If Alonso returns to Dakar, it will be to win

Fernando Alonso is yet to decide if he will give the Dakar Rally another shot, but if he did then he would come back with the intention to win.

The two-time Formula 1 World Champion has continued his exploits outside of the series by taking on the grueling near two-week Dakar Rally event.

But despite it being completely new territory, Alonso did himself proud by finishing 13th overall alongside co-driver Marc Coma for Toyota Gazoo Racing.

The high point came in stage eight where he finished runner-up, tough there were also lows to deal with such as his big crash which saw him overturn twice down a dune during stage 10.

Overall though the Spaniard said he “exceeded” his expectations for the event, but if he came back in the future, those expectations would be to win.

“I have felt competitive almost every day,” said Alonso at Friday’s finish at Qiddiya.

“On this last stage, we had a puncture, we caught Yazeed [Al Rajhi] and we still finished fourth, so I think we would have been in with a shot at winning the stage.

“If I decide to enter the Dakar again, it would be with high expectations.

“I don’t want to think about it now. I’m happy with how it went.

“Logically, after this first experience, and having been competitive, if I race in the future, I’ll try to do it to win, to add an important victory to my career.

“But there’s time for that [decision]. I would have to have a more precise and detailed preparation and have the best equipment.

“If you like racing, spending holidays in a car is a good option. We’ll see.”

Alonso confirmed that he has the “idea” of perhaps returning to F1 in 2021, but before that he will attempt to qualify for a second Indy500 in May.

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Alonso unsure he'll return to Dakar's trails

Fernando Alonso isn’t sure he’ll renew his Dakar experience in the future but if he does, the Spaniard will target an outright win.

Alonso broadened his already vast motorsport horizons with a two-week desert trip to Saudi Arabia, an experience filled with the unavoidable setbacks and complications associated with the grueling world of rally-raid competition.

Despite the difficulties that popped up left and right on the Dakar’s trails – including a double-roll down a dune earlier this week, Alonso and Toyota Gazoo Racing co-driver Marc Coma finished the event in a respectable 13th position.

The pair failed to win a stage outright but finished runner-up on Day 8 and managed to snap at the heels of the front-runners when spared any setbacks.

“I have felt competitive almost every day,” said Alonso at Friday’s finish at Qiddiya.

“On this last stage, we had a puncture, we caught Yazeed [Al Rajhi] and we still finished fourth, so I think we would have been in with a shot at winning the stage.”

Overall, the two-time F1 world champion and double Le Mans winner was encouraged by his performance. Yet Alonso has yet to decide if he’ll give the Dakar a second shot.

“If I decide to enter the Dakar again, it would be with high expectations,” added the 38-year-old. “I don’t want to think about it now. I’m happy with how it went.

“Logically, after this first experience, and having been competitive, if I race in the future, I’ll try to do it to win, to add an important victory to my career.

“But there’s time for that [decision]. I would have to have a more precise and detailed preparation and have the best equipment.

“If you like racing, spending holidays in a car is a good option. We’ll see.”

Alonso’s next big sporting chapter will take him back to Indiana in May where he’ll attempt to qualify for his second Indy 500, likely driving an Andretti Autosport entry although the endeavor has yet to be confirmed.

Thereafter, Alonso will have the entire summer to ponder his future, and perhaps even a return to F1!

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Alonso: Hamilton lifestyle not possible in normal car

Fernando Alonso believes the strength of the Mercedes car allows Lewis Hamilton to have the lifestyle he has outside Formula 1.

Hamilton, looking to become a seven-time World Champion in 2020, is very much in the public spotlight away from the sport, but Alonso thinks his former team-mate would not have that luxury if he did not have a car capable of winning World Championships.

Alonso’s opinion came when asked to compare Hamilton to Michael Schumacher as the Silver Arrows driver tries to match the same number of titles as the German.

“Each have their own character,” Alonso told La Gazzetta dello Sport in an interview taking place in between stages of  his first attempt at the Dakar Rally.

“Both of them dominated because of their cars, which allowed them to do what they wanted outside of Formula 1.

“Michael had more discipline and preparation. He was more into the team dynamics.

“Lewis has a different character and lifestyle that would not be right if he had a normal car. His bosses would not be happy.”

Alonso also revealed that he had offers to return to the Formula 1 grid in 2020, but turned them down as the timing was not right for him.

“There were two or three situations with a few talks involving certain teams,” Alonso added.

“We had contacts, but it was not the right time.”

It does appear, though, that Alonso is pining for a Formula 1 return in 2021 and does miss some elements of the sport.

“What I miss about Formula 1 is the precision work with the engineers and the optimisation around the races,” he said.

“But not the travelling, the consecutive races and only one team dominating.”

Alonso will give serious thought to a potential Formula 1 return after his third attempt at clinching the Triple Crown by winning the Indianapolis 500.

He added: “This year I do not want to schedule anything after Indianapolis, but to think properly for 2021.

“I’m not too old to return but I want to reflect on whether I want to return to Formula 1 for some more years.”

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Alonso 'will evaluate F1 return' for 2021 – but not to Ferrari!

Two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso says he will “evaluate” a possible return to Grand Prix racing later this year, but not until completing his latest attempt to win the Indianapolis 500 in May.

Alonso – who is currently competing for the first time in the Dakar Rally – says that F1 is just one of several options that he will be looking into.

“In the summer I will have to make a decision, that’s for sure,” he told Spanish radio broadcaster Copa’s El Partidazo de Cope programme this week.

“I will evaluate F1, I could also return to the WEC since the hypercars will arrive. Or I could do an entire championship in IndyCar,” he added.

“I will make my evaluations, and the teams will do the same: if there is a common interest I will certainly think about it.”

Since exiting McLaren at the end of 2018, Alonso has been part of a second consecutive Le Mans-winning entry, and also went on to clinch the overall 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship with Toyota.

However his attempt to win last year’s Indy 500 – and with it, become only the second driver in history to attain the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’ – came unstuck when he failed to qualify for the 33-car grid.

But despite his headline-grabbling exploits in various championships around the world, Alonso admitted that he was still first and foremost a Formula 1 driver at heart.

“Inside I still feel like an F1 driver,” he confirmed. “It’s a championship that I like and in which I know I can give my best.

“F1 is the top of all categories, but it also has its disadvantages: it requires total dedication, and I’ve already had 18 years of career done that way.

“I have to decide whether I’m really interested in doing another two to three years with that load of work,” he added.

2012 German GP: Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates his pole position

Whichever way he decides, Alonso appears to have ruled one thing out: whatever happens, he doesn’t see himself returning to Ferrari, for whom he drove for five seasons between 2010 and 2014.

“I haven’t talked to Ferrari for 2021,” the 38-year-old Spaniard confirmed. “I think the adventure with Ferrari has been good, but I don’t think it’s time to talk about a return.

“I think they bet on the future by betting everything with Charles Leclerc,” he commented.

“For 2021 I will first have to see who will be competitive, and perhaps Ferrari will not be among the favorites. We’ll see.”

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Alonso: ‘I have the idea of returning to Formula 1’

Two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso has the “idea of returning to Formula 1” from 2021, but doesn’t see room for himself at Ferrari.

Alonso walked away from F1 at the end of 2018 after a torrid spell at McLaren during their engine partnership with Honda.

Since then he has been in pursuit of the “triple crown” of motorsport and will return to the Indy 500 in May, while currently he is tackling the grueling Dakar Rally.

And once both of those challenges are complete, the Spaniard may look to plot a way back into Formula 1.

“First I finish the Dakar, then I do the Indianapolis 500, and in the summer I will have to make a decision,” he told the El Partidazo de Cope program.

“I have the idea of returning to Formula 1, “I feel like a Formula 1 driver, it’s what I like most and it’s what I know how to do best.

“I don’t know if I will return or not, but I will think about these next two or three years of my career in the summer. I will decide in the next few months.

“It is the top category of motor racing, but it also has its disadvantages.

“Formula 1 requires a complete dedication of your life.

“I already had 18 years of that and now I have to assess whether I want to do two or three more years of that or not.”

The frustrations of driving an uncompetitive McLaren car caused Alonso to leave the series, and he says that if he returned then he “must look at the teams that are available or interested”.

But it’s hard to see Alonso coming back to F1 if he didn’t have a race-winning car at his disposal.

Such a car could be on offer from Ferrari – Alonso has been linked with a return to the team for whom he drove for between 2010-14, but he isn’t sure there would be an opening for him despite Sebastian Vettel’s contract coming to an end after 2020.

“I have not talked to them,” he revealed.

“I think the journey with Ferrari was nice but I don’t think it’s time to talk about a return. I also believe their bet on the future with [Charles] Leclerc is quite clear.

“For 2021, we need to see who will be competitive, and maybe Ferrari will not be among the favourites. We will see.”

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Alonso suffers double rollover crash in Dakar Rally

Fernando Alonso’s Toyota Hilux has suffered damaged after it rolled over twice in a crash during stage 10 of the Dakar Rally.

The two-time F1 World Champion made contact with a dune just two kilometres into the 534-kilometre test, sending him and co-driver Marc Coma into a roll.

The car landed back on it’s wheels after overturning twice, but Autosport report that the pair removed the car’s windscreen and continued without waiting for help, though the suspension reportedly took a hit.

Alonso indeed finished the shortened stage without a windshield after losing one hour and 17 minutes.

Already though Alonso has “exceeded all kinds of personal goals” after he finished second in stage eight of the rally.

“I’ve not just fulfilled but exceeded all kinds of personal goals I may have had before the Dakar,” Alonso was quoted by Autosport.

“In Morocco I felt comfortable but I was 15 minutes from the leaders in 250-kilometre stages.

“I didn’t know if in the Dakar I would be half an hour behind the biggest [cross-country] specialists, and being close to them on days like this, even ahead of them, was not in any of my sensible goals.”

Alonso said that both he and Coma could “barely believe” the result they had managed to achieve.

“We saw the times on the road section [after the timed special] to get to the bivouac, and the truth is that we were almost pinching each other as we barely believed that everything had gone so well,” he explained.

“The stage went smoothly. We had a puncture at 350km, more or less, but I don’t think it made much difference.

“For us in the team, for Marc and me in the car, these are moments of great joy, of emotion, because we know how difficult it is, what we experienced there over 470 kilometres – the dunes we passed, the scares – and then when you cross the finish line and you are among the best, it is a great joy.

“And to remember where we came from [a few months ago], we didn’t even know how to start the car practically.”

Unsurprisingly though, Alonso is expecting a challenging run-in to Dakar with plenty of twists and turns.

“I had the experience of a test in Abu Dhabi three weeks ago and it was a similar area of dunes [to what we’re expecting],” he said.

“It was very difficult and it was three days of hell – if these ones are similar to the ones in that area, there will be a lot happening.”

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Alonso: Good pace, confident and improving

Fernando Alonso looks back on his first six days tackling the Dakar Rally – the world’s toughest motorsport event – confident that he is improving with every outing while he recovers admirably from a day two setback that cost him nearly three hours in the Saudi Arabian desert.

Nevertheless, the Dakar rookie, who is sharing a Gazoo Racing Toyota with off-road legend Marc Coma in the co-drivers seat, has since the incident been on a charge from 63rd climbing up to 16th at the halfway mark, albeit 3.08 hours behind the leader Carlos Sainz senior.

On Friday, ahead of the rest day, he finished sixth, 7.56 minutes behind stage winner Stephane Peterhansel – notably only four minutes adrift of the best placed Toyota Gazoo Racing Entry of defending champion Nasser Al Attiyah at the end of the gruelling 830km stage.

Ahead of the rest day, Alonso told reporters, “Today has gone well again, with good feelings and good rhythm. We were fast again and in the top six.

“Removing the three cars in front [trio of Minis] which are in another league, being the third-best of the Toyotas has been a nice surprise. We had no problems, no punctures or anything. This rest stage comes at a good time.

“As I said in the first few days, visibility is essential. If it’s good, you are always constant and in rhythm with the leaders, but if you fall too far behind and there is dust there are some ‘waypoints’ in which you have to lift a lot

“It’s all new to me, at this level you have different challenges, such as the behaviour of the car at the beginning and then at the end, you go out with more than 400 litres of gasoline and you end up with 30 or 40, so there is a huge difference.

“You drive on sandy terrain, on gravel, on stones, on asphalt … so the level of grip is very unstable and you have to adapt to every kilometre. Visibility… There have been six stages in which we have passed a bit of everything and each of these challenges is new to me, but I try to learn as quickly as possible.

“In 500 km there are many things that happen and not always obvious. I am glad to have had four good days after the problem we had. In general, good pace, confident and gradually improving.

After the second day’s broken wheel mishap, which cost Alonso nearly three hours, it has been all upwardly mobile for the #310 Toyota as they bounced back impressively, “I don’t know why but I gound a better rhythm in the dunes.

“Marc, with his experience in the dunes, is always advising me, he also understands how the race is evolving, which are the dunes in which you have to slow down or where you have to climb a little more.

“And on the stones, the Toyotas have had many problems this first week, we have punctured two or three wheels each day, and that has been a very big penalty especially if you drop down the order.”

Meanwhile, at the sharp end, his good friend and fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz leads in a Mini at the halfway mark, seven minutes ahead of Alonso’s Gazoo Racing teammate Nasser Al Attiyah in a Toyota.

“Spectacular, but there is no surprise in that regard,” remarked Alonso of Sainz’s run. “We know that Carlos is one of the best and I am very happy that he is leading. Half the race remains but he seems to have everything in hand.”

As for the remainder of the rally and his own chances, he said, “We will see how hard the second week will be. The Dakar is normally unpredictable but at the moment, in this one, nothing is really happening among the top six.

“If things start to happen during the second week and we continue at this rate, we could quickly recover two or three positions in one stage and get into the top three, but if nothing happens at the front it is difficult,” Alonso added.


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Andretti close to securing Alonso for Indy 500

Michael Andretti has said that a deal to get Fernando Alonso back racing at the Indianapolis 500 in 2020 is “looking pretty good”.

Alonso’s last two attempts, in 2017 and 2019, have come with their own problems – race retirement in 2017 and failing to qualify in 2019 – but he is set to come back for a third crack at clinching the Triple Crown having already won the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Andretti is looking to secure sponsorship first before putting the finishing touches to a deal with Alonso, but is confident that it will be finalised.

“It’s not done yet but it’s looking pretty good,” Andretti told RACER.

“We want it to happen, and I’ve just got to figure out how to get it funded. I think we can find a sponsor, but do I roll the dice, sign him and then hope to get it funded?

“I really enjoy working with the guy, and I want to make it happen.”

One potential sticking point could be the fact that Japanese manufacturers, Honda, supply Andretti with their engines and Alonso did not particularly see eye to eye with them during their time together at McLaren.

However, Andretti has revealed that he has had no sign of protest from Honda about signing Alonso and there is even scope for future drives beyond Indianapolis 500.

“We talked about it [future drives] and it’s possible, but nothing before Indianapolis,” Andretti added.

“I don’t want to do anything to hurt our other efforts, but it would be great for the series.”

Alonso is currently taking part in his first ever Dakar Rally series, but is finding the iconic event tough going. He was classified P16 after the fourth stage, nearly three hours behind the overall leader.

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Alonso forced into lengthy stoppage at Dakar Rally

It has only taken until the second stage of the Dakar Rally for Fernando Alonso to find out the unforgiving nature of the iconic racing event.

After saying he planned on driving the first few stages “on tiptoes”, Alonso finished P11 in the mammoth opening stage on Sunday.

However, his fortunes did not improve during the second stage as he was forced to stop for more than two hours after his Toyota Hilux hit a rock and caused damage to the suspension and wheel.

Alonso, and his co-driver Marc Coma, attempted running repairs on the car but had to concede defeat and wait for Toyota’s recovery truck.

There was better luck for his fellow Toyota driver, Giniel de Villiers, who set the overall pace in stage two after suffering a slow puncture himself in the opening stage.

He moves up to P6 in the overall classification, while X-raid Mini driver Orlando Terranova is top of the standings in the Dakar’s car category in the general standings.

Carlos Sainz Senior is currently P2 overall with the Bahrain JCW Z-Raid team.

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Formula 1 drivers of the decade – 5-1

There were 66 F1 drivers in the 2010s. 25 made the podium, 12 won races and three became World Champions, but who were the 10 best?

We’ve already revealed the bottom half of our list, so let’s get on to the business end…

5. Max Verstappen

It’s pretty impressive that, at the age of 22, Verstappen has been on the grid for half a decade already. What’s even more impressive though is just how well he’s driven in that time.

He started off with a season at Toro Rosso and immediately showed the extent of his talent with excellent drives such as the P4 finishes in Hungary and the USA. He carried that form into 2016 and it quickly earned him a promotion to Red Bull, where he, incredibly, won his first race at the Spanish GP.

Apart from a rocky spell at the start of 2018, the Dutchman has gone from strength to strength ever since. Combining his speed with consistency, he has continually out-performed his car and won eight races, each as impressive as the last. As soon as he has the car, titles will be his. The 2020s may well be the decade of Max Verstappen.

4. Nico Rosberg

In his six seasons on the grid in the 2010s, Rosberg was team-mates with the two statistically best drivers of all time. He brushed aside the first and was one of the few drivers to often prove more than a match for the second. Not bad at all.

He began the decade as team-mate to Michael Schumacher at Mercedes. Most expected the seven-time World Champion to be the team’s star man, but Rosberg had other ideas. He prevailed in each of their three seasons together, getting four podiums to Schumacher’s one and one win to Schumacher’s none.

His team-mate then went from being an ageing legend to one at the peak of his powers in the form of Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg didn’t have the Brit’s speed or raw talent but drove well enough to ensure he’d take any chances he was given. He was rewarded for this in 2016 when, thanks to unrelenting consistency and a bit of luck, he prevailed to win his first World Championship in what would prove to be his final season.

3. Fernando Alonso

In a fairer world, Alonso would have ended this decade with at least one more title to his name. It wasn’t to be, largely due to the machinery he had underneath him, but my word did his driving deserve it.

He won five races and led the standings for much of his first season with Ferrari. However, he got stuck behind Vitaly Petrov in Abu Dhabi to finish it four points behind Sebastian Vettel. He came even closer in 2012, drving the wheels off his car to somehow put himself in title contention. Again though, Vettel took it away from him in the final race, finishing three points clear this time.

After two disappointing years with the Italian team, Alonso left for McLaren in 2015. Sadly it would bring an end to his time at the top in F1. With a Honda (GP2!) engine, the car usually, if lucky, found itself in the midfield battle. Nevertheless, Alonso continued to drive as well as ever and got some extraordinary results in it before retiring to pursue the triple crown.

2. Sebastian Vettel

Vettel may have struggled towards the end of the decade, but he started it with four seasons of near perfection which resulted in four consecutive World Championships. For that alone, he comfortably made our top two.

He didn’t lead the standings for most of 2010, but two dominant victories to end it earned him his first title. 2011 was a different story as he dominated the rest of the pack, winning 12 races and finishing off the podium only twice. The 2012 title was won in the final race with one of his best drives as he fought back to finish P6 after spinning on lap 1. There was no such drama in 2013 as he dominated again, winning 13 races this time.

After a poor 2014, he opted to join Ferrari and has had mixed fortunes. In his first two seasons, he didn’t have a car capable of challenging Mercedes but generally got the most of out it, taking three wins and 19 podiums. In 2017 and 2018 though, he did and could have become World Champion again if not for individual errors. These mistakes were present again in a disappointing 2019 season, but we still think the Vettel from the first half of the decade is still in there somewhere. At least we hope so.

1. Lewis Hamilton

Was it ever going to be anybody else? No, of course not. Winning a race every year and becoming World Champion five times, Lewis Hamilton has quite comfortably been the best driver of the last decade.

The start of it was disappointing by his standards. He finished only 16 points behind the top in 2010 but never truly looked to be in title contention, while 2011 and 2012 failed to give him a car good enough to challenge. Nevertheless, in that time he still won 10 races.

Everything changed when he joined Mercedes in 2013 though. His first season was solid, but once he was given a championship-winning car in 2014, he never looked back. 2016 didn’t go his way, but in the other four seasons, he has been imperious. Seeing off the challenge of his team-mate initially and Sebastian Vettel in 2017 and 2018, he’s proved that he’s the best on the grid and maybe even ever.

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