Alonso testing plan in the works, says Renault boss Abiteboul
The French team's principal also adressed their future driver's visits to the factories.
When Alonso last raced at Renault in 2009, the F1 team was a rather different one. And, while there remains some semblance of similitude from that team, born from the ashes of Benetton, the re-formed squad, which began its involvement with Renault's acquisition of the Lotus outfit (which, in its own right was the rebadged Renault team from when it sold in 2010) in 2016, remains foreign to the Spaniard.
And so, to refresh his connection with Renault, Alonso visited both of the French team's factories recently, all in an effort to reacquaint himself with the remaining team members. It was during this visit that Renault F1 boss Abiteboul says Alonso bore witness to the immense development the team have been through, now a reimagined version of the team he exited a decade ago in a daring move to Ferrari.
"On a broader perspective first we saw a Fernando that’s happy to be back not yet in action but back in the team environment, in particular a team that he knows and where he obviously has good souvenirs – but souvenirs are not a reflection of what’s going to happen so we need also to be forward looking," said Abiteboul.
"Being on the Viry side – because I can’t travel in the UK myself – I was not in the UK but I can tell you that he was really impressed by all the changes in Viry, all the new people, the energy, the drive, the determination in Viry that there is in developing a new PU for what is now 2022. It was supposed to be ’21 but it’s shifting back a year.
"Obviously I’m biased when I say that but it’s something that is extremely important to us, so see Fernando and to see his pride and the excitement in his eyes. He’s also been a witness to all the changes in Enstone – but a nice building is not again a statement of what’s coming. So, we just need to work very hard to make sure he has a car that he wants and also that he deserves."
In speaking about the two-time F1 champion's visit to the factory, Abiteboul withheld the detail of whether or not he might have used the simulator. The Frenchman stated that their simulator is not yet competitive relative to those of rival teams.
However, the utilization of the simulator would have been a productive step towards getting comfortable once again in an F1 car after his two-season hiatus. Testing availabilities are limited in 2020 for various reasons, but both Renault and the 32-time race winner are working to get permission from the governing body.
Despite Alonso's veteran status, the team even applied for a young drivers' test, and a tentative plan to get him back into the cockpit awaits confirmation and clarification. "One thing that I can say is that he’s definitely keen on getting back behind the steering wheel, so we’ll see that. We are building the programme," said Abiteboul.
"There is a couple of opportunities within, obviously, the restriction of the sporting regulation. Things like filming days that we’ve not done so far, there is a post-season test that I have already commented on – we’ll see where we get there. We also have a two-years old car programme that we can run pretty much anywhere and he will probably do a bit of that also. So, you’ll see him in action. I can’t say here where and when exactly yet," Abiteboul divulged.
[This story was written by me for FormulaRapida, and edited by Darshan Chokhani]