack is ready for the ups, downs and moments of tension that are inevitable when working with a hard taskmaster like Alonso.
“It will be challenging for us,” he said Krack in an interview with the BBC. "Normally, drivers with this experience, they do not have this desire to win. Normally, this desire goes down, especially if they have won already.
"Fernando has this unique combination of speed, hunger, motivation and experience. For us, it makes the perfect candidate.
"The downside could be that if the car we deliver is just not good enough, then we know it gets difficult. But it gets difficult with every driver if the car is not fast enough. We think having someone like Fernando is really, really important to make the next step as a team.
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"You need to learn to manage champions, which we already did with Sebastian [Vettel]. Because these drivers are very demanding, they are quite difficult to manage. I would not even say Sebastian is that difficult to manage if you are transparent, honest and straight. And I think the same goes for Fernando.
"Difficulties arise when expectation does not match deliverables, or when it's not outspoken. He knows very well when he comes here that we will probably not win the first race together.
"But he can be assured we give it everything and we will listen to what he has to say. And if we cannot deliver on something we have to tell him, open and transparently: 'Look, this we cannot do. With all possibilities, this is what we can do next.' I think if we have this kind of dialogue, it is not going to be problematic."
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