Fernando Alonso believes the growing popularity of Formula 1 has led to a dwindling appreciation of drivers from past eras, saying many new fans “don’t know much” about the sport.
After racing in other classes at the Dakar Rally and the Indianapolis 500, the two-time F1 champion made a dazzling return to the series in 2021, having given up his seat at McLaren at the end of the 2018 season.
The 40-year-old has shown no signs of literally and figuratively slowing down, currently sitting 10th in the drivers’ standings in a mediocre Alpine and matching team-mate Esteban Ocon for pace.
Alonso believes that despite his own quality as a driver, he and other drivers have faced the negative consequences of the influx of new fans fueled by Netflix in F1.
“I think the perception from the outside or the feeling towards me has changed, from time to time,” he told The Race. “And in 2007 [the year after his second F1 title]maybe people had a perception of what I was as a driver or as a person.”
He suggested that changed when he spent five seasons at Ferrari from 2010 to 2014.
“Now I think the fans that we have now, there are new fans and in a way – and I don’t want to disrespect them – but they don’t know much about Formula 1,” Alonso said.
“They are more like football fans, where they just follow the results, whoever wins does the best. And whoever is last is not at Formula 1 level.
“They don’t understand much about the performance of the car and the package you need, so you’re more on a sort of roller coaster of feeling, of perception, of what people feel about you.
Alonso has been unlucky not to pick up more points in recent outings, with a double stoppage in Austria arguably costing him a second consecutive top-five finish.
He did, however, concede that his front row position in the wet in Canada was important in the context of his comeback and change of heart.
“It meant a lot because when you decide to come back, you have to put some things in life – family, friends again – and devote yourself fully to the work you are doing, to the trips, to the physical aspect, to the aspect mental, everything and the pressure you feel in your shoulders,” he said.
“Because you are Fernando Alonso, and everyone will be watching you if you’re okay.”