The reaction to Alonso’s return from Button, his former McLaren team-mate, and Brundle ahead of this weekend’s Styrian GP
Last Updated: 08/07/20 5:57pm
Sky F1’s Jenson Button and Martin Brundle believe Fernando Alonso’s return to Formula 1 will be “box-office” and great for the sport, after the two-time champion’s 2021 move to Renault was confirmed.
Alonso, after two seasons out of F1, will be back next year with the team that took him to his titles in 2005 and 2006, replacing Daniel Ricciardo.
Button was one of Alonso’s last team-mates in F1 – partnering him at McLaren from 2015 to 2017 – and he admitted he was not surprised that the Spaniard wanted to return, nor that Renault came calling.
“Fernando just loves his racing, it doesn’t really matter what it is, he wants to get behind the wheel of something,” said the 2009 world champion ahead of this weekend’s Styrian GP – live and exclusive on Sky Sports F1.
“I think he’s really excited about the new regulations coming in. Obviously they’ve got delayed a little bit but I think it’s great for the sport having him back.”
Alonso’s two-year contract will take him up to the end of 2022, which is when F1’s big rules refresh takes place and is what Renault hope to take advantage of to get back up the field.
He turns 39 later this month, so will be 41 at the end of his deal.
“I feel pretty good at 40 to be fair!” added Button, who is Alonso’s elder by just over a year. “I still want to be racing something as well.
“As long as your heart’s in it, and you’re working hard enough on your fitness, then definitely [he can star]. It’s great to have him back.”
Alonso has been busy since his last F1 race, but Brundle believes he just could not say no to a return to the sport he left due to frustrations that he could not compete further up the grid.
“We know that Fernando is very motivated,” said Brundle. “Since he stopped F1 he’s won Le Mans twice, the Daytona 24 hours, he had a great chance of winning the Indianapolis 500 and of course he’s doing Indy again this year.
“He’s just a racer and I think he’s missing F1. This opportunity has come up with a works team, a team who he has driven for twice before and was double champion for back in 05 and 06.”
Can Renault compete? And why Alonso is ‘box-office’
Renault finished fifth in the championship last year, and while the team are much happier with their 2020 package – which showed encouraging progress in the season-opening Austrian GP – steady regulations next year mean an immediate leap up the order with Alonso is unlikely.
But Alonso is still targeting podiums ahead of a hopeful ’22 title challenge.
“They’ve got to beat a lot of very good teams, so it’s not easy,” said Brundle.
“It’s always the honeymoon period when you join a team, you want podiums and you want to win a championship [in the future]. We’ve heard it so many times before.
“But we do know that whatever they give Fernando, despite him turning 39 later this month, he will drive the wheels off it. He is a bit of a hot-to-handle character and more of a few teams have found that out, so they’ll know about it if they’re not giving him a competitive car.”
Brundle also admitted there will be those who feel Renault should have opted for a younger driver as Ricciardo’s replacement when he joins McLaren for 2021.
“There are a lot of young drivers in the queue in the Renault young-driver programme,” stated Brundle. “The proteges [may] think, ‘come on, you’ve had your chance, many chances, give us some oxygen now’.
“At the moment F1 is focused on Leclerc and Verstappen and can they beat the reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, so there will be many that think it’s time for the youngsters to have these seats.
“But Fernando Alonso is box-office, and he’s important for Formula 1.”
The new Formula 1 season is underway in dramatic style on Sky Sports F1 and continues this week with the second race at the Red Bull Ring – the Styrian GP. Find out more & subscribe.