Kurt Verlin
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Fernando Alonso Returning to F1 in 2021

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Young Fernando Alonso in Renault gear. Alonso will return to the team in 2021.
Photo: ph-stop via CC

In a major twist, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will return to Formula 1 in 2021, driving for Renault alongside Esteban Ocon as his teammate.

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It will mark the first time a driver has had three separate stints driving for the same team. The Spaniard raced for Renault from 2003 to 2006, when he won his two drivers’ titles, then went back to the team for another two years after his controversial season at McLaren in 2007. Alonso then raced for Ferrari, McLaren again, and will now once more return to Renault for what is believed to be a two-year period.

Since 2017, Alonso has done a lot to grow his reputation as a driver outside of F1. He had a strong showing at the Indy 500, won the 24 Hours of Daytona, won twice at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, won the World Endurance Championship, and impressed at the Dakar Rally.

All of this time racing outside of F1, however, stemmed from a failure to achieve good results in his favorite sport, where he had been stuck in underperforming teams. Now, his goal is reportedly to add a few more F1 podiums, and perhaps wins, to an already impressive trophy collection.

Alonso’s return to the sport does raise some questions. He will take the seat vacated by Daniel Ricciardo, who is moving to McLaren in 2021 to replace Carlos Sainz, who is replacing Vettel at Ferrari. Where will Vettel go? In all likelihood, the four-time champion will be out of the sport at the end of the year, unless he is willing to take a hefty pay cut and drive for a team that cannot consistently score points.

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And what about age? F1 drivers’ abilities tend to decline sharply in their late 30s, and Alonso will be 39 before the end of the month. Michael Schumacher famously returned to F1 in 2010 at age 41, also after a two-year break, and never seemed quite as good as his old self.

That being said, Kimi Räikkönen, age 40, is still going strong in F1 despite being obviously past his peak, as he seems perfectly pleased not to be competing for wins in the relaxed environment of the Alfa Romeo Racing team. The team, too, has a lot to benefit from the Finnish champion’s expertise and easygoing character.

Truthfully, nobody expects Renault to do wonders on the track in 2021, and Alonso isn’t stupid. If he is returning to his old team, it’s likely because he misses racing in F1 and Renault believes his feedback is worth a fat check. One must also remember that Alonso is among the most marketable men in racing at the moment.