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  • Writer's pictureRhonan Colquhoun

F1: Alonso to return with Renault in 2021

Double Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso is to return to the sport with Renault to partner Esteban Ocon on a suspected two-year deal.

8th July 2020

In what is to be his third time racing for the French team, Fernando Alonso returns to the sport having left at the end of the 2018 Season. The 38 year old Spaniard will replace Daniel Ricciardo who is moving to McLaren for next season.

On his return, Alonso said: "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."

Renault Team Principal Cyril, Abiteboul said: “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."

Alonso's history in F1

Having made his debut in Formula One in 2001 with Minardi, Alonso became a full-time driver for Renault in 2003 taking his first Pole Position, Podium and the first of 32 race wins.

Alonso and Renault ended the five year dominance of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, who reigned supreme in the early 2000s, by winning both the 2005 and the 2006 World Championships.

Alonso signed for McLaren in 2007 and was partnered by rookie Lewis Hamilton. He finished second in the championship, level on points with Hamilton, but one point behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen who snatched the title from the McLaren drivers. The rivalry with Hamilton prompted Alonso to move back to Renault for 2008.

His return to Renault yield only two wins with the team being uncompetitive in 2008 and in 2009.

Alonso signed to drive for Ferrari in 2010 and won on debut for the Scuderia. He narrowly missed out on the 2010 and 2012 Championships, being beaten by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel on both occasions. His last victory came at the 2013 Spanish GP.

When Ferrari struggled in the debut year of the hybrid regulations in 2014, he returned to McLaren who'd just signed an engine deal with Honda who were returning to the sport for 2015.

What was supposed to be the dream partnership between McLaren and Honda became a total nightmare. McLaren were a team in denial and Honda, at the time, was unreliable and under-powered. Splitting with Honda and partnering with Renault was supposed to bring better results in 2018 and when they were only a a smudge better, Alonso called quits on his career - but he never ruled out a potential return.

Since leaving F1, Alonso has won the Le Mans 24 Hours twice, both in 2018 and in 2019, competed in the Dakar Rally and in the Indy 500. He has set himself the goal of winning the triple-crown. In this includes winning the Monaco GP, victory at Le Mans and Indy 500, the only one he's yet to win.

What does Alonso's return mean?

Alonso's return calls into question Renault's Young Driver Academy which has two drivers if F2, the junior series to F1. Guanyu Zhou had a very impressive rookie season in the junior category in 2019 and looks to be a credible title challenger this year. Christian Lungaard is also another young driver with great potential.

However, Abiteboul said that decision to sign Alonso is not a "lack of interest" in the junior program. He insisted that the late start to the season, and the resulting loss of the opportunity to judge their progress, contributed to the decision to sign the double-world champion.

What does Vettel do?

Alonso's return also rules out the chance of Sebastian Vettel racing for the French manufacturer next year after being dropped by Ferrari for Carlos Sainz Jr. In the media, Vettel stated that he and the French team hadn't held talks yet but this announcement in a big blow for the German.

There's the possibility of signing for Racing Point, which is soon to become Aston Martin in 2021, and the possibility of replacing former team-mate Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo if the Finn decides to retire at the end of the year.

Or is there the possibility to return to Red Bull? The team he won his four Championships with before joining Ferrari.

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