An F1 season like no other has drawn to a close. The sport’s efforts to cram 17 Grand Prix into a relatively short period gave us the return of some iconic tracks, with other circuits hosting their first F1 races ever. Although the championship battle hasn’t been at all close, we’ve had some great racing, seen George Russell get the subbing job of a lifetime, and witnessed incredible safety advances quite clearly save Romain Grosjean’s life.
And yet, in the middle of the Abu Dhabi weekend, all anyone could talk about was the past. Before Sunday, F1 Twitter was dominated by talk of Fernando Alonso being reunited with his 2005 title-winning Renault R25. Yes, that’s one F1’s final full year of the V10.
Granted, Renault has run this heritage car plenty of times before, and we even saw Richard Hammond have a go in the R25 on Top Gear a few years back. But Alonso wasn’t interested in giving the car a relaxed demo lap or two - he was properly on it.
In the onboard footage above, we see Alonso - who’s racing with the Renault team next year - lapping around seven seconds off Max Verstappen’s 2020 Abu Dhabi pole lap. His fastest run got that gap down to about four seconds, roughly matching Lewis Hamilton’s fastest lap from the 2019 race with a circa 1min 39sec effort, Motorsport.com reports. Astonishing for a 15-year-old car, even if it was running slicks rather than period-correct grooved tyres.
As well as diverting the online F1 conversation, Alonso’s R25 antics proved disruptive in the paddock too, with numerous interviews noisily interrupted by the V10 howl. Hamilton was seen visibly distracted by one of the Spaniard’s runs while speaking to Will Buxton, looking around before saying, “That sound is just so good man. The greatest sound of a racing car ever. I hate that they got rid of it”.
Alonso clearly agrees. “I think not only the fans, everyone in the paddock, we miss the sound,” he said, adding, “We miss the Formula 1 that we got in love with when we were kids and we were watching television.”