Webber thinks Alonso could stay in F1 even longer

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Aston Martin F1 Team celebrates his third position on the podium. 05.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Race Day.
© XPB 

Former F1 star turned TV presenter and pundit Mark Webber believes that Fernando Alonso could remain in the sport even longer than currently planned, after his eye-catching return to form at Aston Martin.

Alonso is currently the oldest driver on the grid bny some way at 41. He moved to Aston over the winter to replace fellow former champion Sebastian Vettel who had chosen to retire at the tender age of 35.

Alonso was picked up on a 'multi-year' deal after his former team Alpine tried to stick to a one-year offer. But Webber said that no matter the duration of the arrangement, it still might not be the end of Alonso behind the wheel.

“He has the opportunity to stay longer than these two years," Webber told the Spanish edition of Motorsport.com this week. "But never rule out the idea that Fernando will continue until he is 44.

"When you get older, we all mature in different ways, and we have different priorities in our lives," Webber continued.

“He’s been in this paddock for 20 years. Naturally it’s different from when he arrived, that’s obvious. But the instinct and the driver, it’s all still there.

Fernando Alonso (ESP), Aston Martin Racing
05.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Race Day.

"Those traits are there, everything that characterises him is still there, Webber added. "He’s a competitor, he wants to fight people in a really tenacious and self-rewarding way. That will never leave Fernando."

Alonso has already retired from F1 once, when he left the uncompetitive McLaren team at the end of 2018 to spend two years driving for Toyota in FIA World Endurance Championship including victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

But a sense of unfinished business drew him back to F1 in 2021 when he signed for Alpine, in what many took to be a 'hurrah for' for the 2005 and 2006 world champion.

His latest move to Aston startled those who through he might be about to bow out quietly. And the sudden surge in form for the team led by Alonso at last week's Bahrain GP has already turned the new season on its head.

Webber said Alonso's storming performance - dispatching George Russell, Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz on his way to an "absolutely special" podium in his first outing for the team - has clearly rejuvenated the Spaniard.

“It’s not that we needed confirmation of his talent,” Webber said. “That's not in doubt. But now he can enjoy leading a team into the next big phase of his career. He’s going to be very motivated, it’s incredible!"

(L to R): Mark Webber (AUS) with Fernando Alonso (ESP).
18.11.2017. FIA World Endurance Championship, Round 9, Six Hours of Bahrain, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday.

But Webber cautioned fans from getting too excited and said that the early success could yet still prove to be a mirage.

“It depends of course on whether Red Bull has phenomenal reliability," he pointed out. "We can’t forget that Red Bull were fully on cruise control, they were doing it very slowly, so they are in impressive form.

"If they do then their victories are assured," he said. "But [Fernando] can get a win one day, I’m sure he can get something."

Webber said that it depended on how well the AMR23's performance in Bahrain translated to other tracks. “Let’s see how the Aston Martin fares on tracks where degradation is minor."

In the meantime, Webber - who drove for Minardi, Jaguar and Williams before spending seven seasons at Red Bull - said that he was "very, very happy for Fernando and for the team, they deserve the result.”

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