(GMM) Fernando Alonso says he remembers the great Michael Schumacher as a “tough guy” who was “very cold” as they sparred for the world championships almost two decades ago.
Alonso, then in his early 20s, broke Schumacher’s impressive run of drivers’ titles in 2005 and 2006 – and he said he had prepared for that moment for years.
“Rival, rivalry, but an inspiration too,” the Spaniard, now 42, told the DAZN documentary Fernando-Revelado when asked to recall his memories of Schumacher.
“Apart from being the toughest rival I’ve ever had, you have to remember that for any child you need a reference. Michael was already in F1 when I was karting, and just as I approached my debut in F1, Michael began to dominate the category.
“I was in Formula Nissan, Formula 300, where I shared the same tracks as F1, and Michael was all the races so I start to notice him – how he acts, how he responds, how he dresses, how he drives.
“He is an inspiration that you take mental notes of and, suddenly, you find yourself wheel to wheel with him, fighting every Sunday,” Alonso explained. “It was very special.
“For years I had been preparing for that moment to arrive: always thinking ‘I have to improve at this and at this’. Little things that I was doing in 2003 and 2004, in the shadows. What happened in 2005 was not sudden, it had been a task of years.
“In motorsport you are always looking at 6 months or a year ahead.”
When Alonso and Schumacher were finally wheel-to-wheel in 2005, the then Renault driver said he discovered up close just how determined the great German was to beat him.
“Michael was a really tough guy in everything – not only on the track at a sporting level, but also outside. He was very cold, always keeping his distance and always trying to intimidate.
“He was a driver with whom it was very difficult to have a conversation,” Alonso recalls. “You would go to the driver briefing, and he was looking at you a little strange.
“You knew there was a rivalry, but he took it literally. I had that competitive spirit too and we clashed often, but with respect. But it was a tough rivalry.”