"He indicated that there was no need to rush"- Alpine boss on being surprised by Fernando Alonso's Aston Martin deal

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Final Practice
Alpine driver Fernando Alonso in action during the 2022 F1 Belgian GP weekend (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Fernando Alonso's decision to announce his move to Aston Martin one day after the 2022 F1 Hungarian GP was the only thing that surprised Alpine, according to team principal Otmar Szafnauer.

Fernando Alonso walked away from F1 at the end of the 2018 season after a stint with McLaren that was just not enjoyable for the two-time world champion. Much of this was down to the team not being able to develop a competitive car during his time at Woking.

He then returned in 2021 with Alpine on a two-year deal that runs out at the end of the season and was in negotiations for a new deal at Enstone. Unfortunately for Otmar Szafnauer, Renault CEO Luca de Meo, and Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi, the Spaniard was also in contact with Aston Martin, who ultimately won the sweepstakes for his signature.

Now, Szafnauer has confirmed that de Meo and Rossi were only told of his departure 15 minutes before the announcement was officially made on social media. The Romanian-American also admitted that he had an inkling this could happen, but was assured by Fernando Alonso himself that the rumors of him leaving did not hold water.

Speaking to the media during the 2022 F1 Belgian GP weekend, the 58-year-old said:

“Well, there was paddock rumour on Sunday that that could happen, so not that big of a surprise. But the surprising bit was that we went a long way with Fernando in our negotiations with him. And we had good faith negotiations, we got to the final hurdle. And Fernando indicated that he was ready to sign. As it turns out, he was also negotiating with others, which we knew about. He was a free agent, and he was more than welcome to do so. But the only surprising bit was that it was announced Monday morning after on Sunday night, he indicated that there was no need to rush. So that was the only surprising bit.”

When asked if he felt the way Fernando Alonso conducted himself was unethical, Szafnauer said:

“No, not at all. Like I said, he’s a free agent. There’s no obligation on Fernando’s part to do anything else other than what he’s right to do for himself. I always say a deal has to be good for both sides. And if he found a deal that was better for him, then he should pursue it. We put our best foot forward, like I said, we had negotiations with him in good faith. And we thought we’re close to having a deal that was good for both sides. But he was a free agent, and was free to do what he did.”

Alpine confident of surpassing Aston Martin while Fernando Alonso is there

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer is confident that his side can beat Fernando Alonso when the Spaniard moves to Aston Martin next season.

The team from Enstone still does not have their driver line-up for 2023 set in stone, with only Esteban Ocon confirmed thus far. Szafnauer, however, believes he knows what Aston Martin is up to, having been with the team for over a decade through its different iterations before joining Alpine in 2022.

In an interview carried by Motorsport's German affiliate, Szafnauer said:

“I know both teams very well and probably know them [Aston Martin] better than any of the staff here because I was with the other team for twelve years. From there, I know what they’re up to. But currently, this team here is performing at a much higher level. Of course, it’s hard to predict the future, but in the near future, I’m sure the team will continue to perform at this level, if not better.”

Despite his impending departure, Alpine will need to work with Fernando Alonso for the remainder of the season as they try to cement their place behind the top three teams in the World Constructors' Championship standings.

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Edited by Anurag C
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