Alpine’s newly-recruited racing director Davide Brivio has shared his first impressions of the team’s marquee 2021 signing Fernando Alonso, describing the two-time Formula 1 champion as “a very normal guy” if “quite demanding”.
Alonso has a reputation for exerting a lot of control over F1 teams he drives for and potentially even being difficult to manage.
“Yeah, he’s quite demanding, but that’s what I like” :: Davide Brivio
His subsequent F1 moves never reached the level of acrimony of his explosive first McLaren stint in 2007 (pictured below), but he did famously struggle to – or see little need to – conceal his frustration with Ferrari’s underperformance during his time there, and with Honda’s efforts as McLaren’s engine supplier in 2015-17.
Both Alonso and the rebranded Alpine team are without an F1 win since 2013, when he was at Ferrari and it was called Lotus.
Alonso’s previous discontent with being stuck in cars that weren’t title contenders during the hybrid era has led to suggestions his motivation might be lacking at Alpine – which effectively remains a midfield team for now.
Brivio, however, believes Alonso’s F1 return after a two-year absence is in itself enough proof of his motivation, as he “could have had a golden career in other series, but he wanted to get back to the most competitive environment and compete against some of the new talents coming up”.
Asked whether he expected to have a hard time managing Alonso, Brivio said: “No, I don’t think so. We had just some first chat, and I feel like [he is] a very normal guy, just extremely motivated, extremely willing to find and to put together everything necessary to get the best out of the car, the best out of the team.
“Because he’s not coming back just to drive a car. He’s coming back to try to get good results, to get some satisfaction.
“And yeah, he’s quite demanding, but that’s what I like. We need this type of driver that’s really keen to put everything together to try [to get] the maximum.
“So I welcome this type of attitude, this type of approach, and of course we will have to try to work together as best as possible in order to use his abilities and his potential.”
Brivio’s recent MotoGP success with Suzuki has given him a reputation as a top nurturer of young talent, but he also has a track record for working with big names, having overseen Valentino Rossi’s ultra-successful first stint at Yamaha between 2004 and 2009.
Describing Alonso as “one of the most determined sportspeople I’ve ever encountered”, Brivio added: “He knows what it takes to pull a team together.
“He also knows the team very well, some faces from the past, but also he has spent time getting to know the newer recruits. So he will be very focused on what it takes to succeed.
“Chatting with him, you can see how hard he’s working, how strong his desire to be back is. I’m sure he will put all his effort in. And if we will be capable to give him a good package, for sure he will be able to fight for great positions.”
He also predicted an “interesting dynamic” between Alonso and team-mate Esteban Ocon.
“They can definitely benefit from each other – Esteban in learning from his [Alonso’s] experience and Fernando from Esteban[‘s experience of being] inside the current team.”
“More complete” Alonso “ready” after accident
Alonso said he was “excited” to work Brivio, who he reckoned “will find surprises in F1, – some good and some he thinks we can do better with”.
The 2005/06 world champion has set the team the target of “delivering and executing the races as close to perfection as possible”.
“This is what we must do on race days, and this is what I’m prepared for,” said Alonso.
“Results in F1 depend on many performance factors, but we have to deliver the best we can at every opportunity.”
As for Alonso himself, he says will be ready for the start of the F1 season after a cycling accident last month left him requiring surgery.
Though he was forced to miss the launch, which the team said was because of his recovery and the requirements and travel and filming amid the coronavirus pandemic, Alonso insisted he is “in the best shape I’ve ever been before both physically and mentally”.
He also claimed he has become a “more complete” driver after his various exploits outside of F1 in the last couple of years and aims to improve further on his return.
“You constantly learn when you push yourself to new limits and when you are out of your comfort zone,” said Alonso, who in recent years has won the Le Mans 24 Hours twice, become World Endurance champion, and tackled the Indianapolis 500 and Dakar Rally (pictured below).
“Without a doubt, I’m a more competent driver now than two years ago.
“I took a lot of learnings from the last two years away from the sport, and I want to consolidate these and apply them in F1.
“For example, different philosophies of racing, driving techniques and approaches to work ethic.
“In terms of results it’s so difficult to predict. Last year the midfield pack was very close so this year anything can happen.”
After a two-year sabbatical, Alonso’s preparation with the team last year included a filming day and full test day in the 2020 Renault and several days of running in the 2018 car.
He has been tipped by new team-mate Esteban Ocon to be at a “top level” in 2021, and Alonso believes he will be up to speed swiftly.
“I normally think that it takes every driver on the grid three or four races to optimise everything on a new car, maybe a bit more if you change teams or if you are new to F1,” said Alonso.
“To be 100% up to speed it can take at least the first couple of races, but it is the same for everybody.
“I also had a small setback with a bike accident a few weeks ago, but luckily the preparation and my fitness will not be impacted and I’m ready to go.”