Fernando Alonso has hailed MotoGP riders as “heroes” during a visit to the Italian motorcycle Grand Prix at Mugello at the weekend.
The McLaren driver, who is known to be a keen fan of MotoGP, as well as Le Mans style endurance racing, leant his support to compatriots Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, who both ride for the Repsol Honda factory team.
In a pre-race interview with MotoGP’s official TV feed, Alonso, who was standing on the grid in front of raucous grandstands, described his admiration for the riders who tackled the 3.259-mile circuit in Tuscany.
He said: “It’s unbelievable, quite impressive. I went into the braking [zone] for Turn 1, [where] the bike is moving there [at] 350km/h so it’s quite impressive. They are heroes for us and it’s very impressive to watch it live. [It’s] quite different from television.”
Alonso was forced to miss the Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this year after he sustained lung injuries and a broken rib during his dramatic accident with Haas F1’s Esteban Gutierrez at the Australian Grand Prix.
In contrast, MotoGP riders regularly race with broken bones very quickly after crashing – although it should be noted that Alonso himself was keen to race in Bahrain but was overruled by the FIA’s on-site medical team.
During the same interview, the double F1 world champion explained how impressed he was by the atmosphere in Mugello ahead of the race, with nine-time motorcycling title winner and home favourite Valentino Rossi starting on pole.
He said: “It’s been a fantastic weekend so far, great atmosphere. Obviously with Valentino [on] pole position it’s been a good boost for the grandstands.”
The Italian Grand Prix was later won by Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, who triumphed over Marquez in a final drag to the line by just 0.019s seconds, as Rossi retired with an engine failure.
Alonso on Mercedes’ radar
Alonso has regularly explored the motorsport world away from F1. As well as his previous visits to MotoGP, which included a ride on a Honda bike last December, he as expressed an interest in racing the World Endurance Championship and waved the starting flag at the 2014 Le Mans 2014 Hours race.
The Spaniard still has one-and-a-half years of his current McLaren contract left to run and he will be 36 when it runs out.
Alonso was known to be keen on a switch to Mercedes as his time with Ferrari, which owns the Mugello track, drew to a close in 2014, before he signed for McLaren.
Mercedes motorsport boss, Toto Wolff recently told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that although his team’s priority was to re-sign Nico Rosberg for next season, Alonso could become an option for German marque. It was clearly a step in the negotiation process with Rosberg, who perceives himself to be in a strong position. But as with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, there is a lingering question mark about whether Hamilton and Rosberg can co-exist long term in the same team, especially after their worst collision to date, in Spain last time out.
Wolff said: “Fernando is one of the best drivers in history and I like his character, but our priority now is Nico.
“If [Rosberg] does not want to renew, then we will consider other options, like Fernando.
“[Alonso’s] age is not a problem – his speed and his motivation are still there.”
Negotiations at Mercedes are clearly intense right now, especially after the first lap collision between Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at the Spanish Grand Prix, and with the German driver still yet to sign a new deal with the team, there will be much speculation about the F1 futures of several drivers in the months to come.
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