12:53 Back in February, Fernando Alonso told Sky Sports that he would make a decision about any F1 return during the summer
The return of an F1 icon – and a boost for Renault
Alonso left McLaren at the end of 2018 after four disappointing and often-turbulent seasons and walked away from the F1 grid to pursue other racing disciplines, including the Indianapolis 500 and World Endurance Championship – where he became a world champion again, with Toyota.
The Spaniard is making a third attempt at Indy with McLaren’s new full-time team at the rescheduled Brickyard race in August. A win at Indianapolis would mean Alonso becomes just the second driver after Graham Hill to claim the ‘Triple Crown’ of victories at the Monaco GP, Le Mans 24 Hours and Indy 500.
But he never fully shut the door on an F1 comeback, despite turning 39 later this month and already competing in more than 300 grands prix since his debut aged 19 with Minardi in 2001.
Alonso has won 32 grands prix across three teams – Renault, McLaren and Ferrari – but found himself thwarted in attempts to win a third world crown, coming within a handful of points in each of 2007, 2010 and 2012.
He last won a race in 2013, with his most-recent podium achieved a year later.
His final years with McLaren, three of which powered by Honda, saw Alonso grow frustrated with a lack of opportunities to break the stranglehold enjoyed by Mercedes, but the Spaniard still dominated his team-mates.
The signing of the two-time world champion will act as an important boost for Renault’s F1 project after seven-time race winner and current team leader Ricciardo in May opted to switch to rivals McLaren for next season.
Renault, who slipped to fifth in last year’s Constructors’ Championship after a promising fourth-place finish the year before, have reiterated their F1 commitment in recent weeks and are targeting the introduction of a budget cap in 2021 and the delayed technical overhaul of cars in 2022 to close the gap on the top three teams.
Alonso’s return will also end speculation that Sebastian Vettel, dropped by Ferrari for 2021 to make way for McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, could join the team next to Ocon.
Kimi Raikkonen is currently F1’s oldest driver at 40, with the Finn taking his own two-year F1 ‘sabbatical’ earlier in his career.
‘He’s one of the all-time greats’: Martin Brundle’s verdict on Alonso comeback news
“It’s good news that Renault are looking forward because we’re concerned about any teams that might be thinking about leaving Formula 1. So that’s very good news.
“Fernando Alonso picks a car up and carries it, and so is very exciting to watch. He does turn 39 on the 29th of this month and we’ve got a lot of young kids in there at the moment in their early 20s getting the job done. We thought there was a changing of the guard, and we were losing the older drivers.
“He will certainly drive the wheels off it, but whether the car is fast enough and whether he’s still got the pace to match the youngsters now remains to be seen. But I suspect he’ll have the pace.
“Fernando is pretty hot to handle, he’s a tough cookie to have around, but I think he’ll come back highly motivated and it’s going to be fascinating. Where does he stand up against the likes of Verstappen and Leclerc if, indeed, he’s got a car to go up against them?”
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