Fernando Alonso’s return to F1 after two years out of the sport has been one of the biggest stories of the season, with fans keen to see whether he’ll be the same relentless racer of old. The evidence from Bahrain, where he qualified P9 and raced well within the top 10, is that he’s lost none of his sharpness – and according to friend and countryman Pedro de la Rosa that’s what makes the two-time world champion so special.
Speaking to Damon Hill and Tom Clarkson on the new-look F1 Nation podcast, De la Rosa - who worked with Alonso at McLaren and Ferrari - said the 39-year-old remained as focussed now as he was in the early 2000s when he first began his F1 career.
“That’s his strength really – Fernando thinks about motor racing 24 hours a day. Everyone says the same about a champion, about a racer, but actually when you say it about Fernando you mean it,” said De la Rosa.
“I’ve been with him when he’s not racing in Formula 1 or in WEC [World Endurance Championship] and he’s thinking about ‘we should do a karting race together again’. He’s always thinking ‘what can I race this weekend?’.
“This is quite unique – I’ve been with many drivers. Myself, the weekend I had off I wanted to do other things – I wanted to be at home, I wanted to see my kids, I wanted to be on the bike. But for him it’s not his work, it’s his passion. He’s a passionate man and I think that’s his biggest strength – he doesn’t have any other distractions in his life. He’s a committed man, 100%.”