Renault have announced that two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso will return to the team and Formula One in 2021.
Having twice driven for Renault in two previous stints, this return will mark Alonso’s third spell at Enstone on a two year contract as he replaces the departing Daniel Ricciardo.
Alonso will partner Esteban Ocon next season, although the Frenchman’s contract runs out beyond 2021 unless he renews for a further year.
Speaking of his decision to return to the team, Alonso described Renault as “my family”, saying; “Renault is my family, my fondest memories in Formula One with my two World Championship titles, but I’m now looking ahead.”
Alonso also stated that returning to Renault is “a great source of pride” and believes that the team gives him “the opportunity to return to the highest level.”
Renault Team principal, Cyril Abiteboul believes that Alonso’s return is proof of the team’s “commitment to F1 and to return to the top of the field.”
On the decision to sign the Spaniard for a third spell, Abiteboul said; “The strength of the bond between him, the team and the fans make him a natural choice.
“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.”
Abiteboul however has stated that the focus is on preparing for the various rule changes in 2022, with Alonso’s task being “to help Renault DP World F1 Team prepare for the 2022 season in the best possible condition.”
‘Controversial for so many reasons’
Although Alonso is hugely popular with fans of all ages, Renault’s decision to sign him as Ricciardo’s replacement however has to be considered controversial for so many reasons.
Questions will be asked around whether Alonso still has the speed and competitiveness to challenge for podiums and wins, especially after Michael Schumacher’s relatively unsuccessful return at the start of last decade of Mercedes.
Schumacher though helped gear Mercedes up to become the success that they’ve been, although Lewis Hamilton replaced him in 2013 ahead of the regulation changes in 2014 so there is possibly hope that Renault could replicate that success with Alonso on a shorter time scale.
Renault however is facing criticism over their poor efficiency in promoting drivers from their driver academy into the main team, with two young drivers in Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard going for the F2 title this season.
You therefore can’t help wonder if Renault are being hasty in signing Alonso for a third stint, rather than waiting and seeing if Zhou or Lundgaard gain enough super license points to graduate into F1 at end of this season of whom they could build a team around.
Either way, this signing feels like Renault are going for experience in short-term rather than focusing long-term and waiting to see how their junior drivers fare this season before deciding on Ricciardo’s replacement.