Guess who’s back. Back again. Twenty months after waving goodbye to Formula 1, it’s been confirmed that double world champion Fernando Alonso will make a sensational racing return with Renault for 2021, partnering Esteban Ocon.
The Spaniard will become the first driver to have three separate stints with a single Formula 1 team, having raced for Renault between 2003-06 (when he won two world titles), 08-09 and now from 2021 onwards.
Renault did not reveal the length of the deal, but it is believed to run for two seasons, allowing Alonso to use his immense experience to help develop the Anglo-French team’s challenger for F1’s radical new rules in 2022, before racing the machine himself.
It is a bold statement of intent from Renault, who were left without a star driver when Daniel Ricciardo announced he would be leaving the project at the end of the year for McLaren, and highlights their commitment to fighting back to the front.
“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,” said Abiteboul. “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. His experience and determination will enable us to get the best out of each other to take the team towards the excellence that modern Formula 1 demands.
“Alongside Esteban, his mission will be to help Renault DP World F1 Team prepare for the 2022 season in the best possible conditions.”
Since leaving Formula 1 at the end of 2018, Alonso has won the Le Mans 24 Hours for a second time, won the WEC world championship, failed to qualify for the Indy 500 and finished a solid 13th in the famous Dakar Rally. But it was a return to F1 that he really craved – and podiums are now the target.
“Renault is my family, my fondest memories in Formula 1 with my two World Championship titles, but I’m now looking ahead,” said Alonso. “It’s a great source of pride and with an immense emotion I’m returning to the team that gave me my chance at the start of my career and which now gives me the opportunity to return to the highest level.
“I have principles and ambitions in line with the team’s project. Their progress this winter gives credibility to the objectives for the 2022 season and I will share all my racing experience with everyone from the engineers to the mechanics and my team-mates. The team wants and has the means to get back on the podium, as do I.”
In a storied career which has also included stints at McLaren and Ferrari, Alonso has not only won two world championships, he has also finished runner-up three times. His 32 victories place him sixth on the all-time list, and he’s also sixth all-time in podium finishes with 97. Meanwhile, with 311 starts, only Rubens Barrichello (322) and Kimi Raikkonen (313) have been involved in more Grands Prix.
“It’s great news that two time World Champion, Fernando Alonso, will return to Formula 1 with Renault next year,” said Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey. “He is an incredible talent and we can’t wait to have him back on the grid in 2021.”