Alonso has scored four podiums in the opening five races of F1 2023, leaving him a comfortable third in the drivers’ championship behind the two Red Bulls.

It’s been a remarkable start to the year for Alonso, who at 41, is comfortably the oldest driver on the grid.

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Schumacher famously returned to F1 with Mercedes after three seasons away in 2010 but struggled to replicate his pre-retirement form.

While the Mercedes package was often fourth-fastest at best during his three years with the team, teammate Nico Rosberg often had the upper hand.

Speaking on the latest episode of the Formula Success podcast, Coulthard explained the reasons behind Alonso’s success.

“When Alonso stepped away from F1 the first time, he went straight into sports cars, IndyCar, he did the Dakar, he’s got a kart track and you see him out testing his karts at his facility in Spain,” Coulthard said.

“So the uninterrupted being in the mode of being a racing driver, and all of the things that that keeps sharp in your mind. There’s the expression, ‘Don’t let the old man in’.

“If you let the old man or the old woman in that, ultimately, is what you end up becoming. But, if you fight against that and you keep a young spirit for as long as nature will allow…

“I think, in comparison to Michael, who stopped and no longer was racing, then went and played in motorbikes and then had a crash and broke a vertebra, and then came back to F1 three years after he’d originally stopped – he could still do go through the motions. He was still an incredible individual, but he just wasn’t as good as he had been before he was in his 40s and the clock had moved.

“So I think it was that uninterrupted nature of Fernando’s time away from F1, as we saw with Kimi Raikkonen [who sat out 2010 and ’11] as well – he went away rallying.”