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Alpine boss admits age was a factor in not offering Fernando Alonso a long-term contract

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Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer has admitted that Fernando Alonso’s ability in the car as he progreses into his 40s was a factor in not offering the Spaniard a long-term contract.

Two-time world champion Alonso stunned F1 and his own team by accepting a “multi-year contract” to race for Aston Martin from next year, leaving Alpine with a spare seat to partner Esteban Ocon in 2023.

While reserve driver Oscar Piastri was their first choice and Alpine announced him as their driver, Piastri has since insisted he has not signed a contract and won’t be racing for Alpine next year.

It has been a torrid week for Szafnauer but prior to the Piastri saga emerging, the Romanian-American spoke about the factors at play in not offering 41-year-old Alonso a longer deal.

“There does come a time where something happens physiologically to a driver, and you don’t have the same abilities you did when you were younger,” Szafnauer said. “I think it happened to Michael. I think it’s fair to say Michael Schumacher at 42 was not the same driver he was at 32 or 35. And it happens to other sportsmen too.

Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer admits that Alonso’s ability in the car as he progreses into his 40s was a factor in not offering the Spaniard a long-term contract (EXPA/AFP via Getty Images)
Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer admits that Alonso’s ability in the car as he progreses into his 40s was a factor in not offering the Spaniard a long-term contract (EXPA/AFP via Getty Images)

“For cricketers, it’s not such a physically strenuous sport. It’s all about eye hand coordination, moving the bat to the right millimetres such that you protect [the stumps]. But after 32, 33 or 34, the best batsman in the world can’t do it anymore. And that’s because something happens to them. And it happens to race car drivers too.

“So we were in favour of: yes, if you’re performing to the high level, for sure we’ll keep you. But let’s do it one year at a time and I think he wanted a longer duration.”

It is believed Alonso’s deal at Aston - where he will replace the soon-to-be retired Sebastian Vettel - could stretch as long as three years and Szafnauer explained exactly what Alpine offered the Spaniard.

Fernando Alonso has decided to join Aston Martin (PA)
Fernando Alonso has decided to join Aston Martin (PA)

“We offered a one-plus-one deal,” he detailed. “And we discussed with Fernando that: look, if next year at this time, you’re performing at the same level, of course, we will take you. And that could have carried on.

“But I think he wanted more certainty, independent of performance: ‘I want to stay for longer’. And I think that was the crux of the going one-plus-one as opposed to two-plus-one or three-plus-one or three years.”

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