Post-season testing in Abu Dhabi brought to an end the 2020 Formula 1 season on Tuesday, and interestingly, one of the strongest teams to come out of this post-season testing period was the Renault DP World F1 Team.
Soon to be rebranded to Alpine to promote the Renault-owned sports car brand, the team took to the track with Fernando Alonso, who will be returning to the team in 2021, and Formula 2 driver and Renault junior prospect Guanyu Zhou. Both drivers drove the current Renault R.S.20 Formula 1 car, completing 105 laps and 98 laps respectively.
Alonso, who will be thirty-nine when the 2021 season starts in March, managed to score the fastest time out of all the drivers in testing (1:36.333), putting a lot of fears aside over whether he would be able to keep up with the younger drivers on the grid.
Zhou also managed a very respectable 1:37.902 as his best time of the session. For the test runs both Alonso and Zhou used Pirelli’s C4 (Medium) and C5 (Soft) compounds. Both drivers had driven the Renault R.S.18 at the same circuit a couple of weeks ago using demo tyres.
“It was good and very nice to be back in the car especially with the race team,” said Alonso after the testing. “I’ve been testing the 2018 car in preparation but this one felt a bit more serious and it ignited a little bit the competitive spirit.
“It was great to feel the modern cars and experience what they can do. I was watching the team’s progress at the weekend closely and it was nice to experience what I learnt from the outside and then inside the cockpit today… We ticked boxes today and we go into Christmas and New Year with good spirit and everyone motivated in the team.”
“It was a pretty decent day,” remarked Zhou after his run in the current Renault machinery. “I got used to the car straight away, we did a lot of laps including race runs and performance runs… Our pace was reasonably stable, so I was happy with that, especially this morning’s performance run.
“There were a couple of technical things here and there, but it is testing, we still did a lot of laps, and that is the main purpose. I wasn’t really looking for lap time and during the last two sessions, together with the team, we found a good balance on the car in comparison to the evening sessions at the weekend, so that’s positive learning for the team. Overall, I’m really happy with my first time driving the 2020 car, so thanks to Renault for the opportunity.”
Renault will field Alonso and Esteban Ocon as it’s two main drivers when it returns to the F1 grid next year as Alpine. For the moment it looks like Sergey Sirotkin will be continuing on in his role as reserve driver, whilst Zhou will carry on in a test and development driver role.