The return of superstar driver Fernando Alonso is fostering great expectations among his fans and the F1 world.
Physically there is no doubt Fernando will make sure that he is on top of his game as the F1 family gears up for preseason testing starting this Friday in Bahrain.
In the Amazon documentary Fernando, Alonso’s grit and determination was exquisitely shown through different angles. The number of hours he put into practice for the Dakar Rally, one of his most daring adventures of recent years, was incredible. It also underlined the way Alonso maintains a close bond with his mechanics, speaking to them on a daily basis to keep on top of everything.
His return to Renault is symbolic, as this is most likely his last venture in Formula One. Alonso’s Renault years remain his most memorable – his 2002-06 stint with the team had him knock the great Michael Schumacher off his championship-winning perch and establish himself as a two-time champion in 2005 and 2006.
Alonso became the superstar as Schumacher moved towards retirement.
Did he participate in the rebranding of the Renault F1 team as Alpine? Most likely he had his say in this project. Wherever Alonso has been, he has not only been a driver but also behaved like a shareholder of the team. He takes ownership of everything around him and puts additional pressure upon himself and the team to deliver results.
Unfortunately, his level of commitment and assertive character sometimes provokes distorted working relationships within the team. We should always bear in mind that, despite a Formula One team almost always building the same car for both drivers, there can be only one winner among teammates, and the internal competition is intense.
Alonso’s chaotic relationship with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren in 2007 is the most high-profile example of his sometimes implosive nature. During his second McLaren tenure of 2015-17 he held the status of team leader, and company boss Zak Brown respected him for that. Unfortunately the McLaren car underperformed. with chronic issues delivering dismal performances.
Alonso’s return to Renault and Formula One was announced on 8 July 2020 at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe and many other parts of the world. His integration into the team in this difficult time was made somewhat easier by the many championship-winning Renault team members still part of the Enstone squad.
Cyril Abiteboul, who was Renault team principal at the time of Alonso’s signing, resigned his position in January this year. All successful F1 teams need great leadership and vision to provide their talented drivers with performing cars. It is what Renault expect to build up. Fernando has looked into the development process undergone at Enstone and equally had the chance to assess the capabilities of the technical team. Whether Abiteboul’s resignation is a result of disagreements remains a mystery.
The Amazon documentary has shown us how Alonso’s close circle supports him throughout his endeavours. In recent years he launched his own clothing brand, Kimoa, with his childhood friend Alberto Fernández Albilares. His girlfriend, the model Linda Morselli, is also present to most races he participates in. Despite her preferring to maintain distance from Alonso’s public Formula One commitments, she organises photoshoots for him regularly so that he also dives into her professional world, as we learnt in the Amazon documentary.
Alonso remains a winner and he is undoubtedly back in F1 to target podiums, fastest laps and eventually race wins. However, the performance delivery of Alpine latest car remains an unknown element until the first couple of races.
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