The two-time world champion’s bombshell move to Aston Martin – announced last summer – took most of the paddock by surprise, including Alpine, who had been expecting Alonso to sign a new deal.
In terms of outright competitiveness, it appears to be a backward step, with Alonso leaving fourth-placed Alpine for a team that struggled to seventh in last year’s constructors’ championship.
But here’s four reasons why we expect Alonso to fare better at what will be his third different team in his last four seasons competing in F1.
Driving at his best
Alonso believes he ended his two years at Alpine having returned to the best form of his career following a brief stint racing in other categories in 2019 and 2020 amid a hiatus from F1.
Following a breakthrough podium in Qatar at the end of 2021, Alonso carried his improved form into the second campaign of his comeback. Superb drives to fifth at Silverstone, Spa and Sao Paulo were the standout results of a 2022 that was ultimately dogged by poor reliability.
Despite being beaten by teammate Esteban Ocon in the championship over the course of the year, the 41-year-old felt he was driving at the same level as 2012, which he considers to be the finest season of his F1 career – superseding his two title-winning campaigns in 2005 and 2006.
A teammate he should comfortably beat
Ocon held his own against Alonso over their two seasons together as teammates, but the Spaniard should have a more enjoyable time against Aston Martin stablemate Lance Stroll.
Stroll struggled to match the performances of Sebastian Vettel, whose reputation took a bit of a hammering in the final years of an otherwise glittering F1 career.
Alonso should prove to be an even more formidable test for Stroll, and it is a head-to-head he should comfortably come out on top of.
Providing Alonso is ahead of Stroll on track more often than not, as is the expectation, there should be no repeat of the sort of tension that began to bubble up with Ocon during 2022.
A reliable engine (finally)
A frustrating 2022 season was compounded by recurring reliability problems.
Alonso claimed his lost points due to Alpine’s gremlins would have put him “close to the Mercedes” in the championship, as well as being the cause of his head-to-head defeat to Ocon.
It is not the first time that Alonso has seen an F1 campaign hampered by a plethora of reliability issues, having endured McLaren’s disastrous partnership with an unreliable and uncompetitive Honda engine for three years.
For the first time since his Ferrari days Alonso will go into a season hoping for better fortunes, and with good reason; he will finally get to try the Mercedes power unit that has largely dominated the V6 hybrid era.
While Mercedes’ V6 has seemingly been overtaken by, ironically, Honda and Ferrari in recent times, the German manufacturer’s engine still packs a punch, and was the most reliable power unit in 2022, giving Alonso plenty of cause for optimism.
Aston Martin’s big plans
Alonso’s Aston Martin arrival comes at a time the team are nearing the completion of a state-of-the-art factory at their Silverstone base, and follows a major recruitment drive, including new technical director Dan Fallows, who joined the team from Red Bull last year.
The new factory should be completed by May this year, while a new wind tunnel is expected to be operational in the summer of 2024. It has been described as a “game changer” by team principal Mike Krack in the five-year plan set out by owner Lawrence Stroll for Aston Martin to be competing at the front of the grid.
Alonso plans to stick around for at least “two to three years” and there is reason to believe he would extend his career further if Aston Martin make significant progress. He might yet be around to see the team’s bold ambitions come to fruition.
This year will mark 10 years since Alonso’s last grand prix victory but he is convinced Aston Martin are the team to give him the car to change that.