The gentleman racer: Fernando Alonso speaks to EDGAR

The Dubai resident tells us about life away from the paddock, including his passion for cycling and the museum that charts his 30-year motorsport career.

March 21, 2016

Many Formula 1 drivers divide opinion, but Fernando Alonso is one that tends to unite fans. An all-round good guy, the Spaniard is now entering the twilight of his career and his status as one of the sport’s iconic figures has endeared him further to Grand Prix fans. 

A respected and well-liked driver on the Formula One circuit, Alonso turns 35 in July and is one of the oldest drivers on the grid – only Kimi Räikkönen, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button are older.

He’s regarded as a supremely talented driver who has been let down by the car since his first world title more than ten years ago. The Spaniard, who has a house in Dubai, would dearly love to add a third title to his trophy cabinet and one last title charge would be a fairytale story for F1 fans.

EDGAR spoke to Alonso ahead of the 2016 season. The easy going Spaniard talked about the coming campaign, life away from the track – including his passion for cycling – and the museum he has carefully curated. 

Who was your mentor when you entered F1?

My idols were the drivers I watched race when I was growing up: guys like Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. They were guys with incredible reputations – not just on the track, but off it too. I think Formula 1 needs larger-than-life characters – I was definitely influenced by those guys. 

You've spoken about the restrictions that are making F1 boring – what do you think needs to change?

To be clear, I don’t think F1 is boring – not at all – but I think the engineers and rule-makers are definitely on-track to improve the formula for the future. 

Is the sport in a good place right now?

Formula 1 is always changing – that’s what makes it such a unique sport. Even from one race to the next, the car is different so I am always optimistic about the future of the sport. 

The media scrutiny in F1 is intense – have you got better at handling it as you have got older?

I think you learn through your mistakes to be a bit more cautious, yes. It’s strange to see the words you’ve spoken with a particular meaning get interpreted into something else. That feels weird, so, certainly, I know when to speak out and when to stay silent! 

Do you find fame difficult?

I think it’s something that you learn to manage. You won’t see me in nightclubs, or at premieres, or fashion events. I like to keep my private life just that: private. And, I find that living in Dubai gives me the perfect level of privacy – people don’t interfere in my life and are very respectful. I like it like that. 

If you could be world class at any other sport, what sport would you choose?

If you were to ask me the question when I was a kid, I’d have said a footballer. If you’re asking me now, it would be a pro cyclist. 

Yes, we heard that you love cycling. What attracts you to the sport?

I love its purity. I love the fact that the more pain you put into it, the more pleasurable it becomes! I also love the sport’s roots are so clearly on display – the Spring Classics are raw, pure cycling events, and the Grand Tours have a century of history behind them.

Also, you can just walk up to the side of the road to watch a cycle race – there’s no barrier to entry, which is incredibly liberating. Also, I have to admit, the technology is also incredible – I love the bicycle, and seeing a proper racing bike, ridden by a pro, is always a thrill. 

Are there any comparisons between cycling and Formula 1?

In many ways, it’s the opposite of Formula 1 – cycling is a sport where the individual is hugely influential, where your abilities transcend the machinery you use.

Do you hope one day to enter a team in the Tour de France?

It’s no secret that I have ambitions in that area, but it’s not an easy project to get off the ground. No news yet, I’m afraid. 

Tell us about the museum you founded – why did you create it?

There was an opportunity and a thought to do something. We did something originally in Madrid a few years ago, and it felt right to do something in Oviedo (Fernando’s hometown). And if we were going to do something, why not do it right and do it properly? So we tried really hard to make it perfect, and the karting academy added to that. It took it from being something that only looked back to something that also looked forward, which was very important to me. 

What are your favourite pieces inside?

There are two: my first go-kart, which was painted in red and white McLaren colours, and the R25 (above left), the car in which I won my first World Championship. 

What was the last movie you saw at the cinema?

Most of the movies I see are on planes, unfortunately. I can’t remember the last time I went to the movies. The last film I saw on a plane was the Mad Max film, Fury Road. It was crazy and incredible.

How about a career in Hollywood when you retire from Formula 1?

You won’t see me there, that’s for sure!