Since the announcement of his return to Formula 1, Fernando Alonso has seriously downplayed his chances of ever winning another race, let alone another title. At the age of thirty-nine, Alonso will be one of the oldest drivers on the grid when he returns to the F1 circus in Bahrain later this year.
However, his fellow countryman former Formula 1 driver and former McLaren F1 Team colleague Pedro de la Rosa thinks that he has a real chance of getting a third World Drivers’ Championship title.
“Fernando loves Formula 1,” said de la Rosa in a Spanish Movistar-produced documentary about Alonso’s F1 return. “The last few years he spent outside of Formula 1 taught him to appreciate the sport, so his return is generally very positive both for him as well as for Formula 1.”
The Formula 1 veteran also said that Spanish interest in the sport died down after Alonso’s departure at the end of 2018 and his return has begun to cause a lot of excitement in his home country. This was despite the presence of another Spaniard – Carlos Sainz Jr. – in the sport.
“He can win another world title and that has caused a lot of excitement… The people didn’t care about Formula 1, because there wasn’t a Spaniard who could win.“
The late Adrian Campos, who was a mentor to Alonso in the early stages of his career, echoed de la Rosa’s sentiments.
“He spends 25 hours a day thinking about how he can win more races in F1… If he has a car to be among the top five or six, he’ll be on the podium,” said Campos prior to his tragic passing. “If he has one that can be on the podium, he’ll do better.”
Campos went on to cite Daniel Ricciardo‘s ability to get podiums in the 2020 Renault DP World F1 Team car, which will be almost essentially the same as Alpine F1 Team‘s 2021 machinery due to the new regulations being delayed until 2022. He also felt that Alonso would be returning to F1 with “a renewed spirit,” claiming that his time away from F1 had given him the race-winning form that he had wanted after spending several years at a woefully underperforming McLaren team.
Whether at the age he is now and with the machinery he’s being presented with Alonso can get on the top step of the podium enough times to be a legitimate title contender is a question that can’t quite be answered. What we can expect though, from the performances of Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon in what is essentially the same machinery last year, is that Alonso definitely won’t be hanging around at the back of the grid like he did in the twilight of his first F1 run.