Alonso’s take on F1’s ageing grid and rookie roadblock

Fernando Alonso, the Formula 1 veteran, believes the sport itself, rather than the teams or ageing drivers, should bear the responsibility for the hurdles faced by newcomers in securing spots on the grid. As the oldest driver currently, at 42, Alonso is entangled in rumors about a potential move from Aston Martin to Mercedes in 2025, stepping into Lewis Hamilton’s soon-to-be vacated shoes.

Despite swirling speculation, Alonso maintains a coy stance on his future, even flirting with the notion of hanging up his helmet. Eddie Jordan, echoing sentiments on his Formula For Success podcast, noted, “He’s bought a new boat,” a move Jordan sees as a precursor to retirement for many, adding, “People have a habit of buying boats and retiring so let’s see what happens.”

Aston Martin, for its part, has indicated a strong desire to keep Alonso on board beyond just another year, should he decide against retirement. This commitment comes amid criticisms, like those from former driver Ralf Schumacher, who suggest that the presence of seasoned drivers such as Alonso contributes to the bottleneck effect hindering rookies from entering F1. Schumacher clarified his stance, stating, “I have nothing against Fernando,” however he lamented, “but the objective of F1 is not to have an increasingly older grid.”

David Dicker, head of Rodin Cars and financial supporter of 22-year-old driver hopeful Liam Lawson, also voiced concerns over the stagnation within F1 teams, questioning, “How many guys on the F1 grid would be capable of winning the world championship if they were in the best car? Five or six maybe?” He expressed confusion over the teams’ reluctance to refresh their lineups more frequently, emphasizing the necessity of performance, “Man, you’ve got to perform,” he stated.

Alonso, however, refutes the notion that blame lies with the veteran drivers or the teams’ selection processes. Instead, he criticizes the stringent testing limitations currently in place within the sport. Speaking to Speed Week, Alonso highlighted the financial capability of larger teams to run private tests in two-year-old cars for Formula 2 drivers, albeit acknowledging such efforts as insufficient for thorough preparation. He outlined the excessive demands of the race calendar on team budgets and personnel, “We have so many race weekends that we compete in, which means the teams are already at capacity,” further complicating the feasibility of establishing dedicated test teams for nurturing new talent.

The restricted nature of pre-season testing, according to Alonso, significantly impedes rookies’ opportunities to acclimate, “If you put a rookie in the car, he has exactly one and a half days of testing before the season starts,” a factor he believes deters team principals from taking chances on young drivers. Alonso concluded with a call to action, “There are some things that are not going well in F1 now and sometimes as drivers we raise our voices. I hope that they will also be heard.”

-GMM

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