Alpine advisor Alain Prost says he has been pleasantly surprised by Fernando Alonso's attitude since he returned to Formula 1, claiming that the Spaniard "changed a lot" during his break from the sport.
Alonso gained a reputation for being a disruptive character earlier in his career, with spells at McLaren and Ferrari ending sourly after he failed to build on his two world titles with Renault in the mid-2000s.
His career hit a new low when he made a return to McLaren for the team's renewed engine partnership with Honda in 2015, resulting in several seasons towards the back of the grid and more intra-team frustration.
"He has changed the way he behaves"
Alonso took a break from F1 at the end of the 2018 season to explore other opportunities, continuing his World Endurance Championship and IndyCar pursuits, while also sampling the Dakar Rally.
After much speculation, he secured a comeback with Alpine for 2021, and Prost has noticed some significant differences in his approach.
"I think [with] Fernando it was a big surprise," four-time World Champion Prost told the In The Fast Lane podcast. "I mean, especially for me.
"We talked a lot in the last two years before he decided to come back to Formula 1. I must say, it's a very good surprise, the way he behaves.
"He told me, he told everyone, that he's changed, and it is true that he has changed a lot. He has changed the way behaves, the way he is in the team.
"It is a big, big, big help for the whole team, the way he is working, the way he is thinking.
"He is very professional. He is always thinking about the car, himself, how we can improve the team. Even if you are fighting for a point, two points, you know, that is Fernando."
Age is just a number
Alonso will turn 41 during the 2022 season, when he hopes to join the title battle, but Prost added that he has no concerns about his driver's age, especially given his recent performances.
"The age? We don't think about the age at the moment, you know," added Prost. "He is like a young guy, and it's a dream having Fernando in the team.
"But [being] outside Formula 1 for a few years and [coming] back, I cannot imagine that Fernando would be so competitive and so good with the team.
"What is good also is if you look back at what he has [done] across the season, he said, 'I'm going to need four or five races'. We always said, let's wait for the French Grand Prix to see the performance of Fernando.
"That is exactly what happened and he is getting better and better."
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