Alonso returns back to F1 with Renault

Double world champion Fernando Alonso is coming back to Formula 1 by signing a new deal with Renault.

The Spaniard, who won his only world titles for the French squad in 2005 and 2006, last raced in Formula 1 at the end of 2018 season when he decided that the sport was no longer an attractive option for him.

Alonso will take over the pace of Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who has signed to join McLaren as replacement for the Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz Jr.

Renault did not confirm the exact length of Alonso’s deal beyond saying that it is ‘for the upcoming seasons’. Alonso has talked about having high ambitions for the 2022 season, when the sport embarks on a new regulations era.

His return to Renault will be his third outing at the team. He originally joined the outfit as a test driver in 2002, before being promoted to a race seat the following year.

Alonso won his first race for the team in the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix and was the main figurehead to its most successful campaigns in 2005 and 2006.

Following his championship wins, Alonso quit to join McLaren in 2007 but his relationship there turned sour especially with Ron Dennis and he returned to Renault for the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

Although he won races, including that controversial one at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix when teammate Nelson Piquet Jr deliberately crashed, the team could not deliver the title he was after.

Alonso subsequently moved to Scuderia Ferrari from 2010 to 2014 – unable to win titles there, before making a return to McLaren from 2015.

But his switch to McLaren failed to produce the kind of results he hoped for as he endured two difficult years with Honda power unit prior to a final frustrating campaign with Renault engines as McLaren’s car did not live up to expectations.

By the end of 2018, Alonso had grown tired of the demands of Formula 1 and a lack of good results, but his time away from it since then has given him new motivation to have one last assault.

His long-time manager Flavio Briatore said earlier this year that Alonso had been ‘detoxed’ by being away from the sport for a while.

Since leaving Formula 1, Alonso has won the FIA World Endurance Championship for Toyota – including back-to-back victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours – and earlier this year competed in the Dakar Rally for the Japanese manufacturer.

He has also tried to win the Indianapolis 500 race, but failed to qualify last year although is having another attempt later this season.

So welcome back Fernando Alonso. His ‘goodbye’ from Formula 1 after  the 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was just temporary as the double title winner is back. Best wishes with Renault in 2021 champ.

4 thoughts to “Alonso returns back to F1 with Renault”

  1. The reasoning behind Alonso and Renault’s blockbuster ‘family reunion’. analysis.

    Fernando Alonso is a superstar, so it’s no wonder the news that he is making a sensational return to Formula 1 next year has sent shockwaves around the motorsport world. It’s quite the story – but having spent two years out of the sport the double world champion’s return raises many questions…

    Why come back now?
    When Alonso left F1 at the end of 2018, after four torrid and disappointing years with McLaren, he said it was not because he couldn’t get a drive at a top team – though in reality, there were no seats at the big teams available – but rather because he wanted to take on bigger challenges outside of Formula 1.

    He enjoyed some success, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours for a second successive time with Toyota in 2019 and the overall WEC championship, but he failed to qualify for the Indy 500 that year – and thus another chance of achieving the fabled ‘Triple Crown’ slipped by. His debut in the Dakar Rally was impressive, but having seen Carlos Sainz Snr triumph this year aged 58, he’ll know time is on his side to conquer that challenge.

    But aside from the one-off challenges, people close to Alonso say not only has he found himself with plenty of time on his hands, but he has realised that other motorsports do not offer him the challenge he needs at this stage of his career. Right now, he wants Formula 1. He needs Formula 1. And he still feels like he can deliver in Formula 1.

    Why Renault?
    Alonso’s career in Formula 1 has been intertwined with Renault, the French manufacturer giving him the car with which he secured his first pole, first F1 victory and both his F1 World Championships. He says they are ‘family’.

    It’s the team that offered him a sanctuary when things fell apart during his first stint at McLaren in 2007, allowing him to recharge and rebuild before embarking on a long stint at Ferrari where he came oh so close to winning a third title on three occasions before leaving somewhat acrimoniously. And now Renault are offering him another chance, in what will be an unprecidented third stint with the French manufacturer.

    Alonso has retained strong links with Renault management since last leaving the team in 2009, and over the years has stayed in touch and always left the door open to a potential return. But the stars have never aligned, mainly because Renault didn’t have a car capable of fighting for the championship.

    That remains the case – but this time, it’s different. Alonso needs a drive, the new rules in 2022 could shake things up and he’s willing to compromise. Talks between him and the French manufacturer became more frequent than a simple catch-up just before Christmas.

    When Daniel Ricciardo announced he was off to McLaren for 2021, those talks became more serious – but it is believed Renault weren’t throwing all their eggs into one basket, talking to a series of drivers and their managers, including the likes of Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg with Sebastian Vettel believed to be of interest, too.

    But at the start of this month, talks accelerated. Renault made the decision that Alonso was their man and within the last week, he signed on the dotted line.

    Will it work?
    If this relationship had started straight after Alonso departed McLaren, probably not. But things are different now and they are uniting at a time when they both need each other equally. It’s similar to when Felipe Massa joined Williams, or Honda joined AlphaTauri. If they were going to do it at all, now is the time.

    Renault say he will join from 2021, without revealing the length of the deal. It is believed to be for more than one season, giving Alonso the opportunity to bed in for a year and then work on and race the new generation of F1 cars to be launched for the 2022 F1 campaign. It’s also in his interests to deliver, to prove to naysayers that he is indeed one of the greats, even if his stats aren’t as strong as many believe they could and should be.

    By the end of 2022, he’ll be 41 – the same age as former team mate Kimi Raikkonen will be at the end of this campaign – but two years younger than Michael Schumacher was in his final campaign – himself in a second stint – with Mercedes.

    He may not have the outright speed that he had early in his career, but there’s no doubt he still had ability to challenge at the front when he called it a day at the end of 2018. That tenacious, relentless competitor was still there.

    Renault rate his team mate Esteban Ocon, but they appreciate that he is still quite young. What they needed was experience – and Alonso has that in abundance – and a big name after setting the bar high signing Ricciardo.

    He knows many inside the team well already, which will aid his integration, has this whole year to get his feet back under the table, and is a strong character who won’t pull any punches – which is what many feel Renault could do with right now, having slumped from fourth in 2018 to fifth in 2019.

    But in taking on those positive aspects, they know they will have to ride out the potential negative aspects, which will rise to the fore if Renault do not deliver. Alonso won’t hold back in his criticism, and that would put pressure on Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul.

    What impact will this have on Ricciardo?
    As it stands, there’s no plan to put Alonso in a race seat this season and this announcement is not intended to be a sign of Ricciardo getting pushed out early, ahead of his departure to McLaren for next season.

    However, it is not outside the realms of possibilities that Alonso will run the car in practice sessions, so he can start to get a feel for the modern day machinery once more, especially as the cars will be fundamentally similar next year.

    There’s no doubt he’ll be pushing to get time in the car, with tests in old-spec cars to get him up to speed a real possibility too.

    But for now, the focus is on the fact he has committed to the team for the next couple of years, which will boost the morale of the team who will have taken a hit when Ricciardo decided to leave, and enjoy the fact they have brought one of F1’s big names back. They can work out the finer details later.

  2. Fernando Alonso will be 39 when he makes his Formula 1 return with Renault next year, putting him among the oldest on the grid, but the Spaniard doesn’t think his age will have slowed him down as he sets his sights on more glory with the French manufacturer.

    The Spaniard scored his first Grand Prix win with Renault in 2003, before guiding their cars to World Championship glory in 2005 and 2006 – his only two title successes. His return to Renault will be his third stint at the outfit, 20 years after he made his F1 debut with Minardi.

    “I saw Formula 1 for many years,” said Alonso, during a video call with media following the announcement. “The stopwatch is the only thing that matters, not the age. I never had a classification on the race based on the passport, my date of birth. It’s always on stopwatch. Hopefully we’re still fast.”

    Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul joined Alonso on the call and said part of Alonso’s role will be to support the Renault Sport Academy in conjunction with helping drive the team up the grid with his extensive experience.

    “I saw Formula 1 for many years,” said Alonso, during a video call with media following the announcement. “The stopwatch is the only thing that matters, not the age. I never had a classification on the race based on the passport, my date of birth. It’s always on stopwatch. Hopefully we’re still fast.”

    Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul joined Alonso on the call and said part of Alonso’s role will be to support the Renault Sport Academy in conjunction with helping drive the team up the grid with his extensive experience.

    “I will try to do my best, and try and help the team be a world champion team. If that’s with me driving, fantastic but if that’s with a future younger driver, I will feel proud anyway. That’s my mission, I will try my best for the team.”

    Alonso returns to F1 with his podium tally just short of a century and he admits adding to his trophy cabinet is among his main aims.

    “The team wants and has the means to get back on the podium, as do I,” he said.

    Alonso has continued to drive since leaving F1, including winning the World Endurance Championship, attempting to qualify for the Indy 500 and contesting the Dakar Rally, but when it became clear an F1 return could be on the cards, he accelerated his fitness regime.

    “I have to rebuild my body,” said Alonso. “I had to start very specific fitness preparations, I started in February, so now I’m 100%. We did a couple of fitness tests 15 days ago and I had the best results ever in my career, so I’m extremely motivated, happy and stronger than ever.”


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