Formula One

Analysis: Are Renault Ready for Alonso?

Fernando Alonso in 2005. Photo by Paul Williams. CC BY-ND 2.0

For those of you who missed the hot news in July, Fernando Alonso is returning to Formula One pretty soon. How exciting! The 39-year-old veteran is supposed to sit in the cockpit of Alpine (currently Renault) Formula One Team for the start of the next season. As far as we know, Alonso committed to a two-season contract, which means that he will also have the privilege to pilot Alpine’s transformed new generation machine for the 2022 season. Nevertheless, we are now two years away from FIA’s new rules and regulations, which leaves 2021 pretty open for interpretations.

Sadly, the current Formula One world seems to be almost solely focused on the upcoming changes and new generation for the 2022 cars. In fact, many fans have already pre-declared Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes as the 2021 champions on social media, some six months before the season has even started. However, people who know Fernando Alonso and his character well, would agree that the Spaniard never surrenders, never settles, and never recognizes others as champions until the very last possible moment of it being otherwise. Alonso won’t be back to fill the grid with yet another famous driver – the man’s back to race… and he better get a good car to do so…

RENAULT’S 2020 SO FAR – Objectively, 2020 has not been a bad year for Renault. Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon have already collected more points for the team than their previous season’s total – 99 vs. 91. Ferrari’s struggles this year have truly benefited the midfield teams, giving each of them a chance at clinching that 3rd constructors’ championship place. Let’s take a look at the Top 6 after ten completed rounds so far this season:

  1. Mercedes – 366
  2. Red Bull – 192
  3. McLaren – 106
  4. Racing Point – 104
  5. Renault – 99
  6. Ferrari – 74

With 7 more Grand Prix to go, we can comfortably say that 2020 is going to be one of the most competitive midfield seasons of all time. Teams will definitely rely on late changes and upgrades because they all have already proven that their current machines drive well. Generally, Renault have had decent reliability and pace in 2020, and their struggles and issues have mostly been some minor ones. Nothing will excite Fernando more than seeing Renault in 3rd place at the end of the season. And being only 7 points away with 7 races remaining, such results are absolutely realistic.

Note: The last time Renault F1 Team finished in the Top 3 was in 2007. Renault placed 3rd, following McLaren’s infamous disqualification from the championship.

RENAULT’S PAST SEVERAL SEASONS – Honestly, nothing surprising. Well, besides that Renault have basically been the definition of a “midfield team” for the past several years. Let’s throw in some numbers:

2017 – 6th place (57 points)

2018 – 4th place (122 points)

2019 – 5th place (99 points)

All of this, however, comes as a rather dramatic improvement from the 2016 season, where Renault finished 9th with only 8 points scored on their behalf. Clearly, the French have pointed the team towards the right direction. Plenty of critics have recently expressed that they are not very found of Alonso’s return to Formula One with Renault, specifically. In a way, this point of view is not particularly surprising or unusual. On the other hand, was there truly a better team for Fernando to join (keeping in mind the current drivers’ market situation)? It certainly was not Mercedes or Ferrari, or even Red Bull. Alonso must be aware that Renault cannot perform miracles and suddenly challenge for the championship. Is it wrong for him to hope still? Most certainly not.

RENAULT’S RECORD WITH ALONSO – One could ask, is anything new about to happen? Since Formula One has seen the Renault-Alonso pair twice in its history, two major outcomes are to be expected:

– It will work out great, just like in his first stint with the team in 2003 to 2006. During that period, Alonso managed to clinch 2 world championships (2005-2006), both drivers’ and constructors’, while taking 15 race victories and 35 total podiums. Renault’s success then came as a major hit to the glorious Schumacher-Ferrari era, and ultimately put an end to it. Could Alonso’s third stint with Renault put an end to the Hamilton-Mercedes domination? Technically, yes, it could. Just not too realistic looking at the moment.

– It won’t really work out, just like in the 2008-2009 stint. Not a very proud moment for Alonso, not particularly proud times for Formula One. Fernando then took only 2 victories, both towards the end of 2008 season. One of these victories came as a result of the now-infamous Crashgate incident, involving Nelson Piquet Jr.’s voluntary crash and Flavio Briatore’s immoral winning plan. Could Renault play illegal games in 2021 in their pursuit of taking Alonso to the top? Generally speaking, everyone could. So, let’s just hope none of the teams do.

If we have to be realistic, Renault now are nothing like any of the two previous times Alonso has been there. For better or for worse, this is just what the situation is now. The French team seems to be doing a whole lot better than what they have previously done, while not being the top-notch team they once used to be. Alonso surely knows that, and I can bet that he is more than excited to fasten the seatbelts of the new 2021 Alpine Formula One Team car and do his best on the track. His comeback in the sport could leave a tremendous impact on Renault’s future as a competing constructor. Hopefully, Alonso’s third (and probably last) stint with Renault will not disappoint either of their fans.

Exciting times ahead of us! Feel free to share your opinion on the subject down in the comments.

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