“It takes a lot of dedication” — F1 rivals give their thoughts on Fernando Alonso’s contract extension and racing into their 40s

Photo Credit: Aston Martin Aramco F1 Team
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Fernando Alonso recently signed a multi-year contract extension with Aston Martin, which will see him racing through 2025 and, notably, 2026, when the new technical regulations come into effect.

Having initially retired from the sport at the end of the 2018 season, Alonso made waves by announcing his return to the sport just a few years later. After a two year stint with Alpine, Alonso moved to Aston Martin in 2023 to replace Sebastian Vettel after the four-time world champion announced his intention to step back from the sport the previous year. 

At almost 43, Alonso is currently the oldest driver on the grid. While he’s unlikely to fight for the title of oldest active racing driver—that record belongs to Louis Chiron, who participated in the Monaco Grand Prix at the age of 55—Alonso’s longevity is something of a phenomenon in modern Formula 1. As the average age of rookie drivers coming into the sport has gradually decreased, so has the ‘expected’ retirement age, with the demanding nature of the sport and the ever-expanding calendar taking their toll.

Drivers addressed the news of Alonso’s contract extension during media day in Shanghai, sharing their thoughts on the move and whether they see themselves competing in Formula 1 for as long as the Spaniard has.

On the cusp of turning 40, Lewis Hamilton made the bold decision to join Ferrari for 2025 (and beyond).

“It will be an exciting time for me,” he said of the move. “I’m going to be racing for quite some time still. It’s definitely good that [Alonso’s] still around. I hope that he keeps going for a little bit longer as well.”

The other half of the Mercedes duo, George Russell, added: “Fernando is one of the best drivers on the grid and deserves to be fighting in the same way as Charles, Lando, Lewis.”

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Sergio Perez also expressed his admiration for Alonso, stating that he believes a driver’s willingness to continue has more to do with motivation rather than any physical limitations.

“Yeah, I mean, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Fernando,” he said. “Not because he can drive until he’s 45 or 50. It’s the level of motivation that he has in the sport after so many years.

“I think drivers can go as long as they want. There is no physical limitation. I think it’s more to do with the motivation.

“You know, there are so many races. Formula 1 really takes a lot out of your life. You give everything to the sport. And to do it for so long is something that I have huge respect for.”

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen pointed out that Alonso’s time away from Formula 1 likely helped him re-discover his love for the sport after the fallow years at McLaren. 

“I mean, Fernando also took a bit of time out and then probably found his love again to be fully competitive in Formula 1,” Verstappen said. “So, for me, it’s just very difficult to comment on these kinds of things.”

Verstappen—who debuted as a rookie at the age of just 17—admitted he can’t really see himself following the same career trajectory as Alonso, saying, “I don’t think I will be here until I’m 45, but you never know.”

Similar questions were also put to the drivers in Thursday’s press conference. 

“I think it takes a lot of dedication,” said Lando Norris. “I don’t think anyone thinks Fernando lacks that in any way. I think he shows that with everything that he does in life. Whether it’s at the track or away from the track, you know, in different sports or whatever. 

“So it depends what you want to do. Everyone is different. It’s rare that you see someone commit for so long in any sport, you know, he’s probably one of the oldest guys competing at the top of any sport in the world and I think to be able to do that at the level that he has done and continues to do, you’re probably never going to potentially see it again within Formula 1 and if you do, it’s going be extremely rare. 

“So yeah, a lot of respect for that kind of thing. I have no idea if I want to do it in 20 years’ time, if I’m still going strong, but I love where I am now. Yeah, we’ll see.”

Charles Leclerc conceded it’s “difficult to imagine myself in 15 or 18 years’ time still in Formula 1.”

Regarding Alonso, he said: “However, we can definitely see how motivated Fernando still is and how high of a level he’s still performing at the moment and this is what matters at the end. Age is a number but what he’s showing on track is still at a very, very high level.”

He added that while he can see himself racing for quite some time, he’d ideally like to explore opportunities beyond Formula 1: “On my side, I would love to be racing still for many years. However, I’m not so sure whether in Formula 1. I would like to experience other things like Le Mans, that’s definitely a place where I will see myself race one day. But yeah, I mean as long as I am fully motivated then I will race and I love what I do. For now that’s what I want to do for the longest time possible.”

“Huge respect for Fernando,” said Esteban Ocon, Alonso’s former Alpine teammate. Ocon celebrated his maiden victory with Alonso at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2021. 

“Since I’ve been very little I’ve been watching him competing, against Michael and you know, these two guys are the guys that gave me the love for the sport. So, to still be racing with Fernando now it’s very incredible. And just to see the career he has done, he’s won in everything, basically. 

“He’s won in karting, he’s won in Le Mans, in the States in sports cars, everything he’s competed in he has almost won. And that’s more than remarkable. And it’s a dream carrier for any athlete or racing driver. 

“I don’t know if I would still be racing at his age,” Ocon admitted. “But truly, his dedication is something that is an example for all of us.”

Photo credit: Aston Martin Aramco F1 Team

“For myself, I think it’s an incredible journey that Fernando has done,” said hometown hero Zhou Guanyu. “And, of course, it’s a lot easier to say than to do. I would love to be racing in Formula 1 for many more years, that’s for sure. That’s what I’m most passionate about and driving these cars as well.

He added that he’d looked up to Alonso as a young driver coming up through the ranks: “And from my side, of course, back in the day, he was kind of my racing role model that I was looking for and it’s great to be seeing him still performing at a very high level. And yeah, just really enjoy it. Hopefully we can sooner battle for some positions on track and have some fun.”