Two-time champion says Aston Martin will be his "priority" for contract talks should he decide to continue on the grid for 2025; Alonso says he has had no contact with Mercedes since news of Lewis Hamilton's shock Ferrari exit broke; questions Lewis' "childhood dream" comment
Monday 12 February 2024 13:17, UK
Fernando Alonso believes he occupies a "unique" position in a Formula 1 driver market blown open by Lewis Hamilton's "surprise" signing for Ferrari from 2025.
"There are only three world champions on the grid and there is only one available," said the Aston Martin driver, who is one of 14 drivers currently out of contract at the end of this season.
Hamilton, who earlier this month signed a multi-year deal to join Ferrari from Mercedes next year in a tie-up that Alonso admits he had not seen coming, and Max Verstappen, who is on a deal at Red Bull to 2028, are the other two world champions on this season's grid next to Alonso.
Alonso was speaking on the eve of the launch of Aston Martin's new AMR24 car for the double world champion's second season at the team, and a remarkable 21st on the grid, as the Silverstone-based outfit target another step forward in performance after making big strides forward this time last year.
The 42-year-old detailed the thought process he will go through when he comes to evaluate his F1 future beyond 2024 over the coming months.
He said the first step would be deciding whether he wanted to continue racing in the sport and that then, should he opt to continue, Aston Martin would be his first "priority" for contract discussions.
"I know the driver market has started earlier this year than probably June or July, which is the normal timing, but this will not affect me at all in terms of preparing the season good enough," said Alonso, the 2005 and 2006 world champion.
"Because it's so limited [the build-up to the new season] I cannot think too much about the future right now, I will have to wait a few races.
"I am aware of my situation, which is very unique. There are only three world champions on the grid - and fast world champions, because in the past maybe there were some world champions but they were not so committed to be fast - and I am probably the only one available for '25 so I have a good position.
"But, at the same time, when I make the decision if I want to keep racing or not for the future first and only talk that I will have at the beginning is with Aston Martin because that will be my only one priority."
Alonso did suggest that his performances from last season, when he finished fourth in the Drivers' Championship and claimed an impressive eight podium finishes after a big jump in form from Aston Martin, meant he was "probably attractive to other teams" on the look out for drivers in 2025.
His name has inevitably already been linked with the seat that Hamilton will vacate at Mercedes at the end of the year but Alonso said there had been no contact between him and the Brackley team since news of the Briton's unexpected Ferrari switch broke on February 1.
"Nothing at all," said Alonso.
Like seemingly everyone else in F1, Alonso had not seen Hamilton's Ferrari switch coming for 2025 when the seismic news emerged that the Briton had decided to enact a previously unknown break clause halfway through a new Mercedes contract he had only agreed last August.
"I didn't spend too much time [thinking about it], I was training actually that day, so I missed all the stress from everybody, so I was just one day late on the news," he said.
"Probably it was a surprise, I will not lie, but not because of the change itself, it was probably just because from the outside it seemed like he was very linked with Mercedes and very loyal to them and things like that. It was a little bit unexpected but I don't know the reasons behind it."
Alonso won 11 races for Ferrari and twice fell agonisingly short of winning the world title for F1's most famous team across a five-season spell at Maranello between 2010 and 2014.
Asked what advice he had for Hamilton ahead of a switch that the Briton has said will realise "another childhood dream", Alonso replied: "I don't know. It was not his childhood dream 12 months ago, no? Or two months ago, I guess, because he was [having] a different dream.
"But nothing really to comment, I hope he enjoys the experience. It's a very special team but it is more special when you win.
"That's the thing, you need to win, and it's a few years already that they have a very fast car and they were fighting for big things and maybe Lewis can bring that extra [ingredient] to fight for the championship.
"The car is there. At the end of last year even with a very dominating Red Bull car, Ferrari were still ab
Alonso said the results from his winter physical fitness tests were "best ever this year" and that he headed into the new season, which starts in Bahrain live on Sky Sports F1 on February 29-March 2, feeling "fitter than ever".
"Everything I do in life and everything I did in the last few months was just to prepare myself better than ever for a very long season and to prepare myself also in case I want to keep driving, being better than ever," he said.
"So if I commit to a project in the future for the next year or the next few years, I need to be first ready myself to commit to that. I will not drive a few more years in Formula 1 just to drive and to have fun. I'm not that kind of driver, I'm not that kind of person.
"If I want to keep driving it's because I know starting from myself that I can give 200 per cent to the team on and off track, simulator work, marketing work, delivering the results on track. So I am preparing for that in the eventuality that I want to keep racing and, if I want to keep racing, let's see what the options are.
"My first priority will be always to sit down and discuss with Aston. They gave me the opportunity last year to join this organisation, which I'm very proud to be part of. With the new factory, with everything that is going on, there is a great future in this team and I want to explore every possibility to race for many years here."
Alonso, who stepped away from F1 for two seasons in 2019-2020 to compete in other categories and won the World Endurance Championship with Toyota, added: "I've been driving all over winter different cars: DTM car, car-cross, rally car, go-kart. I love Formula 1 but generally I love driving, so if it's not Formula 1, I will find myself happy in any other form of motorsport and maybe having more time for my private life which is also very important at this age.
"But this is a decision that I need to do with myself. I need to think, and I need to commit to a team eventually and make sure that I understand that the next few years of my life it will be that team and 100 per cent of my time.
"Once I do that decision I want to sit with Aston Martin and say 'ok, I made this decision and I would love to continue in this project because I think we did a good step forward in the last year, we built a lot of things together, we have this new facility here, and we have everything to succeed for the future and I trust this project'. So that will be my first priority when I say I want to speak first with Aston Martin because I feel part of this project very much.
"But if we cannot reach an agreement and I want to commit to race in Formula 1, I know that I have a privileged position. I am probably attractive to other teams - the performance they saw last year, the commitment - and, as I said, there are only three world champions on the grid and there is only one available."
Team principal Mike Krack:
“The silly season has started much earlier than we were anticipating. We knew that it was always going to be an exciting year with a lot of speculation.
“We love Fernando, we have a good relationship, he is an integral member of the team. We have a relationship that is based on trust and openness and we would be delighted honestly to continue with Fernando into ’25 and the years after.
“We have two great drivers and they are so integrated on the team that we just do everything we can to keep them.
"We are quite confident we can achieve what we want which is to continue with both drivers in 2025 and the future.”
Asked by Sky Sports News on the timeframe for deciding on his future, Alonso said: "Eventually if I keep racing for the next few years, I will try to take the decision at the beginning of the year.
"I don't want to extend the process too much into the season because always it affects a little bit the performance. So let's see if I make a decision soon and the team is happy as well."
"We have to be optimistic at this part of the season," said Alonso.
"We saw last year as well Ferrari finished really strong and achieved a few pole positions in the last part of the year. McLaren also did a huge step during the season and got close to Red Bull in a few races. So let's see what happens.
"I think we have to be regularly in the points first, fighting for podiums, or be a contender for podiums, as we did last year and then if we are in that position it would be lovely to achieve the first victory in green for Aston Martin and, hopefully, I can be behind the wheel that moment.
"But we have to go step by step, it's going to be very tight. There are four or five teams who will be within two or three tenths of a second this year I bet so that will put you within two-tenths of a second of fighting for podiums or fighting out of the top 10, so we need to be really focused on that."
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