A huge portion of Hungarian Formula 1 fans support two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who turns 42 this year. But why do the Spanish driver enjoy such popularity in a country that “only” hosts a race a year?
Fernando Alonso may celebrate his 42nd birthday this year, but he’s still in a great shape. He still has that speed and resilience that won him two world championship titles, which could be four with just a touch more luck.
The Spanish Samurai could deal a huge blow this year as well. After a risky move to Aston Martin from Alpine – where he previously won his two world titles – seems to pay off big times, with the British squad making huge gains.
Alonso could challenge for podiums and wins this year. This prospect might make Hungarian F1 fans go absolutely ballistic. But why do Hungarian F1 fans support Alonso instead of other younger F1 superstars like Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, or the new British superstar Lando Norris?
First, we must understand the differences between who watches Formula 1 globally and in Hungary. Recently – with the invaluable help of Netflix’s docudrama series Drive to Survive more and more young people started to watch F1. The growth is especially noticeable if we take a look at the gender of new supporters.
Female participants in F1’s recent Global Fan Survey almost doubled, with ESPN also reporting a record-high share of females in their audience. That change, however, is slow in Hungary, as the audience still mostly consists of middle-aged males.
Younger drivers like Norris likes to talk about the mental health issues of sportsman, while others like Lewis Hamilton started to embrace their position to talk about human rights issues.
These topics do not resonate well with the more conservative Hungarian audience, which likes to see sports and politics as separate entities.
Instead of dealing with intangible ideas in a sporting environment, Alonso lives for one thing: racing. He does not need to draw strength from a cause close to his heart, his sheer willpower and motivation are enough for him to keep going at 41.
That aspect of his character clearly appeals to the Hungarian audience. Also, let’s not forget that Alonso is the last driver who is contemporary for a large chunk of Hungarian F1 fans. Fernando Alonso reminds people of simpler times.
The fact that he does not comment on any issues other drivers are concerned with and fully focuses on racing, for Hungarians he embodies the perfect archetype of an F1 driver. He is the last Mohican of an era, where motorsport did not have such a pronounced social responsibility.