Fernando Alonso returned to F1 after a two-year hiatus, rejoining newly-rebranded Alpine and pairing up with Esteban Ocon. His third signing with the French team he won the championship in 2005 and 2006, the return to the paddock wasn't easy.
To make it even more challenging, Alonso was involved in a biking accident at the beginning of 2021, that forced him to surgery and to skip part of the preparation to the season, but managed to be ready for the beginning of the season.
While the first Bahrain GP didn't go according to plans, as the Spaniard was forced to retire because of a sandwich wrapper in his brake ducts, his performances lately have improved a lot.
He had admitted, at the beginning of the season, that he needed some time to get up to speed and be fully involved in the battle for points. Now, he has been in the points in the last three races, with a P6 as best result and constantly out scoring his teammate.
Alpine Sporting Director Alan Permane was extremely pleased with the Spanish driver's approach to returning on the grid, as he said:
“I think the process is like anything in Formula 1, there is no magic bullet to any of this - to finding downforce, to finding horsepower, to the drivers finding where they are. It’s just hard work, and he works hard. He worked hard in pre-season."
In particular, Permane was impressed with his approach to the rather difficult beginning of the season, scoring only five points in the first five races. Alonso focused on himself and never implied that the team or the car were the ones at fault:
"It was a bit of a poor start, that’s for sure. There were some struggles, and instead of having any tantrums or hissy fits or anything, he just looked to himself. He never once blamed the car or the team. He said, ‘it’s me, I need to improve, I need to do this, I need to be better’. He said it in the office and he said it in the press as well."
Obviusly, there's always room for improvement, as he added: “In fairness to him, that’s what he’s done. I don’t think he’s finished that process yet. He’s still there, he’s still building his team with his guys around him, and doing a great job.”
Alonso has always been vocal on how he's enjoying his return to the top championship, and during the qualifying session of the Styrian GP he said on the team radio that he had particular fun signing the lap that eventually had got him through Q2.
The Alpine Sporting Director appreciated the gesture, as it was taken by all of the team as a morale boost, especially after the rather difficult afternoon Ocon had, stuck in Q1.
"I said to him afterwards, ‘don’t underestimate what that radio message will mean being broadcast, everyone in Enstone and everyone in Viry is hearing that'. That just makes their weeks of work, their hard work, worthwhile."
"To hear a driver who’s done a good lap being really happy with it and hear how motivated he is and that sort of thing. It’s going well," Permane concluded.