Fernando Alonso's quest for a third crown
This article will analyse Fernando Alonso's impending Formula One return to the Renault, soon-to-be Alpine Team. Can he finally fulfil his dream of capturing a third world title?
The first Formula One Career
Fernando Alonso is undisputedly one of F1’s greatest drivers. A two-time champion, with 32 wins, 22 poles and 97 podiums to his credit. However, it could have been so much more. He lost the 2007 title by just one point, had he not crashed in Fuji, for example he would already be a three-time champion. In 2010 and 2012, he again narrowly missed out in cars that had not place to be competing for the championship against the dominant Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel. Further success in his first career was perhaps hindered by some of his team choices. With the benefit of hindsight, despite the politics within the team he should have stayed at McLaren beyond 2007, as 2008 would have been another title-winning opportunity. He also had the chance of moving to Red Bull in 2009 following David Coulthard’s retirement. Having said that, he is placed sixth on the all-time winners F1 list. Very few drivers have ever reached the heights that Fernando has, but this is Fernando Alonso. He is relentless in his pursuit for victory and continued success.
When Fernando left it was clear that he still had a lot left to give Formula One. The 2018 Baku GP demonstrated that he still has the desire and hunger, even in a relatively uncompetitive car. He managed to finish P7 after having limped back to the pits with a heavily damaged car following a first-lap collision. It became remarkable when it was discovered after the race that he had lost according to Eric Boullier “20 points of downforce, more or less- so half a second a lap”. Fernando still has the potential for another championship challenge if a number of factors come together for him. Save Lewis Hamilton, he will be pitted against new rivals this time in the form of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. It will be experience versus youth. How exciting that would be for Formula One.
Can he replicate his previous success?
Alonso will be enter his forties in 2021, and by the time he lines up on the grid for the new season he will already have been out of Formula One for over two years. Two years is a very long time in Formula One due to its constantly evolving nature. Inactivity had a detrimental impact on Michael Schumacher’s return to F1, but then look at Kimi Raikkonen- he was almost immediately on the pace for Lotus after his hiatus from the sport.
Fernando is clearly taking his return very seriously, with it being reported that he is in constant contact with the Renault team and has already made a number of visits to the factory to acclimatise himself back into the world of F1 and the demands of being a world-class driver. He is clearly doing everything he can to ensure that he hits the ground running next season .
Can Renault/Alpine deliver?
As ever in Formula One, success is very much dependent on the car. Renault is a team that has made some big improvements this season. The team is currently embroiled in the fight for 3rd place in the Constructors’ standings with McLaren and Racing Point. Their current star driver, Daniel Ricciardo has taken a number of 4th place finishes, including taking the fastest lap at the Belgium Grand Prix. Renault is on an upward trajectory, and with the technical regulations remaining stable next season, they will look to close the gap on Red Bull. Fernando is very much aware of the Renault’s current status in F1’s pecking order, with his next best opportunity being in 2022 when the technical regulations are completely overhauled.
Fernando Alonso is very well-known for being a demanding driver, putting his team under intense pressure to deliver a competitive car for him. However, this did not work at Ferrari and at McLaren Honda. Alonso’s new contract length was not disclosed, but it is believed to be for two seasons. If Alpine does not live up to Alonso’s expectations in 2022, then he could call time again on his relationship with the Enstone outfit. Alonso’s F1 stay this time around is likely to be very much dependent on the amount of patience that he has left to commit to a project which may be aimed more to the medium-term. What we know for certain at this stage is that Fernando Alonso will not be leaving a stone unturned to have one final shot at becoming a triple F1 champion to join greats such as Ayrton Senna and Sir Jackie Stewart in the history books.