F1 teams are now planning for significant upcoming car design updates, which were originally set to take effect at the start of the 2021 season but were delayed due to the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Alonso revealed his intention to return to Formula One with the Renault team after a two-year absence, he cited the new rules' ability to shake up the championship's competitive order as a major factor in his decision.
When asked by Motorsport.com if the effect of minor rule changes – such as the rear floor rule tweaks – on the 2020-2021 pecking order reassured him that several teams might be competing for titles next year when the wholesale changes arrive, Alonso responded: “In terms of fighting for the championship and other possibilities, [it's] difficult to know."
Alonso continues, “I think the first year [of new rules], there is always one team that gets something extra when there is a new regulation set, that interprets the rules a little bit different and maybe get an advantage."
He adds, “But, hopefully, after two or three years, that new set of regulations that comes in 2022 will [mean] very close action between many teams and is better for the future. So, I don't know if it will come in 2022, but for sure it will come - this close competition. Because I think all the regulations are made to cover all the clever things as many as possible and make all the performance parts of the cars quite standard for everybody, and try to have a better and a closer competition.”
Despite the fact that the F1 field has shrunk significantly since the end of 2020, Mercedes and Red Bull have dominated the top positions so far this season.
When asked if 2021 is simply a training year for his Alpine team ahead of the rules reset, Alonso said it was "difficult" to take that approach because "every weekend you are on a racetrack, you are just a competitive person and you want to deliver and compete and do well."
To conclude, "But, on the overall picture, yes, 2021 is preparation year – it's no doubt. I think everybody on the grid, after the delay of the 2021 rules into 2022, we understood and we accepted that 2021 is preparation year, is a post-COVID season with more or less similar cars of last year. And it's a season to test things like the sprint races. It's a test season, in a way, for many things. Just waiting and hoping for 2022 not [being] continuation, maybe revolution in 2022 - that's what we will want.”