BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — So Fernando Alonso has made his second Formula One comeback and this is his third stint with Renault, which is now called Alpine.
The Spaniard made his F-1 debut with Minardi in 2001, spent 2002 testing for Renault and then raced for the team from 2003 through ’06. He won the world championship in 2005 and ’06. After an unhappy year at McLaren, he went back to Renault for two seasons.
Now, after two seasons away from F-1 — he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice but did not have success at the Indy 500 — Alonso is back again.
What will be the biggest challenge?
“I don’t fear any particular challenge,” said Alonso, who turns 40 on July 29. “How the midfield is right now is very competitive, so it’s something that we are aware of, that we need to maximize and make perfection every weekend if we want to score good points.
“Then another challenge, not only for me but everybody in the team and in the paddock, will be the 23 races. We have to be aware of that number and try to save energy when you can during the year, even in the months of June, August, September, even if you feel fresh, the more you save, the better you will be in November, December.
“There are a couple of things after being a few years out that I will have to relearn a little bit and get used to, but in terms of driving again or in terms of approaching the weekend working with the team, it should be quite smooth. I was not at home for two years. I was racing every weekend basically, so it should be fine.”
How are things at Alpine/Renault compared to when he left at the end of 2009?
“Well, they are very different,” Alonso said. “A good sign after 10 years; if they were all the same maybe it would not be good news for us. The factory has been updated quite heavily, there are more people working now. In Viry in France the (engine) factory has been updated. The level of technology we have right now compared to 15 years ago is very different. We have very talented people in the team. We have great designers, technicians. Some of the mechanics are still the same from my last time, so that’s also a good touch of the old days, a good atmosphere there; we all want to repeat the success we had in the past.
“But we have new people and a very good spirit, very young talented people, so we are quite a nice organization now so, hopefully, we can deliver.”
Renault/Alpine has been steadily improving since it returned to F-1 in 2016.
Has Alonso returned because he still believes he can win races and championships?
“I think the main reason why I’m here and came back is because I felt that I was at my best in the last couple of years,” he said. “In the last couple of months, I felt that I was driving better than ever. I had to make a decision on what was the next challenge after Le Mans, Indy, Dakar — all of the things that I’ve tried. I thought being at my best now, maybe Formula One was the place to be. I have time in the future to rethink some of the challenges that were not completed. So that was the main thing, I felt that I had something to do here again.
“To win races, to win championships, I think you need a few more things than just your motivation or beliefs,” he added. “You need the package, you need the luck, you need the momentum. It’s something that we want to build with the new Alpine name and the team. So I cannot guarantee that, but we will fight for those wins and those championships in the future if we do the things that we have in our heads. But we are not racing alone.”
Alonso suffered a broken jaw when a car hit him while he was cycling six weeks prior to the first race of the season, but that won’t affect his racing.
“I don’t expect any issues, honestly,” he said. “I’m 100 percent. I have two titanium plates which I have in the upper jaw which will be removed at the end of the season. So still some things going on at the end of the championship, but it will not affect my professional life.”