The 2020 F1 season has almost certainly been one of the strangest Formula One seasons to date – a delayed start, a global pandemic going on and a former two-time World Champion coming back after a two years hiatus.
Yet, there’s something surprisingly romantic in the Spanish champion coming back into the Formula and reuniting with the team that brought him on top of the world in 2005 and 2006.
OFFICIAL NEWS— Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) 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
The same Alonso, when asked, admitted that time away from Formula 1 has reinvigorated his desire for the category, reminded him of why he fell in love with it in the first place and, most of all, made him crave for the competitive edge he simply can’t find anywhere else.
Unfortunately, the outlook of the 2021 campaign does not sound great at the moment as the 39-year-old Champion suffered an accident earlier this week, while he was training on his bike in Switzerland. However, according to Alpine Team’s statement, Alonso should be ready to come back completely recovered for the first race of the year in Bahrain, as previously planned. Talking about the 32-race-winner’s return, Pat Symonds, who today is the chief technical officer at Formula 1, strongly believes that the technical regulations that are due to come into force in 2022, will be ideal for a driver like Fernando Alonso. The two know each other pretty well, as Symonds was Renault’s engineering figurehead when the Spaniard was crowned champion in 2005 and 2006. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Formula One has decided to push back the change of regulations till 2022 – however, Symonds, who played a major role in shaping the 2022 rulebook, has very little doubt that Alonso will be amongst the best placed to deal with radically different looking cars – hopefully, capable of closing performance gaps among teams.
“One of the great things about Fernando is that he was very quick and very able to adapt to whatever the situation was,” said Symonds,
“Will the wily old Fernando Alonso be the first to suss out how best to get the performance from that  car? I think the answer will be yes. I think he’ll be very quick to figure out what matters and what doesn’t matter. How to work with the engineers to get the best setup from the car, how the 18-inch tyres behave differently from the 13-inch – all these kind of things.
"I was amused to see that he’s already starting to direct the team and tell them to forget about 2021 and get on with 2022," he added.
"I think he’s pretty adaptable and he will get the best from the 2022 car."
To prove his point, Symonds talks not just about Alonso’s skills and capabilities, which he first-hand experienced during the years at Renault, but he describes the Spaniard’s recent experiences of racing Le Mans prototypes as being crucial to why he believes the driver will succeed.
“I spoke to him quite a lot about driving the Le Mans car, because as you know I’ve been working on the 2022 car and the overtaking capabilities and things.
“It was fascinating to get his insights into how he had learned to drive the LMP1 car, and... particularly with the energy regeneration on that car, how he’d discovered things that the other drivers hadn’t discovered. They’d been driving it for a while, he came along and said, ‘If I do this, if I do that if I lift here and brake here, I’ve actually got more energy to play with.’ He’s very, very good with things like that.
“I think the 2022 car will be good for him because it’ll be a bit of reset for everyone. And I think it will help Fernando quite a lot.”
The 2022 regulations will for sure re-shuffle the cards and hopefully allow teams to fight for more podiums, closing their gaps to Mercedes’ elusive domination. While Fernando will be able to leverage on his decades of experience, only time will tell if an old-style legend will beat new-rising stars in the series.