Fernando Alonso has been a leading figure on the Alpine F-1 team this year alongside teammate Esteban Ocon.
Fernando Alonso has been a leading figure on the Alpine F-1 team this year alongside teammate Esteban Ocon.

KNUTSON: Alonso Before & After Age 40

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Fernando Alonso turned 40 on July 29, which was just before the Hungarian Grand Prix. 

Of all the current Formula 1 drivers, only Kimi Raikkonen, who turns 42 on Oct. 17, is older.

“I feel good, I don’t feel 40 for sure,” Alonso said. “It’s a bigger number than what I feel, but it’s the way it is.”

Alonso was 22 when he won his first F-1 race — the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix. In all, he has scored 32 F-1 victories. Could he imagine he would still be in F-1 at 40?

“No, probably not because you live only in the present,” said Alonso on the same weekend his Renault Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon claimed his first Formula One victory. “You’re not thinking too much about the future at that age. You’re just focusing on the race weekend, and you hardly imagine yourself more than two or three years in time from that moment.

“Now it’s a different thing. I am more used to the sport, to F-1 and all the things that are unique here. When I came into the sport I was from a very small town in the north of Spain with no experience, no background, no nothing. And then you arrive into this world and you’re shocked for five, six, seven years until you’re used to doing everything. Now it’s a little bit different, you know how things are and you’re enjoying yourself a little bit more.”

The Spaniard has not ruled out taking another shot at the Indianapolis 500, but he will be a 41-year-old F-1 driver next year because the Renault Alpine team has offered him a contract extension for 2022.

Speaking of contracts, Alonso blames the management at McLaren — and not Lewis Hamilton — for the feud between the McLaren teammates in 2007. And all of that led to Alonso leaving McLaren after just the first of what was a multi-year contract.

After winning the drivers’ world championship with Renault in 2005 and ’06, Alonso moved to McLaren in 2007. His teammate was a rookie driver named Lewis Hamilton.

It was not in Alonso’s contract, but he just assumed that as a double world champion he would get the No. 1 treatment over a rookie. The McLaren management certainly should have made it clear to both drivers that they would have equal No. 1 driver roles.

Hamilton was fast, very fast. He celebrated on the podium in each of the first nine races of the 2007 season.

Hamilton’s first of what were 99 wins by this year’s F-1 summer break came in round six, the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix. Then, he won again in round seven, the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Alonso finished second. 

During that race at Indy, an angry Alonso drove offline on the dirty part of the straight to shower the McLaren people sitting on the pit wall with dust and grit. Alonso was demonstrating his anger over the fact the team had not ordered Hamilton to let him take the lead.

Later in the season, in Hungary, both drivers played games in the pits during qualifying. Both were trying to delay the other so they could not get an optimum qualifying lap time.

At the end of the 2007 season, Ferrari’s Raikkonen won the drivers’ world championship with 110 points. Hamilton and Alonso were second and third with 109 points each.

Alonso returned to Renault in 2008. These days, Alonso and Hamilton are good friends who respect each other’s driving abilities.

“2007 was a very important season for me,” Alonso told Sky TV. “Lewis came into F-1 like a tsunami with all his talent and abilities and results, immediately results. That was intense and also challenging for everybody.

“Looking back, and I think Lewis will think the same, we have no issues between us. We had a very tough competition, but fair. Honestly, I think he as well as the team didn’t handle the situation well.

“I don’t want to blame Ron (Dennis, then team principal), I don’t want to blame a particular name; but as a team and as a management, we were too young, too ambitious and no one guided us.”

Ironically, Alonso returned to McLaren in 2015 when Dennis was still the boss of the British team.

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