Alonso Set To Come Home To His Most Winning Outfit In 2021
Fernando Alonso and Renault Formula 1 team have been dancing around the return of the Spaniard since shortly after the exit of their former Red Bull ace/soon to be McLaren ace Daniel Ricciardo. But no one has really given any serious tells until now.
Motorsport was one of the first to break the news but it again was from unnamed sources. This time it was from Benson. It wasn’t long before other outlets began subquoting eachother leading to the same rumor mill we are used to seeing.
But the rumors seemed legit this time. Here was Benson’s original tweet from earlier today breaking the news:
Alonso set to return to F1 with Renault in 2021 https://t.co/w8YR0sTcZ9— Andrew Benson (@andrewbensonf1) July 7, 2020
And as of Wednesday morning, the rumors turned out to be true. Renault have confirmed the move of the 2x WDC to Renault for the 2021 season.
OFFICIAL NEWS— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) July 8, 2020
🏁 Fernando Alonso joins Renault DP World F1 Team 🏁
Renault DP World F1 Team is pleased to confirm Fernando Alonso alongside Esteban Ocon in its driver line-up for the 2021 season.
👉 https://t.co/yjnnGHh8Yb #RSspirit @alo_oficial @OconEsteban pic.twitter.com/Qe0WfBazzN
Seeing as how this move has caught some people by surprise, it makes sense to go through in depth why a move like this makes so much so for so many involved and why having such a talented, exciting, and sometimes controversial driver like Alonso back in the paddock full time is equal parts excited and disheartening for fans.
There’s no shortage of leading voices in motorsport who agree with this move – past & present alike. I only draw attention to these statements in this article to highlight that they are being made at every level from every possible angle.
One of the interesting fun facts is that Ocon has connected history with Alonso, albeit, briefly. Of all the drivers in the helmet swap ritual, Ocon has only ever traded with Fernando Alonso. He has recently come out in favor of a return of the Spaniard back to the French outfit by saying:
“My personal choice has no relation to what the team is going to do. I have a great relationship with Fernando. The helmet I have and the only swap I did in between the drivers was with him. He was the one with Michael [Schumacher], his fights back in the day, that gave me the love for the sport. I don’t know if he’s going to join or not with us, but definitely if he could come back, I would be very happy.”
Top Ferrari brass of days past have also come out in favor of Fernando Alonso Renault F1 move. Stefano Domenicali was quotes as saying:
“There are fantastic young drivers on the market, but Fernando would take it to a different level. Of course he can be stronger with a good car, with a very fast car, but Fernando would be an asset to Formula 1 if he would come back.”
While we’re on the topic of former bosses, Zak Brown has also come out supporting this:
“I spoke to Fernando the other day and I don’t think anything is 100 percent certain yet. However, if I would be at the head of Renault, I would choose Alonso. It is a big name, he is very fast and already has a connection with the team. As far as I’m concerned it’s a ‘no-brainer…”
And to top it all off, Cyril himself have shown interest in acquiring Fernando’s services saying in the past:
“There are several options, Alonso is one of them, but there are several excellent drivers available for 2021. We will take the time to think because it is an extremely important decision.”
The list goes on an on. The point is, many people see a Fernando Alonso Renault F1 move as a smart one and nearly all of them cite things other than pace of the car. If you read closely, they all talk about what this does for Formula 1 and the benefit Alonso as a package yields overall.
Objections To A Return Of Alonso To Renault F1
Let’s handle the objections as to why Alonso would never go to Renault. That way you’ll be more receptive to my arguments as to why Fernando Alonso Renault F1 move actually does make a good mount of sense.
“Fernando wouldn’t consider a losing seat”
Well, you’d be wrong. He’s done it before.
Not just once...
Fernando Alonso left the safety of the double title and his team to go to McLaren only to be disrupted by a kid from Stevenage. Some rookie named Lewis Hamilton – ever heard of him? A grueling battle ensued followed by a crushing blow of defeat on countback to the green Hamilton. He’d make a swift exit for his old stomping grounds after just one single year at McLaren. I’m sure the. fantastic tale of the Formula 1 Spygate Controversy did him no favors.
Fernando made an exit from the Scuderia after being defeated by Sebastian Vettel four straight years. He landed in his former team’s arms as the Woking based outfit would struggle in Alonso’s time.
We good there? NEXT.
No but seriously.
When it comes to Alonso, I’m not sure where this idea came from. For Fernando it’s never solely been about titles, it’s about legacy. I mean, the guy came back to a 2008 Renault team that only scored a combined 15 points more than his personal points tally in alone in 2007.
And his return to McLaren was off the back of Button and Magnussen’s 2014 season that produced 2 lonely podiums; and it just so happened to at the same circuit in Melbourne. As for Alonso, he’s always seemed open to taking chances on a seat if it means it might pan out and there’s more performance than initilly meets the eye.
- It paid off in 2005.
- It nearly paid off in 2007.
- You can argue it worked in 2010 at Ferrari. It just so happened that Vettel was nearly unbeatable.
- He was just a little too early for it to pay off at McLaren in 2015.
Mark Webber was on F1 nation podcast riffing about his former rival and he really hit the nail on the head:
“We know Fernando is extraordinary. He’s had an insane career, but he’s not at his peak anymore, it’ll be harder for him to do what he did in the past. A Fernando at 9 out of 10 is clearly still good for someone to have. But Alonso is a serial winner and [being] mid-pack is what he left Formula 1 for.”
While I agree this was true in 2018, things have slightly changed in 24 months. I’m not exactly sure how much Alonso has left in him to give in the way of professionally competing in such a dangerous sport, but at some point he’s going to begin to prioritize his exit opportunities.
Renault have been adamant of their future in F1. The interim CEO said just a short month ago the following:
“F1, we said publicly, and we confirm, that we intend to stay in Formula 1. Actually the news about new regulations, new cap, in terms of investment, is very good for us, because we had as you know less investment in this area compared to some of our competitors, which were spending a lot of money. So, F1 we are here, and we stay in Formula 1.”
There’s no doubt Alonso’s driving ability is nearly matched by his political savvy inside an organization, for better or for worse. It seems like a perfect fit for Alonso to slide into an executive or long time consultative role with the team he’s won titles with and always found a good degree of comfortability with.
E.g., Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen, and the late Niki Lauda.
This keeps him close to the action and allows him to maintain influence in a sport he’s dedicated his life to. It also leaves the door open allowing him to drive in other series like Indy should he fail to cap his triple crown this august 23.
Speaking of driving, when the regulations change, they’ll swing more and more to those who make more parts. The larger manufacturers for the foreseeable future will have the advantage. Should alonso stay a few years and drive the renault, he could be at the wheel of a car that is perfectly positioned to win races again. We don’t know what the 2021 season and beyond looks like form an aero and regulations standpoint.
Not even liberty of the FIA does.
But from a team perspective, there’s more long term added value here than anything else.
On to the next objection:
But what about young drivers they have waiting?
Yes, it’s true. Cyril did say he was going to be considering his younger drivers more in the future positions at renault.
Here are the drivers currently with seat for Renault Sport academy:
- Max Fewtrell: Competes in F3
- Christian Lundgaard: Comepetes in F2
- Caio Collet: Competes in Formula Renault
- Guanyu Zhou: Competes in F2
- Oscar Piastri: Competes in F3
- Hadrien David: Competes in Formula Renault
Of these drivers, there’s only one among them with the superlicense points and with the genuine pedigree that would be worth considering such an enormous risk and trust that this seat requires: Guanyu Zhou.
Cyril’s push for his driver academy made the most sense though when the ranks were graced by the highly rated French racer Antoine Hubert. Reeling off his GP3 title, his move to F2 was met with an unfortunate and truly tragic accident at SPA in 2019 which took away a very promising driver destined to play a hand in a potential of the french outfit bck to its glory days. His rookie campaign in F2 was promising indeed racking up to wins – the only rookie of the vast field to do so. The top driver in Formula 2 without recent experience in that formula would be given Hubert’s eponymous award to reflect and honor his achievement a career cut short.
The inaugural winner of the award was Guanyu Zhou.
Zhou shared the same honor of being the first ever winner of the official virtual grnd prix series to offset the lck of racing the Formula 1 grid was doing. His victory at bahrain during streamed event reminded people that he was after all the only driver on the entire grid to score 5 podiums as 5 different circuits. Moreover, The only driver to take 5 podiums at all was the eventual champion Nick De Vries who took podium at both the feature and spring races at the Red Bull Ring.
And just for good measure, Zhou would be china’s first F1 driver. As the region plays a critical role in the sport, this undoubtedly would be a big win for F1 and potentially introduce new sponsorships and funding for Renault who themselves of course have a major global presence in road cars.
But this seat needs a sure thing. Now more than ever. And what’s not for sure in Zhou’s ability to acquire his super license points to quality as a Formula 1 driver considering it’s a prerequisite operating the top class vehicles.
In order to even get his Super License, he’d need to land a P4 in this season’s F2 championship. A very tall order indeed. And given it’s not a for sure, and would require a major step up in performance give the talent loaded field this 2020 F2 season, I’m not sure how Renault can go with Zhou at the moment. But he’s a very promising option for 2022.
A side objection is the following Renault should “just wait and see if he qualifies P4 to earn the necessary Super License points”.
This wont work for host of reasons. The most obvious one can sumemd up into question posed to you reader who thought that objection was legit:
What if he fails to do what he’s never done? Then what?
He’ll need to make MAJOR leaps forward in a hyper talented F2 field. One race in and he’s managed 4 points. It’s certainly possible for him to be P4. BUT how do you think it looks if he fails and now Alonso, Hulkenberg, and any other available driver is no longer open as they are locked into contracts of their own?
The logic here, or lackthereof, falls apart quickly. Cyril has a fiduciary duty to the board and shareholders to mke prudent decisions.
Least we forget, The French government owns a 15% share of the multinational parent company Renault.
As I’ve said in the past Nico Hulkenberg makes the most sense from dollars and cents perspective. The “smartest” move IMO opinion therefore would be Hulkenberg. But teams don’t always go for the smart move, e.g., Carlos Sainz and Ferrari. In this situation, it makes perfect sense why a Fernando Alonso Renault F1 move would proceed full steam. I’ll list out some of the more intangible reasons below. I’ve also included my 2020 Formula 1 season video published a month ago so you can see my logic back then is consistent.
Fernando Alonso Renault F1 Move: The Final Verdict
I respect what it must take to run essentially a state owned team. Which is why I think his posturing is for good reason. Him snatching up Alonso to portray strength after the latest round of moves which positions Renault as the ones who were walked away from is one he’ll want to correct and do so firmly.
Additionally Renault has lost 100% of their customers; they now make PUs that no one wants.
This must sting. I anticipate swift overcompensation.
I thought long and hard about this. To many people, Alonso’s return is a bad one with the current outfit. Surprisingly, I don’t agree. I think it’s a perfect place for him to parachute in and cause chaos. Renault has no expectations to win. They’ve got no hope for a title.
There literally isn’t a better scenario for two returning drivers to be in.
- Red Bull and Renault stemming from the public fallout of Horner & Abiteboul when Red Bull dropped their engine partners for a Honda gamble. Before McLaren elected to be powered by Renault engines, they were powered by Honda while Alonso was driving for them. He was very displeased with the runs it gave him in his latest stint in F1. Despite utterly destroying his teammate, he was no where near a fighting chance on the grid for points most of the time as the team finished 9th, 6th, and 9th with the Japanese manufacturer.
- One of his more famous outbursts “It feels like GP2. Embarrassing. Very embarrassing” nearly cost him his Indianapolis 500 drive. He let out those dergtory words at the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix no less, their home race. As such, Honda reportedly pulled the string with Andretti Autosport and Alonso’s 2020 bid to get his triple crown.
- Coming full circle, Renault were just embarrased by a shock move by their star driver, Daniel Ricciardo, who announced he’s leaving the team for Mclaren of all teams.
You can’t write this stuff.
Needless to say, all sides are motivated by redemption with a splash of revenge.
A driver pairing of Ocon and Alonso would be THE most dangerous and dynamic on the grid for me. Two insatiably hard nose drivers never yielding an inch in any session all year. Yes, no doubt they would clash. But they’d fight every car around them the same. Ocon being the qualifier he is would be complimented by Alonso’s race craft. I’ve never felt he’s “outperformed” cars to the degree he gets credit based on data, but the man is talented at bringing the car home.
If I had the luxury of rooting for a constructor, the 2021 Renault cars with these drivers behind the wheel would be my choice.
As this story develops, I will continue to update this post with more information. Make sure to subscribe on the Cranky Yankee Motorsport YouTube Channel if you haven’t already done so.