Fernando Alonso said it was special to share the track with a Schumacher again after driving alongside old rival Michael’s 20-year-old son Mick, who was turning his first Formula 1 laps for Ferrari on the first day of open testing in Bahrain.
Schumacher Jr. was driving a modern F1 car for the first time as part of his role with the Ferrari Driver Academy, carrying out duties on Tuesday in Bahrain just two days after finishing his first Formula 2 race.
Alonso was also making his first appearance in a 2019 car as he carried out tire testing for Pirelli, and said later he liked having his name alongside Schumacher’s on the timing screens once again.
“Obviously I didn’t meet him on-track today, but it was nice to see on the screen this morning ‘M. Schumacher’ and ‘Alonso’. They were together at the beginning,” Alonso said. “If it was Michael or Mick, you’d never know if you saw the first moment.
“Obviously he has a great future – he did very well in the smaller categories. I think this year he’s quite important in F2. There are some top drivers [there] with a lot of experience, so it’s not going to be an easy season for him, I guess.
“Hopefully we can see him succeed there, and hopefully in Formula 1 as well. It’s probably going to be good for the sport. The Schumacher family is always going to be something special in any Formula 1 car.”
When it was put to Alonso that driving alongside the younger Schumacher must make him feel old after having fought for titles against his father, seven-time world champion Michael, he replied, “No, I have been racing already with a Verstappen!
“I raced with Jos the Boss for two years, and then I was racing with Max for four. That is something. And there are some guys older than me still, like Kimi [Raikkonen].”
Focusing on his own testing laps, Alonso says McLaren’s 2019 car feels like a significant improvement on the MCL33 chassis in which he finished his F1 career last season, and believes it can fight for fourth in the constructors’ championship.
“It’s always nice because these cars are the fastest cars in the world, so as a driver it’s nice to feel the speed and the adrenaline. Even if there was a little bit of rain in the middle of the day, it was a positive day.
“Obviously [the new car] is a step forward in every aspect. I think it has more grip, the car is less draggy on the straights. The engine is a step better as well. Overall, as a package, I think the car is on the right direction.
“Obviously we saw in the first two races there is still another step to take if you want to compete with the top three teams. Hopefully [McLaren] can consolidate as a fourth team or leading the midfield, together with Haas, that’s the target. I felt that [possibility] in the car as well.”