The 2020 Formula One Championship has proven to be a predictable season for many due to the dominance displayed yet again by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. However, in 2021, the scheduled return of Fernando Alonso could bring a much-needed shock of unpredictability back to the sport. No one knows how the former double F1 world champion will fare back in the starting grid. However, one thing is clear – Alonso is keen to get started. This point is supported by the recent remarks of Renault F1 executive director Marcin Budkowski. The latest revelation to come out of Enstone is that Fernando Alonso will be spending his New Year’s Day right there – in the factory!
The flagship official website of the pinnacle of motorsport, www.formula one.com, recently provided an insight into the motivation being displayed by Fernando Alonso ahead of his return to the Formula One starting grid. As a result of F1’s regulations, teams are unable to develop their 2021 challenger in the wind tunnel until the calendar rolls around to 2021. As a result, the former double winning F1 World Champion has made clear that come January 1st he has a very different New Year’s Day ahead of him.
"He’s asking about anything," Marcin Budkowski, Renault F1 executive director explained. "We were in the windtunnel, and he [Alonso] said, 'so you can't run the '22 car at the moment?’”. "I said, 'no, we can't do it because of the regulations.' He said, 'when can you start developing?' and I said 1 January.”
What followed in Marcin Budkowski’s exciting recollection of this exchange with Fernando Alonso is a clear sign of the influence that the Spaniard is already having over the team as Alonso then asked:
"'OK, are you running on 1 January?' Well normally we don't, but this year we might, as it's the year. He said, 'OK, we have to run on 1 January, I can come here and help you’. This is the level of motivation of Fernando at the moment."
Of course, Fernando Alonso has already made a returning visit to Enstone back in September of this year:
“An incredible thrill to go back to the factory,” Alonso subsequently posted on Twitter following his visit. “I came to Renault in 2002, when I was 21 years old, I know every corner of this place, every corridor, every door… It has been a very special day.”
Renault does indeed hold a special place in Fernando Alonso’s heart ever since he worked as test driver in 2002 before then winning back to back championships for the French manufacturer in 2005 and 2006. The 2021 return will not be the first time Alonso has returned to the manufacturer which made him a champion seeing how he raced there again in 2008 and 2009. What came next was 5 years of near misses with Ferrari before a return to McLaren.
The man who many call ‘the best racer on the grid’ chose to leave Formula One at the end of 2018 at a time when his current team, McLaren, was at its worst performance level in decades. The impetus and energy being shown in Marcin Budkowski’s anecdote evokes an image of an eager racer desperate to return to former glories – and this can only be good for Formula One.
Fernando Alonso has twice won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Toyota (2018 and 2019) as well as the 2018-19 World Endurance Championship – also for the Japanese manufacturer. However, following the shock announcement of Daniel Ricciardo heading to McLaren in 2021 he found his way back to the F1 starting grid.
Questions remained over how committed Fernando Alonso was to his Indianapolis 500 endeavour but there can be no doubt that the Spaniard is desperate to make his F1 return the best it can be.
Fernando Alonso has already returned to the track in some ways.
Earlier this year, Alonso drove Renault's 2020 car during a filming day at Barcelona followed by some testing with a 2018-spec machine in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.
At this time, Renault F1 executive director Marcin Budkowski perfectly summed up the challenge ahead of the former double champion:
"He wants more days in a car to get used to the team, to get used to the systems, the procedures, to fine tune his seating position and the steering wheel and everything…But he also hasn't driven the car for two years. They are bloody fast cars. He needs to get back in shape, get back in the rhythm, so he's taking any opportunity he can to drive."
Now, it appears, Fernando Alonso will also take any opportunity to get back in the wind tunnel. So, it is little surprise to hear that he has chosen January 1st 2021 as the perfect time to start.