F1’s only been back a week, and already, there’s a sensational off-track story. Yep, it looks as though Fernando Alonso’s departure from McLaren at the end of the 2018 season wasn’t a full-on F1 retirement after all.
According to BBC Sport‘s sources, the Spaniard has signed a deal with Renault which would involve a return to the grid in 2021. This would see Alonso drive alongside Esteban Ocon and replace McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo. The move would also take away what’s considered to be the final viable F1 seat left available to Sebastian Vettel, who leaves Ferrari at the end of the season.
The 39-year-old - who’d be the second-oldest driver on the grid if returning - won back-to-back driver’s titles in his first stint at Renault F1. He went back to the Estone-based team in 2008 after his solitary season with McLaren ended acrimoniously, but wasn’t in a position to challenge for the title that year or the next.
If Alonso is part of Renault’s 2021 line-up, he’ll likely find himself in a similar situation. Next year’s F1 cars will be broadly the same as this season’s, with the planned rule changes - which could see the team climb up the grid - now pushed back to 2022. As it stands in 2020, Renault is more of a midfield outfit.
None of this is certain just yet, of course - an official announcement hasn’t been made, and a Renault spokesperson told the BBC that it “declined to comment on rumours”. Before the report emerged, speculation had been mounting about Alonso re-joining the team.
What do you think about Fernando potentially racing at Renault next year? Could 2022 be the year he and Enstone finally emulate those halcyon days of 2005 and 2006? Let us know in the comments.
Update: Renault F1 has now confirmed that Alonso will race with the team from the 2021 season, having signed a two-year deal.