It has finally been confirmed that Fernando Alonso will be returning to the F1 grid next year with Renault after leaving the sport at the end of 2018.
The news has been rumoured for some time and with Daniel Ricciardo’s announcement earlier in the year that he would be leaving Renault to join McLaren for 2021, those rumours have only been getting stronger.
The Spaniard will be 39 when he returns to the sport, and this will be his third separate stint with the Renault team, having driven for them between 2003-06 and 2008-09. In addition to his stints at Renault, Alonso has also driven for Minardi, with whom he made his debut in 2001, McLaren (2007 & 2015-18) and Ferrari (2010-14).
It was his first stint with Renault that was his most successful time in Formula One, winning his first race in 2003 and then going on to become the youngest ever World Champion in 2005 beating Kimi Raikkonen and then following it up in 2006 with another world championship, making him the youngest ever double world champion at that point, having beaten 7 time world champion Michael Schumacher to the top spot. His first championship in 2005 effectively ended the vice like grip that Schumacher and Ferrari had on the sport since 2000.
Alonso made his debut in Formula One in 2001, driving for the Minardi team. Alongside his stints at Renault, he has driven for McLaren for two stints (2007 and 2015-18) and Ferrari (2010-14). Alonso’s goal was to always win the elusive third championship he craved, but Ferrari failed to provide a championship winning car during a time when Red Bull had risen to become the sport’s dominant team. His two stints at McLaren yielded little success; his first in 2007 was controversial when he was alongside the then young rookie Lewis Hamilton and his second stint was full of unreliability, disappointment and anguish.
McLaren reunited with Honda for 2015 and Alonso, wanting to get back to the top step of the podium, felt that moving back to McLaren would give him his best chance of winning that third title. It wasn’t to be, however, and McLaren and Honda never really gelled, producing slower and unreliable cars that struggled to compete with the midfield, let alone fight at the front for wins.
After 4 years and not a lot of progress at McLaren, he called it a day in Formula One, but he refused to rule out a return to the sport, be it either as a driver or in another role.
His return to F1 has divided opinion in a big way.
Some are happy he is returning to the grid, as he is a fantastic driver and he still has plenty to give. Others however, are not convinced.
Renault do have a young driver’s program, with drivers Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard currently competing in F1’s feeder series, Formula 2. There are also lots of other younger drivers on the grid who may look to move teams, but Alonso has the experience, and the speed to help Renault achieve their goal of getting back to the front of the grid.
He is a proven talent. He fought with the best and fastest drivers during his early career, racing alongside the likes of Schumacher, Raikkonen, David Coulthard and Juan Pablo Montoya and fought against the sports young up-and-comers like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
He is a double world champion and knows how to develop a team to get them working as best as they can. His no-nonsense attitude and straight-talking personality has had a negative effect in the past, so hopefully this time it won’t cause any issues between him and the team he achieved so much with in the past.
With rule changes coming in for the 2022 season, Alonso could be a crucial asset to the team and help them get the best out of the car for the new regulations.
He has overseen many changes in his long and rewarding career in Formula One, so he has a wealth of knowledge, plus the obvious speed and talent, that any team would crave and I am so excited for his return. Plus, his team radios were absolute gold in his last few seasons, so that’s another bonus!
Even though this season has only just begun due to the coronavirus pandemic, I cannot wait for next season to see how the grid shapes up and what Alonso can bring back to the sport.