Dubai: Fernando Alonso, Renault’s latest acquisition, is confident that his second coming will be better than his first stint in Formula 1.
Considered one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers in the history of the sport, Alonso claimed the Drivers’ Championship in 2005 and 2006 for Renault. And then, breaking away from F1, the Spaniard became a champion of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship and a two-time winner of the demanding 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018 and 2019 with Toyota. Alonso also won the 2019 24 Hours of Daytona for his team Wayne Taylor Racing.
Making his debut in Formula 1 with Minardi in 2001, Alonso later joined Renault as a test driver during 2002 after which he was promoted to a race seat in 2003. After his two drivers’ championships in 2005 and 2006, Alonso had a short stint at McLaren, but returned to Renault from 2008 to 2009 and then drove for Ferrari from 2010 to 2014 during which time he finished runner-up to Sebastian Vettel on three occasions in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Alonso had a second stint with McLaren from 2015 to 2018, but an uncompetitive car saw the Spanish driver turn his attention to other forms of motorsport.
Now, looking for fresh challenges, Alonso — who turns 39 this month — has returned to his former team from France and is looking hungry for more success in F1 when he gets behind the wheel next season.
“When I was 25 or 28, I thought maybe three or four more years in Formula 1 will be enough. But now at 38, for whatever reason, I have developed more skills. I think I have another 10 or 12 years more in this sport,” Alonso told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies after signing a contract with Renault earlier this week.
“I was driving in different cars, different categories, learning different driving styles. I said before, I feel fresh now, ready for travelling, ready for doing different things and also work on the simulator. So, I feel better now than when I was 25. So, I cannot tell now that there’s only two or three years more in me. You know, maybe there are more.”
Fiercely competitive by nature, Alonso is aware of the challenges that lie ahead for him with Renault. “I hate losing. I think I love winning, but I don’t like to lose at anything, and it would be hard. Especially 2021,” he admitted.
“We know where the car is at now. We know the performance next year is a little bit of carry-over from this year. So, I’m aware that we will have to work a lot and we’ll have to slowly improve the car. But, you know, I’m ready to take that challenge as well.”
F1 was scheduled to introduce new regulations in 2021, but now these have been delayed until 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Alonso is now hoping that the rule changes will give him, and Renault, a chance to be more competitive starting 2022.
“I think when I left Formula 1, I felt that it could be a possibility to come back in 2021 with a new rules. Those rules were delayed by one year because the virus. So, I had some shots, but I think the possibility of being in 2021 already with a team as training for myself, I’m also building the momentum for the 2022 new rules. It was the best thing to do,” Alonso said.
“Romantic is a big factor on this type of decision. Coming back to Renault is a plus for me, because I know the people in the team. I know a lot of members that were in my time a couple of years ago. And also the commitment that Renault made about Formula 1 and the future that the team has now, I think it was important.
“I’ve been able to breathe a little bit out of Formula 1 because I’ve got 18 consecutive Formula 1 seasons, which are quite demanding. I think I needed that time out and I come back now stronger than ever.”