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F1 Pitlane tales: Age is not an issue, says returning Alonso

July 09, 2020 10:04 IST
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Fernando Alonso turns 39 this month and, after two seasons out, will be returning next year with the team that took him to his titles in 2005 and 2006.

IMAGE: Fernando Alonso turns 39 this month and, after two seasons out, will be returning next year with the team that took him to his titles in 2005 and 2006. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Two-times Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso said age was not the issue after securing a comeback deal with Renault to race into his 40s.

The Spaniard turns 39 this month and, after two seasons out, will be returning next year with the team that took him to his titles in 2005 and 2006.

"In Formula One for many years the time watch (stopwatch) is the only thing that matters, not the age," Alonso told reporters in a video news conference on Wednesday.

"I never had a race classification based on the passport, date of birth. Always on the time watch."

Alonso will be the oldest driver next year if his former Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen, already 40 and now with Alfa Romeo, decides to stop.

 

While 40-year-old racers were relatively common in the sport's early days, they are a rarity in modern Formula One with an increasing emphasis on youth.

McLaren's Lando Norris, third in Austria last weekend, was only one-year-old when Alonso started racing at now-defunct Minardi in 2001.

Alonso's future team mate Esteban Ocon is 23 and said last week that the Spaniard's success "gave me the love for the sport".

Team principal Cyril Abiteboul recognised some would question Renault's choice of a veteran over an emerging young talent.

"I can already expect that our decision... could be seen as a lack of interest or loyalty towards our project of the Renault Sport Academy. And it's not," he said.

Abiteboul said the COVID-19 pandemic that delayed the season had made it hard to evaluate China's Guanyu Zhou and Denmark's Christian Lundgaard, the leading academy candidates.

"We are very serious about the academy, very serious about those two people in particular," added the Frenchman.

"I'm sure Fernando, like Esteban, has lots to bring to their development."

Mercedes say their F1 gearbox sensor issues are 'complex'

Mercedes knew they had gearbox sensor issues before last Sunday's season-opening Austrian Grand Prix and are working around the clock to fix the "complex problem" before this weekend's next race, strategy director James Vowles said.

Valtteri Bottas won the race at the Red Bull Ring for Mercedes but he and his team mate Lewis Hamilton, the six-times Formula One world champion, were told to avoid the kerbs due to the risk of vibration damage.

Not running aggressively over the kerbs can result in a lap slower by several tenths of a second, however -- something drivers cannot afford to do for an entire race.

"The issue itself in the gearbox is electrical by nature and the reality behind it is we now have a few days to get on top of this issue," Vowles said in a video debrief on the team's website.

"We have a number of people back at the factory working day and night for this.

"We know that if we don't get on top of these issues it will be a problem again in just a few days' time," he added.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said the champions would run new components this weekend to try to improve matters.

The next race, the Styrian Grand Prix, is behind closed doors at the same circuit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will be the first time Formula One has held two successive races at the same track in one season.

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