Fernando Alonso has revealed that he joined Ferrari at his father’s urging. The double world champion, as reported in The Guardian, recently indicated that his father had always told him that after he had driven for Ferrari his career would be complete, and he could retire.
But Alonso said, “So after I won my two championships for Renault I said, ‘I’m happy now – my career is complete. And he said, ‘No, no, if you drive for Ferrari people will forget the championships. They will remember you as a Ferrari driver.’ I said, ‘OK, Papa, we’ll see.’ Now I think he was right. Ferrari gives you a special feeling.”
Alonso has already indicated that he intends for Ferrari to be his final stop before he hangs up his helmet. Kimi Raikkonen made similar comments when he first joined the Scuderia – and Raikkonen might well have been proven correct, even if the prediction has come true sooner than expected. In Alonso’s case, most everyone in the paddock is expecting that his tenure with the Prancing Horse will be longer than Raikkonen’s.
The general feeling is that Alonso has paid his dues over the past several years. After his two glory years when he won titles with Renault, in 2005 and 2006, his career seemed sidetracked, first with an aborted relationship with McLaren, and then with two long-suffering years back at Renault, when he was forced to contend with a car that seemed to be stuck in reverse.
But those three years could rightly be called character-building. Alonso said of his time with McLaren, “[It] was very difficult but I learnt a lot personally. It was good for my career to take that step of joining them and growing up. I learnt how to work with a team and also to withstand the media pressure. The difficulties I had were coming from the team and the media. Now I am much more prepared for everything in Formula One – and in life as well.”
His year with McLaren was marred not only by a contentious relationship with rookie Lewis Hamilton, but also by the so-called Spygate scandal, which revolved around McLaren’s possession of several hundred pages of confidential design data leaked to the team by disgruntled Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney. Alonso became involved in the scandal to the extent that he leaked to the FIA information regarding McLaren’s duplicity in the matter.
About that aspect of the saga, Alonso has no regrets. The Spaniard explained, “With the spy history I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I was very happy to help the FIA discover everything.”
And how did he expect that McLaren newbie Jenson Button would fare at McLaren? The Briton is joining the Woking squad in a position similar to Alonso’s in 2007, i.e. as a freshly crowned world champion. Would Button find it difficult to adjust to the new team, going head to head with the 2008 champion, Lewis Hamilton?
If Button had made the switch in 2007, Alonso thinks he would have found it rough going. “Obviously I don’t know how McLaren is now but if he arrived in my time then, for sure, it would be very tough for him,” Alonso said. But Alonso also believes that McLaren has learned from the rocky 2007 season, much as he has. “Hopefully, it’s now better for Jenson,” he said, “because I learned a lot from that season and McLaren did as well.”
Likewise, during the past two years at Renault, when the Renault’s performance seemed to completely unravel (towards the end of last season, in fact, Alonso declared the Renault to be the worst car on the grid) the Spaniard was forced to call on new reserves of motivation. “I knew I was only fighting for seventh or eighth,” he said, “but it was important to learn from that. I have no doubt I am a better driver now.”