Fernando Alonso’s new deal says far more about Mercedes than it does Aston Martin

At the start of the new F1 season, Fernando Alonso insisted he would only need a few races and, for once regarding team his own future, the cunning Spaniard was true to his word. After just four races the 42-year-old – who is fast becoming Formula 1’s answer to Tom Brady – has committed to extending his career into his mid-40s with a “multi-year contract” at Aston Martin, signed and sealed on Thursday. Though, as Alonso himself labelled, it is a “lifetime project.”

It is somewhat curious that Alonso, a man with such raw talent but an inherent ability to rub people up the wrong way, has taken until his sixth team and 21st year in the sport to feel at home. It speaks to a man at ease and comfortable in his current position: the unequivocal No 1 driver at a team on the precipice of the leading collection of teams. And, as this new deal signifies, a team striving for more.

Ultimately, once Alonso’s dedication to his long-term love of Formula 1 (he has flirted with IndyCar and endurance racing before) was not in doubt, the decision was simple. “It was easy,” he said on Thursday. “I’m extremely excited to keep racing with this team. It was also a sense of loyalty that I wanted to express to my team.

“It could not be the end of the journey for me and Aston Martin.”

Alonso has looked revitalised ever since making the shock switch to Aston from Alpine at the end of the 2022 season. A decision derided at the time as an unwise gamble, another case of Alonso making the wrong choice, has in fact turned out to be the two-time world champion’s greatest team switch. Eight podiums last season, in a year of unprecedented Red Bull domination, speaks to that. If it wasn’t for Max Verstappen’s sparking final sector in qualifying in Monaco, his 10-year win duck could have been broken as well.

Since then, Aston have plateaued slightly. At best they are the third-quickest team currently; at worse the fifth. With Ferrari having distinguished themselves as best of the rest behind Red Bull, Aston are currently jockeying race-by-race for position in the top-10 with McLaren and Mercedes.

Fine for now – but Alonso will want more. And clearly, there is a sense within Aston and Alonso that there is more to come.

The acquisition by team owner Lawrence Stroll – father of the team’s second driver Lance Stroll – of ex-Red Bull aerodynamicist Dan Fallows, alongside Tom McCullough and Luca Furbatto, has rejuvenated the team formerly known as Racing Point. They opened a new state-of-the-art factory at Silverstone last year, with a new wind tunnel set to be completed this year.

In 2026, when new engine regulations threaten to shake-up the order of play, Aston will have Honda as an engine partner. Honda, to remind you, are currently spearheading the power unit behind Red Bull’s present domination. Alonso endured a torrid few years working with Honda at McLaren just under a decade ago but that relationship was not irreparable. In sum, Alonso believes Aston are a team going places – and Aston want Alonso to lead their charge to the top.

But Alonso’s decision speaks volumes across the paddock, most of all at Mercedes who have a 2025 seat to fill ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s impending move to Ferrari. Alonso said in the aftermath of another dampener of a weekend for the Silver Arrows in Japan that their vacant seat “does not look too attractive” for him next year. Now, Alonso has put his future where his mouth is.

Neither Fernando Alonso nor Lewis Hamilton saw their future with Mercedes (Getty Images)
Neither Fernando Alonso nor Lewis Hamilton saw their future with Mercedes (Getty Images)
Toto Wolff is still searching for a driver to fill Hamilton’s spot for 2025 (Getty Images)
Toto Wolff is still searching for a driver to fill Hamilton’s spot for 2025 (Getty Images)

There was a time gone by when a spare spot at Mercedes would be the most highly prized seat in Formula 1. Eight years of hybrid-era success speak to that; six of those saw Hamilton win the championship. But not now. Now, they are winless in nearly 17 months. Hamilton has not won in over two years. After such success, Mercedes have slumped and slumbered in this ground-effect period of regulations, left firmly in the doldrums in the wake of Adrian Newey’s rocketship at Red Bull.

Incidentally, Alonso clearly saw no future spot at Red Bull as feasible, whether that be as Verstappen’s team-mate or, less likely, the Dutchman’s replacement. As backwards as the decision seems, Sergio Perez looks increasingly likely to extend his time at the world champions.

But it’s not just Red Bull who Mercedes have fallen behind. Ferrari have stolen a march at the start of this year. McLaren – whose long-term line-up is secured with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri – have secured a podium before Mercedes. And Aston, despite possessing a clear No 2 driver, are just one point off the former titans of the sport.

How far have Mercedes have fallen, then? Quite some way. The number one option for Hamilton’s seat now looks like Carlos Sainz, who was dropped by Ferrari for 2025 irrespective of his current excellent form. Yet will Wolff want to sign up a driver overlooked by the Scuderia? The alternatives include a rapid ascension for 17-year-old Mercedes youngster Kimi Antonelli from F2, or a swoop for Alex Albon at Williams. A stunning move for Verstappen is, surely, off the cards for next year given Mercedes’ current form.

Clearly, Alonso felt he was better off staying put than taking one final punt with Toto Wolff’s beleaguered team. Long-term rival Hamilton has lost patience, exemplified by his transfer to Maranello next year. With his world-class speed and hunger for excellence, Alonso seemed the obvious choice to replace the Brit next year but the Spaniard must intrinsically believe that his dreams of a third world title have more chance of coming true at Aston than Mercedes.

More so than a sign of belief in his current outfit, Alonso’s fresh deal is a damning indictment of Mercedes’ fall from grace.