Fernando Alonso interview: "I won in Monaco; I want to win Le Mans and Indianapolis”
The Spanish driver, in the second part of his interview with AS, makes it clear he's fully confident in McLaren Honda, talks about Ferrari, his approach to life and his future in F1Super Bowl 2018 live online: Patriots vs Eagles
I could carry on talking to Fernando Alonso for hours... This could have been an interview in four or five parts. He likes to tell stories, explain himself, ensure he's understood, even though that's not always easy...
You're happy but you want to win and at the moment it seems as though that objective is ever more distant and time goes on, are you worried that it's becoming more of a memory than a genuine aspiration?
[long silence] Erm, I don't know, I'm not bothered about the future. It has to be understood that I come from a normal family, my mum worked in a shopping centre and my dad in an explosives factory, where he worked as an engineer. I started out in karts, then single-seaters until I broke into Formula 1. I've been in Formula 1 for 17 years and I was world champion twice. I don't know, whether it's a memory or an aspiration or if someone deserves more or less isn't something that concerns the person who's living the experience.
Can you elaborate on that?
It's the nature of sport, we saw Kobe Bryant retire a few days ago. He won five titles and played until he was 42 years old, he's the best player of all-time alongside Michael Jordan, but they didn't win every game, or every championship, that's just normal. Everybody has ups and downs. I've had more ups than downs, I'm extremely fortunate. There are 22 drivers in the paddock and 80 percent of them have never been on the podium, they've never been sprayed with champagne, they don't have any trophies.
Sometimes I get the sensation that you don't need anything else to be happy, that nothing bothers you...
When I hear people say “poor Fernando, poor Fernando...” the truth is I find it very surprising because it seems that I'm the only person who's happy with my life. I only need my health and I thank God for every day I'm here. For the fantastic cars I've driven and that I still drive and the amazing experiences I've had. 80 percent of drivers are fast and talented, they've won everything in the junior categories and they haven't had the luck I've had to drive these amazing cars.
We talked about teams that you left. Do you think Ferrari now is less strong than the one you left?
Compared to the Ferrari I left, yes. In 2014 we had a car that we couldn't compete for the podium with, like they are now, and also challenging Mercedes. But in my five years there I went into the last race of the season in three of them leading the standing; I genuinely don't see an improvement. They are in good shape and they are challengers for the title, which is great. But we weren't challengers, we led the standing in the final race.
It sounds like you don't feel you made a mistake leaving Ferrari...
I had two years left on my contract with Ferrari, 2015 and 2016, after finishing second during those five years. To win, you have to be in a Mercedes over the past two years, as they are the dominant team. That was the situation after five years at Ferrari. After all the good times I had, the friends I made and the atmosphere, and it was one of my dreams to drive for Ferrari, it was time nevertheless to call time on that experience because everything was fantastic, but we lost the championship. Still, I wouldn't change a single day.
In a documentary, we saw that the last day was really emotional...
Yeah, Spanish television also filmed it. I told them: “I want this on film because this team is incredible and I want everybody to be able to share this final day with Ferrari.” I had two years left on my contract but I asked the president if we could cancel it because I wasn't enjoying myself finishing second. Ferrari is special. I'll always carry Ferrari in my heart. I've got the cars in the museum and its with those cars that most people get their photos taken. I've also got the race cars in my garage, it's something that will always stay in my heart but not winning with Ferrari is stressful because there's so much pressure. After five years and with the feeling that it was going to be seven without winning... I wasn't happy.
Do you think Vettel has a chance to win?
He's in a good position, he's young and motivated and the car is not far off the best. That's good. I think the trend in Formula 1 now is that Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda can win the championship because the other private teams won't. With an engine of that calibre the mother factory can win the title on its own, so for the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers it's a great opportunity and I'm sure one of them will win the title. If Renault improve sufficiently and McLaren Honda do as well they'll have the chance to win, but other than that... the private teams are out of the running.
Talking about engines, Ferrari and Renault have signed Mercedes engineers. Can Honda win if they do something similar?
That's a question for our team director, but we believe in our own direction and I know how proud everybody at Honda is with the Japanese engineers and the project. I think the improvements we have made in the last year and a half are pretty surprising and they are giving us a lot of speed, but results are difficult to see coming given that F1 is so competitive at the moment. That's the case even if we manage to improve the engine's performance by 60 percent when everybody else has done it by 40 percent.
You have faith in Honda...
The level of power we have at the moment and our lap times are much better than the ones other teams were managing in their second year with the turbo.
In the future, do you see yourself inside or outside of F1 when you retire?
And before you retire, you'd like to compete at the Indy 500 and Le Mans...
Yeah, there are three competitions that are the pinnacle in the legend of motorsport; the Monaco GP, the 24 hours of Le Mans and the Indy 500. I know it's difficult to win all three, I've already got Monaco and it would be a great challenge. If I'm happy and motivated I'm going to try and do it.
What would your mum say about the Indy 500?
[Laughs], well, she probably wouldn't know what it is, so I can tell her I'm off to Las Vegas to play poker and she'll think it's got something to do with that...