Fernando Alonso told Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer he had not signed elsewhere, and the first the team found out of his departure was when Aston Martin announced it.
The Spaniard has signed a multi-year deal with Aston Martin from 2023 onwards, replacing Sebastian Vettel who announced his retirement last week. But Szafnauer says he had asked Alonso if he was going to Aston after learning that talks had taken place and been assured that wasn’t the case.
“I was confident even with the discussions – there is nothing wrong with exploring – that we were very close [to a deal],” Szafnauer is quoted as saying by the BBC. “I did ask the question, but I was told ‘no I haven’t signed anything’. So I was a bit surprised.”
Szafnauer had felt an agreement to retain Alonso was almost finalized but said the sticking point had been the length of the deal.
“We offered him a one-plus-one deal. We discussed with Fernando, ‘Look, if next year at this time you’re performing at the same level, of course we’ll take you.’ But he wanted more certainty: ‘Independent of performance, I want to stay for longer.’
“That was the crux of going one-plus-one as opposed to two-plus-one or three-plus-one or three years. There does come a time when something happens physiologically and you don’t have the same capabilities as when you were younger.
“It happened to Michael Schumacher at 42 – he was not the same driver as at 32 as 35. It happens in cricket, which is a far less physical sport. And it happens to racing drivers, too. So we were in favor of yes, if you’re performing at a high level we’ll keep you. But let’s do it one year at a time.”