The Enstone team were poised to strike a new deal with the two-time F1 world champion before the Spaniard made a shock earlier this week to join Aston Martin.
One of the key factors underlying Alonso’s decision to move teams was Aston Martin’s willingness to offer him a much longer-term commitment, estimated to be three years, including options.
PLUS: The traits that fueled Alonso’s unexpected Aston Martin move
However, Alpine was only willing to commit to a one-year plus one-year contract as it wanted some flexibility in case Alonso’s pace shows signs of slowing down.
While Alonso, who is 41, felt such concerns were unfounded as he says he is showing no signs of a dip yet, Alpine insists there will come a time when things change.
Reflecting on what Alpine Alonso had to offer, team boss Otmar Szafnauer said age could not be discounted and that is why it wanted to protect itself.
“It is difficult to predict the future,” explains Szafnauer. “Like, I always say, if I could predict the future, I wouldn’t be here. I would be in Vegas.
“We have offered a one-plus-one deal. And we discussed that with Fernando: look, if you perform at the same level next year at this time, we will of course take you with us. And it could have gone on like this.
“But I think he wanted more certainty, apart from the performance: ‘I want to stay longer’. And I think that was the crux of one-plus-one rather than two-plus-one or three-plus-one or three years.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1, Pat Fry
Photo By: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
Szafnauer said even the best drivers like Michael Schumacher were not as good at the end of their careers as they were when they started.
“There comes a time when something physiological happens to a driver, and you don’t have the same skills as when you were younger,” he said.
“I think it happened to Michael. I think it’s fair to say that Michael Schumacher was not the same driver at age 42 as he was at age 32 or 35. And it happens to other athletes too.
“It’s not such a physically strenuous sport for cricketers. It’s all about eye-hand coordination, moving the bat to the right millimeter so you protect [the stumps].
“But after 32, 33 or 34, the best batsman in the world can’t handle it anymore. And that’s because something happens to them. And it happens to race car drivers too.
“So we were in favor of: yes, if you perform at a high level, we will definitely keep you. But let’s do it once a year and I think he wanted a longer duration.”
Szafnauer also denied suggestions that Alonso had not been kind in making plans for him to join Alpine’s LMDh program at a time when he still felt he had much more to offer F1.
About that project, Szafnauer said: “We had conversations with Fernando and Laurent… too [Rossi, Alpine CEO]. It was greetings, if you finish in F1, we would love it if you continue with the family and do other races with Alpine. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to Fernando as he agreed to do that and thought it was a good idea.
“The question was: when will that happen? But when it happens, to Le Mans, he was absolutely happy to continue down that road.”