Just when I thought he was out, they pull him back in. The rumours had been brewing ever since Ricciardo signed with McLaren but now it’s official: Alonso is taking that vacant seat at Renault next season.
The two-time F1 World Champion had bid adieu to F1 at the end of the 2018 season. Now, he’ll be coming back to the team that helped him win his titles but at a time when the car is a long way away from challenging the front runners. There is little reason to doubt Alonso’s racing credentials, especially combined with the experience of age. However, we all witnessed his cranky downfall at McLaren, especially during their troublesome Honda years.
While I was sad to see him leave the sport, I was excited to see his attempt to chase the Triple Crown. He’s already 66% done (F1 win at Monaco, WEC win at 24 Hours of Le Mans) but hasn’t been able to get the final objective – winning the Indy500. To see him return to Formula 1 for a team that is visibly off the pace and seems to have a toxic work environment doesn’t feel promising. But I guess there really is nothing quite like the F1 experience, especially for someone like Alonso. Here’s what he had to say about his return to the grid:
Renault is my family, my fondest memories in Formula One with my two World Championship titles, but I’m now looking ahead. It’s a great source of pride and with an immense emotion I’m returning to the team that gave me my chance at the start of my career and which now gives me the opportunity to return to the highest level. I have principles and ambitions in line with the team’s project. Their progress this winter gives credibility to the objectives for the 2022 season and I will share all my racing experience with everyone from the engineers to the mechanics and my team-mates. The team wants and has the means to get back on the podium, as do I.Fernando Alonso
It seems like a good deal for Renault though to get a high-level experienced driver alongside Esteban Ocon. The team can rely on Alonso’s help to develop the car for both the 2021 and 2022 seasons as well as give Ocon some guidance as a senior of the sport. Here’s what the face of Renault’s F1 team had to say about it:
The signing of Fernando Alonso is part of Groupe Renault’s plan to continue its commitment to F1 and to return to the top of the field. His presence in our team is a formidable asset on the sporting level but also for the brand to which he is very attached. The strength of the bond between him, the team and the fans make him a natural choice. In addition to past successes, it is a bold mutual choice as well as a project for the future. His experience and determination will enable us to get the best out of each other to take the team towards the excellence that modern Formula 1 demands. He will also bring to our team, which has grown very fast, a culture of racing and winning to overcome hurdles together. Alongside Esteban, his mission will be to help Renault DP World F1 Team prepare for the 2022 season in the best possible conditions.Cyril Abiteboul, MD Renault Sport Racing
Renault seems to have made the same pitch to Fernando that they sold to Daniel. But I can see the Spaniard being a better fit with the team, especially given their past success unlike Alonso’s situation with McLaren. In an ideal world, Alonso’s return to F1 with the team that allowed him to win his first world title (by beating Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari of all things) makes for quite the fairy tale scenario and I think so does Amazon Prime based on this tweet trailer for his comeback:
A Fernando Alonso docuseries on his later years of more diverse forms of motorsport is definitely exciting. Not exactly a contender to the Netflix Drive To Survive series but will surely be worth a watch. Maybe this is one of the reasons why Renault agreed to sign him – his PR appeal and the sheer marketing potential if they can get put together a decent car under him. In a recent promo clip of a clean-shaven Alonso in the current Renault F1 colours, the racer also stated the new regulations as an incentive to come back, that the focus is returning to the driver. Here’s the full clip:
I’m still conflicted about Alonso taking up that Renault seat as it closes a lot of alternate possibilities. The biggest name in the driver market right now is Sebastian Vettel who is currently out of a seat and with the Renault option out of the equation, it narrows down his choices to one team for 2021: Mercedes. Fernando’s return also closes yet another opportunity for a younger driver to arrive on the big stage. Is the talent pool really that dry or are all the best options already signed by Mercedes and Red Bull?
Do you think we will see the iconic Alonso-Renault on the podium in the next couple of seasons? Does this mean that Vettel will be taking a gap year from F1 or are we just waiting for him to announce his retirement from the sport? Share your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to the Auto Loons for more updates.