Fernando Alonso says winning a third Formula 1 World Championship is still His main goal – but accepts that it may not be possible to achieve it.
The 40-year-old, who has returned to Formula 1 this season, adds that he feels he can go on for a few more years.
Alonso said: “Inside I have the same spirit and racing ambitions and winning the third championship is the only thing that motivates me.
“But over time you realize that you don’t have everything under control, there are things that you may not be able to overcome.
“If you don’t make it, you at least tried and got as close as possible to the third championship.”
Alonso spoke in a published BBC Sport interview in which he discussed a number of aspects of his comebacks:
His “love-hate relationship” with sports
Why he cares about his legacy and reputation
His relationship with the new generation of drivers
How much longer will he do it
How close he feels to his best level
Alonso – world champion with Renault in 2005 and 2006 and winner of 32 Grand Prix – left Formula 1 at the end of 2018 to pursue other ambitions in motorsport.
But he was lured back this season by the Alpine team – formerly known as Renault – as the new rules for next season, which are designed to bring the field closer together, are a chance for both of them to be competitive again.
Alonso will be 41 years old in the middle of next year, but wants to continue for some time.
“I’ll see it year after year,” says the Spaniard. “First of all, I will have to enjoy continuing in F1 and having the feeling that I am fast enough. If one day I have the feeling that I am not competitive, I will not feel the car, I will not enjoy the race, me will be the first to rise. ” my hand and give a new guy a chance.
“But hopefully that won’t happen so that I can race for at least another two, three, four years, I don’t know.
“I don’t think age is a problem. If you have more downforce, you drive faster in the corners; if you have more power, you drive faster on the straights. At 20 or 40 years of age (age) that is not the case . it changes.”
“You have to have a sense of humor”
Alonso has become a motorsport icon for his accomplishments over the past 20 years and his return has been welcomed by the new breed of drivers, some of whom have never raced against him before.
They are happy to show their admiration for him and to have the chance of going up against him on the track.
Mercedes newcomer George Russell recently called Alonso “one of the greatest racing drivers of all time” after the couple swapped helmets.
Alonso has also added the helmet of McLaren driver Lando Norris to the collection of his museums in his hometown Oviedo and wrote Norris a message that the Briton was “a rock star”.
And when McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo celebrated 200 races in Formula 1 last month, the Australian named a fight with Alonso at the 2014 German Grand Prix as one of the highlights of his career.
Does Alonso feel like an elder statesman or a living legend?
He laughs. “I’ve never thought about that before,” he says. “I don’t know. It’s just another generation that is now watching TV and seeing all these helmet swaps and they are surprised and joke about it and ask if I just came back to change helmets with all the drivers To deceive.
“I have more than 50 helmets in my museum. But a lot of people didn’t pursue anything in Formula 1 until two or three years ago. Some of these people are on social media and doing all of these things, definitely because if you don’t, you’re going crazy.
“No, I just treat everyone as they deserve. Lando is a good guy, same with Daniel a person, I try not to get too involved with her. “
However, he admits that his legacy and reputation are important to him.
“I’ll take care of it,” he says. “I would be lying if I said ‘no’. We drive here and we focus every day on the performance and what we achieve every weekend.
“(But) in the long run it would be nice if at some point you retire or are at home there isn’t the wrong idea about how you were as a driver or how you got some of the results.
“In a way, you’re working on some positive messages that hopefully will last longer after you retire.
“There are a lot of new fans in this sport, a lot of (the) younger generation, from the Netflix documentary (series). These people have never seen some of my races or some of my championships.
“You’ve only seen the last couple of years and have a completely wrong idea of who each of us is.”
A love-hate relationship with F1
Alonso says he’s “enjoying” his comeback, trying to keep distractions from events and worries outside the car to a minimum.
“I probably have a love-hate relationship with F1,” he says. “I love racing. I love the cars. I love the technology and how clever all the engineers and everyone in the team are. You learn a lot from these people. “
“At the same time, you feel like it’s half business, half sport. You can’t compete on the same terms as some of your opponents, and there is a lot of media activity, a lot of sponsorship activity around the Grand Prix as well.
“So you have to save energy and be 100% when jumping into the car. And outside of the car I try to save as much energy as possible, and maybe that’s why I get the impression that I’m a calm person.”
After Alonso’s comeback was announced there were inevitable questions about whether he would be the same driver as him, now he’s in his fifth decade.
But after a somewhat slow start, which Alonso admits, with a few difficult qualifying sessions, he has gotten stronger and stronger.
Despite the surprise victory of his teammate Esteban Ocon in Hungary, he is the leading alpine driver in the championship and has shown some star performances.
Among them were:
His first lap in the “Sprint” race at Silverstone, when he overtook six cars in nine corners and moved up from eleventh on the grid to fifth;
A defensive driving masterclass to stop Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in Hungary for 11 laps, a key factor in Ocon’s win;
His drive at the Dutch GP last weekend, a professionally run race with tire management and pace when it was important to overtake Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari for sixth place on the final lap.
Alonso – known for the high standards he has of himself – says he is “still 10% or so (of) being at the top of my game”.
“At some point you will be completely satisfied if you have the feeling that every time you jump into the car, there is not much (more) in it,” he says. “You stop in the garage and feel squeezed out of the car every 10 seconds. I may not be in that position yet, but I’m close.
“There are a few things that still need to be improved – adapting to the car, understanding the tires and the different track conditions if they are constantly changing or I have a new level of grip, different weather conditions,” says Alonso.
“(With) all of these things it seems like I need a few more laps to maximize the car’s potential, and that’s something new and part of this comeback.”
He says the customization process was caused by the complexity of the latest F1 cars.
“The cars became a little more critical in terms of downforce,” says Alonso. “These are cars that are very highly developed after just a few years with the same rules, that is, very ‘peaky’ in the way in which they deliver the downforce.
“And then the tires as well. They work pretty digitally. You turn them on or off. There is no way to deal with them if they are not at the right temperature. So (with) all of these things it got a little more difficult to drive the cars at top performance. “