Fernando Alonso took time out to speak exclusively to AS about his plans, F1 and how he sees his life away from the sport in the not too distant future.
Hi Fernando. The last time we spoke you were focused solely on Formula 1, your number one objective…
Yes, that's right.
But this year, you will also be taking part in the FIA World Endurance Championship and also the 24 Hours of Le Mans...
F1 is my principal objective, but Le Mans is a race which I've always wanted to take part in, it's a race which really attracts me, and has sufficient grandeur to be involved in. It's always caught my attention; the opportunity to take part in it arose so that's what I'm going to do.
A change is as good as a rest, says Alonso
At 24 Heures de Daytona you had problems with your brakes and were left off the pace…
Yes, but regardless of the problems I might have, I love competing and I gained valuable experience, I had good sensations out on the track, I put in a lot of hours and I am much more prepared now - and that's important. Now I have a better idea of how to handle the traffic, the race.., it was a question of building up my confidence.
What made you choose the World Endurance Championship?
I wasn't something which I chose as such, but what I will say is that the level demanded by F1, in terms of time and preparation is huge and after so many years in F1 you realize that the time will come when that's just not possible anymore. It's a bit like Carlos Sainz, when he decided to leave the World Rally Championships - it didn't mean that he had elected Dakar as his future, it's just that he likes rallies, he'd been world champions but you need to be training and travelling every day all of the time… then all of a sudden there's a rally which is held once a year, it's exotic and very prestigious and you have the opportunity to race in it… It's not really a case of making a conscious choice… you just like the competition and find it appealing because you enjoy racing and you have the chance to combine the two things and do something new which you haven't had the opportunity to do during many years of competition. The Endurance Championships gives you that, you have less races over the year, you can get a little of your life back but at the same time, continue competing.
I found out quite recently that you like to make bucket lists. Where does F1 feature on those lists?
I don't make lists for that because I go more on intuition.
What do you mean?
Every summer or when you are reaching the end of your contract, there comes a time when you ask yourself if you really enjoy what you are doing… Some moments of the season are more tiring with trips, events - things that can get you down a little and set you back; then there are other moments when you really like what you are doing and have fun. The important thing for me when I have two months when there are no races is to find some way to keep competing whether it's a kart race, or the 24 hour-race in Daytona during the winter… these are signs that I am proving to myself that I still get enjoyment from what I do, and the day when I no longer have those feelings will be the moment to give it all up.
It's obvious that you are keen to keep racing but what about Formula 1?
Like I say, it's not something which I plot or make a list for, it will all come of it own accord and you'll get the phone call, you either continue or leave it.
Talking of F1 and your next challenge. What do you know of McLaren Renault?
Nothing. I haven't seen anything.
Nothing at all to go on?
I was at the factory halfway through December but there was nothing at that time; I'll be back at the factory midway through this month and that's when I'm hoping that the seat will be ready and car practically assembled, so I'll know more then. I haven't even seen the colours - some people have said it's going to be orange like the Indy car, and that would be perfect…
I'll adapt to new circumstances - Alonso
Especially if you drive like you did at the Indy 500…
Yes, that would be perfect too. It would also be perfect if a sponsor comes along at the last minute and decides to paint the car any colour they like - in the end, you end up adapting to whatever happens.
I'm going to ask you the question on everyone's lips - will you have your own car this year?
Yes, yes, I think so.
So, there's already talk of podiums...
We're going to be much more competitive. I don't know how much. Last year Red Bull looked like they were going to be strong due to the change in the rules and yet they had a slow start; Verstappen was forced to abandon a few races, they had less laps than us halfway through the year and for the expectations on Red Bull, that's a big blow. You always get asked if you are going to have a car… but if you start badly, it's a huge comedown so we can't anticipate anything. What I can say is that expectations are higher now than they have been during the past three years. The atmosphere at the factory is more positive, everyone is determined to go that extra bit further because we all want to be much more competitive and I think we will be.
If you had to choose a driver to win the world championships, who would it be?
What about a driver who isn't in your team?
Carlos [Sainz], obviously.
And what about a non-Spanish driver, if that's possible?
I don't know, I don't have any preference.
Zak Brown has mentioned Hamilton. That would be incredible for F1, for everything…
Right now, yes, because he won last year, but two years ago it could have been Rosberg, who ended as champion. And a few years ago, someone else. I don't know.
"I'll win next year", you said in Baku in 2017. You are a little more prudent this time - what's changed?
In Formula 1?
I don't know. We'll see. People will have to wait and see if they drag those declarations out again or not; I don't care. I said I was going to win and I'll say the same thing, that I'll win it this year.
Your writing a book… have you achieved you set out to achieve in life?
Uff… I really don't know, it's not something I've ever stopped to think about, I've never had a plan of things I want to achieve in life to be honest.
But I'm happy with what I've been through although you always look for new experiences and do new things.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years' time?
I'll be relaxed. Without rushing to do anything. Married with kids? Maybe, I don't know. Kids, yes definitely, that's something which I would like when the moment's right. I'd like that a lot. I don't think I'll be racing. I'd like to be doing something which doesn't involve so much travelling and take up so much of my time. In motorsport, it's difficult to do something where you can work from home, right now I can't see that but who knows?
Thanks Fernando. Good luck this year.
Same to you and to all AS' readers.
- Reino Unido