The F1 world was shocked on Monday morning when Aston Martin announced that Fernando Alonso will partner Lance Stroll for 2023, adding to the week of shocks with Sebastian Vettel announcing his retirement from F1 ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

It’s a bold statement from Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll to have signed a driver of Alonso’s calibre with the Spaniard still performing at the peak of his powers and the perfect replacement for Vettel. While Aston Martin have struggled for form in 2022, Stroll has invested heavily into the team with title glory in his sights in the next five years - surely success is on the horizon for the team?

Aston Martin’s Silverstone base is being developed at a rapid rate with state-of-the-art facilities, while a number of highly-rated team personnel have signed in the last 12 months, most notably Dan Fallows from Red Bull. 

On the surface, it’s a step backwards for Alonso. Aston Martin sit ninth in the constructors’ championship on just 20 points, compared to Alpine in fourth on 99 points.

Why it makes sense for Alonso and Aston Martin

Even at 41, Alonso remains one of F1’s best talents, and in the right machinery, could take it to the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. His determination, mentality and incredible racecraft make him a commodity for any F1 team on the grid.

Alonso may have burned some bridges in the paddock, and many teams up and down the grid already have a star driver, the two-time champion’s second stint in F1 has been slightly different than his first. Think back to his outbursts over team radio during his second stint with McLaren-Honda - there’s been none of that with Alpine.

Alonso wants to win another title and challenge for race victories. While this probably won’t be achievable with Aston Martin, it wouldn’t be with Alpine either. 

After two years away competing in the World Endurance Championship, Indy 500 and Dakar Rally, Alonso returned to F1 realising that no other motorsport category comes close and thus he seems more content with his current situation.

A move to Aston Martin looks strange when you look at the championship standings, but here’s why it isn’t. It is understood that Alpine were only prepared to give Alonso a one-year deal (when he wanted two years) as a stop-gap for reigning F2 champion Oscar Piastri. 

Aston Martin were prepared to give Alonso a multi-year deal and with the investment Stroll has put into the team, it’s bound to come good at some point explaining why the 41-year-old has decided to join for next year.

From Aston Martin’s perspective, they’re signing one of the best drivers on the grid.

Vettel showed flashes of his former self but frequent mistakes and an inability to dominate Stroll should mean that Alonso is an upgrade, particularly when it comes to consistency and overall delivery on a Sunday.

Another bad team move for Alonso?

Over nine years since his last F1 victory, Alonso has been haunted by some untimely team switches that have meant he’s not won the races or titles his talent deserves. A toxic relationship with the McLaren management and the infamous spy-gate scandal led him to his early departure at the end of 2007, returning to Renault.

With Ferrari set in his sights for 2010, Alonso spent two seasons with Renault but it transpired some years later that Red Bull had offered Alonso a deal for 2009. 2009 was the start of Red Bull’s emergence as an F1 front-runner with Vettel finishing runner-up to Jenson Button before taking four consecutive titles.

It’s hard to be too harsh on Alonso for not jumping to Red Bull, who finished behind junior team Toro Rosso in 2008, but his breakdown in relationship with McLaren and engine supplier Mercedes cost him further success. Alonso narrowly missed out on the 2010 and 2012 titles with Ferrari before leaving the team for McLaren-Honda in 2015.

A big gamble, no doubt, but the Spaniard grew tired of Ferrari’s inability to deliver a title-winning car with the Scuderia relying on Alonso’s brilliance rather than having the best car in the paddock. Four torrid years with McLaren led to a two-year sabbatical before returning with Alpine in 2021.

Alonso’s latest and probably his final switch is to Aston Martin, a team ninth in the constructors’ championship, only ahead of Williams. Will it be another case of the wrong team at the wrong time for Alonso, especially if Alpine get it right next year?

Enhancing his legacy

Whatever happens during his spell with Aston Martin, Alonso’s legacy will remain intact, and will probably be enhanced. Alonso’s tenaciousness and ability to get the most out of subpar machinery has been a recurring theme throughout his F1 career.

With Renault, Ferrari, McLaren and Alpine, Alonso has put in some of the greatest performances of his F1 career, even without winning major prizes. That theme will likely continue with Aston Martin as they look to move up the pecking order.

Even if Alonso doesn’t add another grand prix victory or elusive third title to his name, his reputation and legacy will only be enhanced by the continuation of the dazzling displays we are seeing in 2022.

Here’s hoping Aston Martin get their act together to give Alonso the send-off he deserves however unlikely that might be.