Alonso brushes off career-move critics: ‘I think I’m doing OK’

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Fernando Alonso has brushed off criticism regarding his team moves through his Formula 1 career, believing he is “doing OK” despite having not won a world title in 11 years.

Alonso took back-to-back F1 drivers’ championships in 2005 and 2006 with Renault, but subsequent stints with McLaren, Renault (again), Ferrari and McLaren (again) have failed to yield a third title.

Alonso enjoyed near-misses in 2007, 2010 and 2012, but now finds himself battling towards the back of the field amid ongoing power unit problems for McLaren’s partner, Honda.

The Spaniard failed to score any points through the opening five races of the season before missing the Monaco Grand Prix so he could enter the 101st Indianapolis 500, where he retired after leading 27 laps following an engine failure.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday in the UK, Alonso stressed that winning a third world title remains his priority, but added that he does not understand criticism regarding perceived wrong team moves through his time in F1 as he has still enjoyed some success.

“My first priority is Formula One and to win my third world championship. My second priority was to enjoy the experience of Indy 500, and I managed to do that,” Alonso said.

“I read that people are sad. They want to see me at the front more, winning more. But when I went to Indy it was a totally different environment and the people still respected me a lot. They expected something to happen on the track.

“I made each move from one team to another because I felt it was right in my heart. And if you go back 17 or 18 years, I was traveling in my dad’s van to go-kart races in Italy.

“I could have been working in a supermarket at home in Oviedo. And now I come to America and the people follow me everywhere.”

“I don’t agree with: ‘What a shame. Alonso should have done this or that’.

“I have won 97 podiums and two titles. I think I’m doing OK.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing

Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”