Fernando Alonso is back! The two-time F1 world champion will be returning to the Formula One grid in 2021 with Renault, the team has officially confirmed. Alonso has been signed on a two-year contract until 2022.
Alonso had retired from F1 in 2018, but with recent shake-ups in the driver market, Renault has managed to lure the Spaniard to return to F1. At Renault, Alonso will be replacing Daniel Ricciardo from next year, since the Australian will be moving out of the team to join Alonso’s previous employer, McLaren. Alonso will team up with Esteban Ocon.
While Alonso’s comeback is surprising, it isn’t really a shocking development. Ever since Ricciardo announced his move to McLaren, Alonso was the hot favourite to replace him at Renault. Sure, the Spaniard retired in 2018, but it was mostly due to an underperforming car at McLaren. With the new technical rules coming into force from 2022, Alonso definitely sees an opportunity to be competitive again, and as a result, partnering up with Renault makes sense. Plus, both Alonso and Renault have a bit of history together since Alonso clinched his two world titles with the French team in 2005 and 2006.
Commenting on the development, Cyril Abiteboul, Renault F1 team principal, said, ‘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.’
Having said that, this won’t be Alonso’s second stint with Renault in F1. He also raced for them in 2008 and 2009 after leaving McLaren, but the partnership wasn’t as fruitful as it was the first time around. In 2010, Alonso moved to Ferrari and raced for the Italian outfit until 2014. His stint at Ferrari won him no championships, but he finished runner-up to Sebastian Vettel in 2010, 2012 and 2013. He left Ferrari for McLaren in 2015 and stayed there until retirement. His achievements at McLaren aren't anything to write home about. That said, Alonso retired with 32 F1 race wins and 22 pole positions to his name in 2018.
In the last two years, Alonso kept himself busy with other racing series. In 2018 and 2019, he became a two-time winner at Le Mans 24 Hours with Toyota, while he also competed in Indianapolis 500 and Dakar Rally 2020.
Alonso’s return in F1 is definitely going to have divided opinions among F1 fans and critics, however, there’s no denying that he’s one of the best drivers in the current era of Formula One. And if Renault manages to deliver a competitive package to the Spaniard, you can certainly expect Alonso to set off fireworks at the track!