Fernando Alonso comes to Alpine with high hopes for his return to Formula One, but the Spaniard should not expect...
In the year in which he turns 40, Fernando Alonso returns to Formula 1 after an absence of two seasons. He does so at Alpine, the new brand name of the Renault F1 team with which he had his greatest successes. He wants to hunt for a third world title with them. If that succeeds, he will be the first person over 40 to achieve this since Jack Brabham in 1966.
|Team||Alpine F1 team|
The timing of Alonso's return is special in several ways. Not only does he do this in the year that turns 40, but it is also exactly 20 years ago that he made his debut in Formula 1. After a title in the Euro Open by Nissan (Linked to Renault) and a good season in Formula 3000, he was allowed to test the F1 at Minardi in 2001.
He showed good speed from time to time in that first season, but Flavio Briatore, his manager and team principal at Renault, thought it was still a bit too early to give his protégé a race seat. In 2002, the Spaniard was therefore allowed to work for the French manufacturer as a test and reserve driver. It wasn't until Jenson Button moved to BAR for 2003 that Alonso got the chance to really show his talent to the world.
That first season was an immediate success. With two pole positions and a win, Alonso surpassed all the results the modern Renault works team had achieved since their Benetton time with Schumacher. Renault was on the up and Alonso was the ideal man to take them by the hand.
This ultimately resulted in winning the world title in 2005 and 2006, first defeating Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren, who were at the top of their game, and then Michael Schumacher and Ferrari.
Team changes go wrong for Alonso
After his two world titles, a series of decisions followed that may have cost him several world titles. He first switched to McLaren in 2007. Given the speed of the McLaren that year, that was a good choice, but he ran into Lewis Hamilton.
And so he returned to Renault and Briatore in 2008. Here he could control the entire team and he liked it that way. There is no better example of this than the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Nelson Piquet Jr., Alonso's young teammate, was then urged to crash. Piquet obeyed and Alonso was able to win the race because of that.
A pretty desperate move, but it was now clear that Renault had lost the magic of a few years earlier. For 2010 it seemed like an excellent choice for Alonso to drive for Ferrari. What followed were five frustrating years, during which he almost became world champion in 2010 and 2012, but each time fell just short of beating Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing.
When the hybrid era arrived in 2014, Ferrari had gone backwards and the relationship between Alonso and the team had become quite sour. So in 2015, he opted for an adventure with McLaren and new engine supplier Honda. That project, unfortunately, turned out to be a drama for all parties and Alonso turned his back on F1 at the end of 2018.
Alonso has temporarily halted the hunt for 'Triple Crown' in 2021
Alonso focused on achieving the 'Triple Crown' (winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500). He was well on his way, as in 2017 he was already leading and leading Indy in 2018 he won Le Mans. For 2020, the Dakar Rally also caught his eye.
For a while, it seemed that Alonso had definitely left F1 behind, but during the 2020 season, the rumours grew that he would still be back at Renault. Daniel Ricciardo had signed for McLaren and so there was a spot available for 2021 with the team from Enstone. The rumours turned out to be correct and under the banner of Alpine, he now hopes to relive old times.
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