Fernando Alonso will race for Renault F1 in 2021

Published: 08 July 2020

► Alonso returns
► To Renault
► Will partner with Ocon

Fernando Alonso is returning to F1 in 2021, and he’ll be racing for Renault. The Spaniard left the sport in 2018, but he always left the option to return to the sport open. Now, after winning Le Mans with Toyota and competing in the Dakar with the Japanese brand – as well as winning a bunch of Esports races – Fernando is returning to Renault for the 2021 season. 

Still, it needed an opening, and that came with Ferrari’s decision to drop four-time world champion Sebastien Vettel. That moved Carlos Sainz Jr to Ferrari, and in turn left his seat vacated for Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. This is the third time Fernando Alonso will drive for the team, and this time he’ll be partnering the Frenchman Esteban Ocon.

'The signing of Fernando Alonso is part of Groupe Renault’s plan to continue its commitment to F1 and to return to the top of the field,’ said Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport Racing team principal. 

Alongside Esteban, his mission will be to help Renault DP World F1 Team prepare for the 2022 season in the best possible conditions. His presence in our team is a formidable asset on the sporting level but also for the brand to which he is very attached.’  

‘Renault is my family, my fondest memories in Formula One with my two World Championship titles, but I’m now looking ahead. It’s a great source of pride and with an immense emotion I’m returning to the team that gave me my chance at the start of my career and which now gives me the opportunity to return to the highest level,’ Alonso added.

‘I have principles and ambitions in line with the team’s project. Their progress this winter gives credibility to the objectives for the 2022 season and I will share all my racing experience with everyone from the engineers to the mechanics and my team.

Here’s a look back at the Spaniard’s previous F1 career by Tom Clarkson 

F1’s best driver*moves on 

Two world championships and 32 wins. It was a good knock, but there’s no doubt that Fernando Alonso underachieved in Formula 1. His talent deserved more, and he could have won more, had he played a better hand out of the car. Make no bones about it: Alonso was one of the best drivers of his generation. But his off-track outbursts and politicking alienated him from the top  teams, to the extent  that  they no longer wanted to employ him.

Where did it all go wrong? Alonso had a meteoric rise through Minardi and Renault, culminating in world titles in 2005 and ’06, when he beat Kimi Räikkönen and Michael Schumacher respectively.

He also became the darling of Spain, where interest in F1 exploded. More than 10 million people watched every race and Alonso became an A-list celebrity, even marrying a popstar. But then his obsession with winning became unhealthy and started to impair his judgement. What happened post-2006 makes for difficult reading. 

The first bad call came in 2007, after he’d switched to McLaren. He became embroiled in the Spygate scandal that cost the team $100 million, 40% of which was paid by engine supplier Mercedes-Benz (a shareholder of McLaren at the time). Not only was he ousted from the team, he would never race for Mercedes-Benz again. 

Alonso also turned down a contract offer from Red Bull, just as the team was becoming competitive, and committed long-term to Ferrari, who were in a post-Schumacher slump. He quit the Scuderia after five frustrating years in which he finished runner-up in the world championship three times. Then came a second stint at uncompetitive McLaren, the only team capable of paying his salary demands. His has been a career of two halves, largely of his own making, and his recent struggles shouldn’t take anything away from his stellar moments early on.

Think Imola ’05, when he kept Michael Schumacher’s faster Ferrari at bay dfor 12 laps to take the win by 0.2s; think Suzuka ’05, when he overtook Schumacher around the outside of the fearsome 130R in a drive that saw him leapfrog from 16th on the grid to third.

‘He’s capable of banging in qualifying laps all day long,’ says retired rival Mark Webber. ‘When he had the car underneath him, he was immense. A huge talent, who dished out a lot of medicine on Sunday afternoons.’

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast