But would his qualities also be enough for the fight for the World Cup crown? Like Hans-Joachim trapped in exclusive interview with Eurosport He emphasizes that Alonso would not have to hide from the world champion and dominator Max Verstappen in a duel on equal terms. “The way Alonso drives, the way he fights, is largely impeccable and also moves the team forward. I would say he would be very, very close to Verstappen,” said Stuck, who is very happy to see the former champion Spain. We would see it at Red Bull.
While Alonso is experiencing an unexpected level in the 2023 season, Charles Leclerc is facing another disaster. As has often happened in recent years, Ferrari is not out of the woods; From the Scuderia’s point of view, the fight for the title could not be further away.
“The fact that Leclerc is going through this disappointing period at Ferrari is, of course, bad luck,” says Stuck about the Monegasque. According to the two-time Le Mans winner, Leclerc can’t give up, and a look at Stuck’s past shows how to properly deal with setbacks.
Mr. Stuck, Charles Leclerc’s failure on the presentation lap in São Paulo is part of a long period of embarrassing performances by Ferrari in recent years. After the race, Leclerc even showed dark humor and said that he might have to make a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Lourdes. Can we talk now about a curse at Ferrari?
Hans Joaquin Stuck: From a curse? No I dont think so. You have to imagine this: this walk along the knife’s edge doesn’t leave you much room for maneuver. If you’re a tenth of a second slower, you naturally try to go that tenth faster, but then you take off. This is a quality that Max Verstappen and few others have mastered to the point of perfection. That’s the art. Of course, if you are aware, like Leclerc, that you are fast, but make mistakes from time to time, you put more pressure on yourself. You start thinking, and that doesn’t help. Leclerc simply has to gain that “looseness” and self-confidence that what he is doing is 100 percent correct. That is the beginning of success. I know the situation very well from my time. If you have a teammate who suddenly drives faster than you or is simply better, then you put pressure on yourself and of course you try to make up the difference with more effort. But first you must master this art. By the time you start thinking, it’s already too late. Leclerc has to work on himself to be able to regain the self-confidence that he is one of the best, which, in my opinion, he is.
When he moved on in 2019, Leclerc was known at Ferrari as ‘Il Predestinato’, German for ‘the prophesied one’. Five seasons later he has five victories, his teammate Max Verstappen is light years away. Was Ferrari the wrong decision for his career?
Piece: If Ferrari wants you, you can’t say no. This needs to be emphasized. Maybe I’m too traditionalist. There is probably nothing better than driving for Ferrari. The fact that Leclerc is going through this disappointing period at Ferrari is, of course, bad luck. He probably put a lot of pressure on himself because he knew that Ferrari was the opportunity of a lifetime for him. But there are also other well-known drivers who failed at Ferrari.
Whether in Bahrain 2019, Monaco 2021, France 2022 or now in Brazil, it always seems that Leclerc is unlucky in important moments. How did you overcome those setbacks in his career?
Piece: These are two pairs of boots. If you have a mechanical error, there is nothing you can do anyway. Then all you can do is get angry and curse. But if you make a mistake yourself, it’s a completely different process. During my time at Audi I had some notable people like Frank Biela in my team. Frank was younger and, in many ways, simply better. But that made me follow his lead and I thought, ‘Damn! What that guy does, I should be able to do. I tried things during training, but quickly realized it wasn’t working. In such situations you also realize where the limits of your own talent are. And that too must be accepted. If I know that Biela became faster again in training, then I won’t risk anything and follow him as best I can and try to learn something. You can learn a lot by following in your footsteps and at some point you might take the opportunity to do something even better. That has always been a very important point in my life, orienting myself towards others.
Pursue improvement. An unusual approach.
Piece: There is a great current example that I don’t understand at all. Then I might go crazy. Sergio Pérez was driving behind Fernando Alonso in Brazil and did not understand that Alonso was going much faster in the corner towards the long straight. I have to say: Is it stupid? He is blind? With all his skills…it’s not worth it. When Alonso demonstrates that he is driving on the outside of the corner and therefore he is so fast that Perez doesn’t even have enough DRS to pass… and still chooses a different line. I do not understand that. We can only hope that someone else comes to Red Bull. I think it would be great if they put Alonso in Red Bull. And the rumors are there. He strongly denies it, but there may be a reason for it.
Do you mean his possible partner Max Verstappen?
Piece: Yes, there is no need to talk about Max Verstappen. (laughs) This is the man of the hour right now, there’s no doubt about it. But if you look at Alonso whistling on the asphalt, I would like to see him in the Red Bull.
So let’s expand the thought game a bit: What would you expect Alonso to do in the same car as Verstappen?
Piece: The way Alonso drives, the way he fights, is largely impeccable and also moves the team forward. I would say that he would be very, very close to Verstappen. I am convinced of that. Closer than Perez in any case, that’s no doubt for me. There are a handful of people I trust to drive at Verstappen’s level, and Alonso is one hundred percent of them. I just think the guy is great. We know each other very well. He has the motivation, he enjoys it. Furthermore, he has the maturity to use his abilities perfectly at the right time. That’s really impressive.
There is an interesting statistic about Alonso. If the Spaniard had accumulated eleven more points in the right places in his career, he would be a five-time world champion. Will this bad luck and his disappointing spell at McLaren deprive him of his status as one of the greatest of all time?
Piece: Of course, if you look back carefully, you will always find something. But she just didn’t win the title, for whatever reason. There’s no point in worrying about it anymore. For me, he is definitely one of the top 5 competing in Formula 1. That is completely out of the question.
And where would you place it in the history of Formula 1?
Piece: History is paper. Of course you may have won as many races as Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna or Alain Prost. That’s good, but it doesn’t count right now. When you finish your degree you will be able to say that you have joined the ranks of the greats. But if you’re still active, there’s still room for maneuver. In my opinion, these things should only be discussed after the driver has resigned.
Alonso’s age is often highlighted. At the age of 60 he officially ended his active career in motor sport, but in the recent past he continued to regularly participate in races. How difficult is it to stay at this level?
Piece: Last year I was runner-up in Europe in GT2 with KTM together with his co-driver Kris Rosenberger; We only missed out on the title by three points. But I haven’t run in the last two years, which hurts a lot. But we are already planning other things. Because for me the end has not yet been reached. This is still very important to me. When I raced for KTM, my boys were there too. The first race took place in Monza three years ago. Then Johannes called me and said, ‘Dad, we’re missing a driver here.’ You feel like?’ Of course I agreed, but I explained that only after training would I decide whether I would ride or not. He had kept me in shape in the numerous races of the previous years. Then I traveled to Monza, did 15 laps and was only a tenth of a second slower than my eldest son. Of course he threw up, you can imagine. Then Kris Rosenberger and I started, came third at Monza and missed out on the championship by just three points in six races. In old age you have to face this situation intelligently, and I will too, I hope when I get back in the car as soon as possible. If you don’t feel well, stop immediately! But of course this is different for every driver. In the case of Fernando Alonso and Nico Hülkenberg it is also seen that age is not an obstacle. I myself have learned that experience does not pay off, quite the opposite! Experience gives the pilot a great advantage. You know routes, potholes, rain lines, you even react to certain noises. A young driver cannot live this experience.
In my opinion, Alonso in particular could achieve a lot at Red Bull.
Let’s go back to Pérez for a moment. Is the Red Bull chapter over for him?
Piece: Pérez is doing a great job and is clearly number two. This situation obviously helps Red Bull because there is calm within the team. But if Red Bull gets a driver like Alonso, the team can improve a little. At some point there will come a time when the competition will become tighter again. So it would be an advantage to have two very hot irons in the fire. In my opinion, Alonso in particular could achieve a lot at Red Bull.
Keyword performance: Max Verstappen and Red Bull can hardly save themselves from records at the moment. The Dutchman achieved the highest winning percentage in a season in Brazil. 17 wins in 20 races: what superlatives can you think of?
Piece: Not many. For me, Verstappen is currently the best in this field, by far. I often see slow movements and there is no one who implements his own skills more consistently than Verstappen. Of course, he also has the right car. One of the great advantages of him is that he can adapt his car perfectly to his abilities on the track. If you put Verstappen in a Mercedes or Ferrari, it would be interesting to see if he could still beat Perez.
An interesting thinking game…
Piece: Alonso at Red Bull, Verstappen at Ferrari – that would be really exciting! But those thoughts are the essence of sport.