Fernando Alonso made his first visit to the Renault DP World F1 Team this week ahead of his return to Formula 1 with the team in 2021, with the Spaniard spending three days at the factory in Enstone.
For Alonso, 2021 will represent the start of his third spell with the Enstone-based team, having race their successfully between 2003 and 2006, winning two World Drivers’ Championships with them in 2005 and 2006.
After a year away with the McLaren F1 Team in 2007, Alonso returned to Renault for a second spell in 2008 and 2009, and although this spell was less fruitful, he still was able to secure a couple of victories with them.
Alonso says it felt like his ‘first day at school’ returning to Enstone, with some things very different to what they were when he exited to join Scuderia Ferrari in 2010, but overall it was a very emotional day for the Spaniard.
“Being back at Enstone was a very good experience, they were very emotional days,” said Alonso. “A lot of things have changed; the simulator is new, the wind tunnel has been updated, but a few things are the same: there are the same offices, the gym that I used to visit a lot…
“It was a like a first day at school, with lots of things to learn and get through, but it was very productive. I’ve followed a programme in the simulator, getting used to the car a little, testing the facilities – last time I was here the simulator didn’t exist! Then I had a seat fit and meetings with key people to understand the programme for next year. It was really just getting up to speed.”
“To see Renault back in a competitive manner is a good thing for the sport” – Alonso
Renault will become the Alpine F1 Team in 2021, with Alonso set to join Frenchman Esteban Ocon in the driver line-up. Having watched how the team has developed this season and improved their performances, the veteran of three hundred and eleven Grand Prix starts says there are encouraging signs they are heading into the right direction.
He says he will help the team continue their growth in any way he can this year, including sessions in the simulator, as he bids to get them into the best shape possible ahead of his Grand Prix return.
“I think the team is in good shape for the future,” said Alonso. “The last few races were encouraging for everyone, for myself too. To see Renault back in a competitive manner is a good thing for the sport and I’ve been delighted to see the improvements.
“We’ve still got a long way to go and the midfield is very tight but I think the guys have done an amazing job trackside. The last couple of races were very exciting to watch and I am looking forward to being back in the mix.
“I’ll now follow what the team needs from my side – some sim days, helping some weekends and being available for the team for anything they need.”
Cyril Abiteboul, the Team Principal of Renault, says it was ‘great’ to see Alonso back at Enstone and eager to be involved in the preparations for next season. He says it is important for all parties to hit the ground running next year, and Alonso spending three days in the factory will help immensely.
“It’s been great to see Fernando back at the team in person,” said Abiteboul. “He’s hugely motivated to have the best start possible. He wants to be very involved in the preparations.
“Spending three days at Enstone and Viry gave both sides the opportunity to restart those links and set the foundations at a very early stage, which will be critical to hit the ground running in 2021, a key year in our progress as a team.”