Born Brave: from karting to F1 - Fernando Alonso: Embracing the samurai

Published on Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Born Brave: from karting to F1 - Fernando Alonso: Embracing the samurai

In partnership with Crypto.com, Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One® Team driver Fernando Alonso opens up about his biggest fear, dealing with failure, and how to be one step ahead of your rivals as he explores his affinity with Japan’s ancient, feudal samurai warriors.

 

"Bravery is not just doing crazy things. It's not just thinking that you go beyond the limit." 
Fernando Alonso

 

The definition of bravery, much like bravery itself, can be hard to find. Recklessness is an imposter, all too often mistaken for bravery. Discipline and composure are what matter when your nerve is tested – when you stand up and fight for the things and the people you care about in the face of fear.

"Bravery is when you go into battle and there is not even one percent of your head that thinks you will fail," says Fernando. "You use that hunger and that competitive feeling that you have inside to really attack harder than before. It is the only way to find what is inside you and what will drive you to the best version of yourself."

Honest. Insightful. Inspirational. In an intimate and illuminating interview presented by Crypto.com, Fernando talks about his fears, dealing with failure, and how to be one step ahead of your rivals as he explores the parallels between samurai culture and his own life, revealing the tenets that drive him forward.

 

Fernando, what is your connection with samurai culture?

I think a racing driver and a samurai are very linked. Discipline, self-confidence, no fear. We fight for only one goal, which is to win. Even dying [for samurai], it was a privilege, it was not a fear. As a racing driver, in any lap, in any moment, in any corner, there is danger. You have to be prepared for anything that may happen. You have to train. You have to be ready.

I think samurai harnessed that same spirit, using that discipline to become a better version of themselves. Whether it's a race or a battle, that discipline is key to being more prepared than you were the day before.

 

You mentioned fear. What do you fear?

My biggest fear is not doing well, not delivering, not winning.

We go to a new race, a new country, and there are a lot of expectations. I have 750 people behind me in the Aston Martin F1 Team, producing the best car possible. There are 20 people doing our pitstops, changing tyres in less than three seconds. There are the engineers, there are the strategists. Everyone is doing everything they can to put me in the best possible position, and my biggest fear is not delivering what people expect from me.

 

Have you ever felt that you've not delivered what was expected from you?

There are many moments inside the car when you feel someone else was better than you and you were not able to react. But, as a racing driver, you use that hunger inside you – that competitive spirit – to attack harder than before.

 

Do you ever doubt yourself?

Fear of failure affects your performance. It can make you slower. When you're leading the race and 10 laps from the chequered flag but there is someone faster behind you, it's natural to start thinking, 'What if I lose this race? What if I get overtaken on the last lap?'

Those thoughts are never helpful – they limit your ability to perform and be the best version of yourself – so I try to cancel them out. Doing this is a kind of bravery – having the mental strength to distance yourself from any thoughts of failure.

 

How do you deal with disappointment?

Life is about failure more than success, and you have to deal with that to come back stronger. It takes discipline. You must be prepared to analyse your failures and learn from your mistakes – this is how you become a better person. You must not view failure as a defeat. Failure, and wanting to come back from failure, is a source of motivation.

Samurai use that failure in battle, that hunger that you have inside, to train harder and go to the next battle – or next race – a little bit more prepared.

 

Can you prepare for everything?

It's impossible to be prepared for everything. Part of growing as a person is accepting that you will not always be completely prepared. You will not always be perfect. It is very difficult to be 100 per cent ready for every weekend, every race, every lap, but if you are 99.9 percent all the time, you will be one step ahead of everyone else.

 

What keeps you grounded?

In Formula One, we are living in a bubble. It's not a normal life. Real life is when you go back home and you are sat at the table with your parents and grandparents and you talk about very simple things – those kinds of moments help me reset. Family helps me keep my feet on the ground.

 

How important is loyalty to you?

Samurai were very loyal to their families – very loyal to their people. They were driven by that loyalty to their families and the people they fought for. For me, it's the same. My family, my friends: these people have been a key part of my success and longevity in Formula One.

 

You're the first Formula One driver to complete 100,000km in race conditions. Why do you keep racing?

The joy of driving keeps me coming back and keeps me in the racing world. I feel very privileged to drive Formula One cars. I've been driving since I was three years old. Almost all my life has been behind the steering wheel. It's what I feel most comfortable doing. I feel I'm at my best when I'm driving cars.

If I could choose one thing to do every time I wake up in the morning, I would keep choosing to be a Formula One driver.

 

Did you think you would be racing in Formula One for as long as you have?

I never thought I would be in Formula One that long because I never felt like I was part of the circus: all the glamour, all the show, everything else that goes on at the circuit beyond the racing. But, if a younger version of me could see me driving at the highest level in Formula One at the age of 42, he would not be surprised because, even back then, I knew how much I loved racing. Racing in Formula One is the thing I like to do most. It's the best category in the world. It's the pinnacle of motorsport.

As long as I feel fast, why stop?

 

Can you win again in Formula One?

Every race that I start, even if we are not strong enough to fight for the win, there is one percent of me that when I close the visor and there is the green light, I still hope that that is the day that I will win.
99 percent of the time you fail, but the one time that you succeed is worth the wait and is worth all the work that you put in. The desire to win, it is always there. I had that from day one and I still have the same level right now.

I will not stop soon.

 

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