Fernando Alonso says feeling the “respect” of the paddock is more important to him than adding a third championship to his tally.
The Spaniard reacted angrily two weeks ago in Bahrain, when while he was recovering from chest injuries, former F1 driver Johnny Herbert urged him to retire.
“Actually,” Alonso told the Spanish sports daily AS in Shanghai, “after the years at Ferrari I feel I have more respect in the paddock than ever.
“I won two world championships but I have to say that the Renault was very good with reliability in that year (2005) compared to McLaren. And in the second (2016), the Michelin tyres were better than the Bridgestones.
“But now after 16 years in F1, I feel there are fewer discussions about those things and people respect me much more thanks to many races and performances I have done every week.
“Sometimes you win and sometimes not,” the 34-year-old added.
Indeed, Alonso says he is “very happy with my life right now” even though he is at McLaren-Honda, where last year in particular the performance of the car was awful.
So he played down the notion that the title is the only thing that matters in F1.
“No I don’t think so,” said Alonso. “(Gilles) Villeneuve is one of the great drivers in Ferrari history and yet … to the media it is important only to win titles.”
When pressed to explain his view, he continued: “The philosophy of the media is to win many titles, but the athlete that has the recognition and the respect around the world also thinks about other things.
“To win in this sport is more or less a matter of being in the right car at the right time,” he explained.
“When people talk about you and respect you even when you have the wrong car at the wrong time, that is more important than winning a title,” said Alonso.
“That respect, that prestige, is more than titles. Of course I would like to have more trophies at home, but it is the way it is and I would not change a single day of my career in formula one. I am very happy,” he added.
So Alonso said it would be wrong to say that leaving McLaren at the end of 2007, or Ferrari at the end of 2014, were key ‘mistakes’ in the planning of his career.
“No,” he answered. “I am sure that looking back it is always easy to find better ways or change some decisions, but if you change any of your life, you would not be the person you are now.
“The decisions I made are a reflection of my personality and it shows how I was and how I am now. And I’m happy with what I am now.
“I know I could maybe have more trophies at home or made better decisions about cars, but at the time I made those decisions I thought they were right.
“I have always followed my instincts and what makes me happy. So I cannot regret anything that happened because I think I could be in a better car.
“I have driven for Renault, McLaren-Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren-Honda and I think any driver in the world would sign for this to be his F1 career.
“Yes I could have driven for Red Bull,” he admitted, “and Mercedes as well, but for example when Michael (Schumacher) came back to F1 and signed for Mercedes it was because it was a good project, but he was out of Q3 for the last three years he was in F1.”
Alonso also hit out at the paddock notion that Ferrari may even have got a boost from his departure in 2014, as Sebastian Vettel now has his sights on the title.
“Now there is this feeling that when you leave a team it gets better, but I wish someone would explain to me why when I left Renault in 2006, they stopped winning races,” said Alonso.
“And when I left McLaren they won the title the next year with Hamilton, but nothing more.”