Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer says Fernando Alonso decided to move to Aston Martin for 2023 because he wanted a guarantee of a longer contract.
Alonso surprised many in the F1 paddock when it was announced on the Monday after the Hungarian Grand Prix that the Spaniard would leave Alpine and join Aston Martin for 2023, replacing the retiring Sebastian Vettel.
The announcement came as a shock to many, as Alonso had been thought to be on the cusp of signing a contract extension with Alpine.
Szafnauer admitted that he had said goodbye to Alonso after the Hungarian weekend thinking that the Spaniard would re-sign with Alpine, and said it was the first time he had been on the receiving end of such an abrupt about-face from an F1 driver.
"It was the first time that I experienced something like this, for sure," Szafnauer told Spanish outlet El Confidencial.
"Although I'm not completely surprised, because I've experienced other situations and stories from both sides, from the driver's side and from the teams' side.
"But, in my case, I had never experienced anything like that."
Viewed by others:
Alonso 'wanted a guarantee of more time'
Rumours had suggested that Alpine were only willing to give the 41-year-old Alonso a one-year extension, as the French outfit had had plans to promote reserve driver Oscar Piastri to a race seat.
Szafnauer added that Alonso's decision to move was likely swayed by Aston Martin offering a longer contract than Alpine were willing to give the Spaniard.
"For Alonso, a long-term commitment from the team was very important," said Szafnauer.
"I think one of the keys for Fernando was the extension of the contract. He is performing at a very high level and I told him that if he continued at that level, next year we would surely continue, we would be crazy not to do it."
Szafnauer cited Alonso's age, and the looming prospect of a decline in his abilities, as reasons for Alpine's hesitancy to commit to a longer deal, referencing Michael Schumacher's struggles on his F1 comeback between 2010 and 2012.
"For everyone, there comes a time when age affects your psychological abilities, your eyes, your brain, your muscles, your nervous system," Szafnauer added.
"Schumacher, at 42, was beaten by [Nico] Rosberg. At 38, it wouldn't have happened. And it happens to all of us – football players, snooker players, cricket players.
"At a certain age, players are still good, but they can't do it like when they were younger.
"For this reason, we thought that with Fernando it was a year, plus a year, plus a year. And he wanted a guarantee of more time."
F1 Podcast: Did Ferrari snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once again?
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth discuss the key topics from the Hungarian Grand Prix, including Ferrari's botched tyre strategy for Charles Leclerc.