Alonso may quit if F1 adds races; Hamilton calls Canadian GP “exceptional”

Alonso may quit if F1 adds races; Hamilton calls Canadian GP “exceptional”

MONTREAL — Veteran driver Fernando Alonso will quit Formula One racing if the world’s top series opts to expand to 25 races per year.

The two-time F1 champion from Spain said Thursday he is busy enough with a 20-race schedule.

“I started when the calendar was 16 races, plus tests,” he said. “Now we keep increasing the races year after year and I think we are at a number that is quite demanding already.

“Between the preparation, the sponsor events, the tests, the commitments, plus 20 or 21 races it is already enough. If there are 25 or 26 races maybe it’s good in some aspects but in others, how demanding becomes your life? At this point of my career I consider a good quality of life more important than to do more seasons in F1. So if the calendar stays between 20 or 21, the range we know from the last couple of years, I will be happy to continue. If it is increasing like NASCAR, which has 40 or 50 races, it isn’t for me.”

The 35-year-old Alonso, who debuted in F1 in 2001, took a brief break to try his hand at the Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago. He was running at or near the front until his engine blew late in the race.

“The race was amazing,” he said. “The experience of qualifying was amazing — all four laps at the limit.

“Then the race was strategically very different from Formula One and it was long as well, three hours forty five minutes in the car. It was a new thing for me, but I felt competitive. I was good in qualifying. I was leading the biggest race in the world for a while, so I’m really happy.”

He said Indy showed him he can win in series other than F1 if he ever decides to leave.

A career decision looms in September when he expects to decide whether to stay at McLaren Honda, a once-powerful team now at the bottom of constructors’ standings. He said he signed with McLaren four years ago believing they had a chance at a championship and will need to see significant progress made on the car if he is to stay.

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It was a decade ago that Lewis Hamilton posted his first F1 win at the Canadian Grand Prix. He has won the race five times since then, including the last two years with Mercedes AMG.

It is one of his favourite stops on the F1 circuit.

“Formula One’s made up of a lot of great countries and great races, but there are the exceptional races and there are only a few of them and this race is in that few,” he said. “Having the amazing experience in 2007 and looking down from the podium and seeing my father with just the biggest smile I’d ever seen in my life on his face was a very proud moment.

“I’ve grown a lot with Canada and Montreal and the following has grown as well. So the love I get when I come here is spectacular and you definitely feel the energy. It’s such a great race. The weather’s generally really good. The circuit is incredible and unique to its own. I love being here. I try being here a bit early because the food’s great and the people are great. I generally get left alone.”

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While it is the 50th anniversary of the first Canadian Grand Prix, it is only the 47th edition. The race was not held for various reasons in 1975, 1987 and 2009.

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Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve has had changes for safety purposes since last year. Sections of old guard rail have been replaced with debris fencing on five turns, while a debris fence was installed along the wall from the final turn up to the finish line. Asphalt has replaced gravel at turn eight and Grass-crete at turn 14. A second gate was installed on pit wall and there are also new tire barriers in six areas around the course.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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