Fernando Alonso feels it will take him couple of F1 races to settle down back in the scheme of things due to low testing as he praises George Russell’s efforts.
As Alonso readies himself for his F1 return with the soon-to-be renamed Alpine outfit, he does so as he attempts to reacquaint himself with the sport after a two-year hiatus. The Spaniard is attempting a return about which many have been dubious.
In his two years outside of the cockpit, Alonso has kept himself occupied with two Indy500 bids, WEC outings and a Dakar rally attempt. Nonetheless, little could be done to prepare one for F1 after two years away, and the 39-year-old, though a veteran, has been seeking out opportunities to gain practice ahead of his return, and it was one of these that he got recently.
The two-time champion took the wheel of the Renault R.S.20, navigating the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya earlier in the month. It was a productive test/filming day, but despite this, and the upcoming opportunities he is likely to be afforded in coming months and weeks, Alonso is not confident that he’ll be competitive from the first race in 2021, as he expects instead that it will take numerous rounds before he is properly acclimated.
“Difficult to know now,” Alonso began speaking to TV media at Imola – his first F1 appearance for Renault in 2020. “I guess it’s going to take a couple of races to be honest, because the limited testing for next year is going to be a challenge for everyone, but a little bit more for me, because I’m out of the car two years.
“And I think it’s only going to be one day and a half with the winter testing, so you cannot prepare a world championship in one day and a half. This is how it is, I will try and create on the simulator some automatism, and some things that we need to save time on the real car for fine-tuning the set-up. But it’s a new team, it’s a new steering wheel, controls, new procedures, new engineers, a lot of new things that will require a little bit of time, but I will try to make it as short as possible,” summed up Alonso.
He was quick to reject that he might be racing at the tail end of 2020, saying that such a situation would not arise but for a driver incurring some sort of an injury, or illness. “No, I don’t think so – I hope not,” said Alonso. “If I race in 2020, it’s because something happened to the two race drivers and I wish that will not happen. And also I think I will not be 100%, so I prefer to race when I feel that I’m ready to do so.”
Irrespective of any transitionary period he may endure, though, Alonso is looking forward to his coming season with Renault, his test having left him invigorated. “Looking forward [to it], definitely,” he said. “It’s been a good period out of F1, but for me, with some fresh approach at different races, obviously [having contested] Indy, WEC, Dakar, and having different experiences, [I am] coming back very motivated, having reset my mind and my body as well, because after 18 years in F1 it was very demanding.
“[I’ve had] a little bit of fresh air – breathing – outside of Formula 1, which was good. Now I’m ready. It was a nice day for two reasons: one, testing a F1 car is always a nice experience, and when you feel the grip again, the braking performance, it’s all so fast. It was a good day. Then on the emotional part of things, it was nice to return to Renault.
“A lot of the guys from the team that day were [there] back in my days with the tea, so it was nice. The only way for me to come back and win is with Renault – an environment I know is like a family for me. Those two things were very special that day, and now [I’m] looking forward] to the next test,” summed up Alonso.
Looking at the current F1 grid, Alonso also spoke about the driver he is watching closely and who could do well in future. It wasn’t his to-be teammate but his rival and Williams driver Russell. “I think there are very talented drivers now in Formula 1,” he said. “They all came with very nice preparation as well with driver academies that build the performance and the talent, helping them from a very young age. Now they are doing their job.
“From all of them, George Russell is the one that surprises me every weekend. How he’s driving the Williams. Zero mistakes. I’m really surprised about his natural speed. So if I have to say one name, Russell for the future is going to be my pick,” summed up Alonso, who is set to test that R.S.18 next week in Bahrain.
Here’s news on Bahrain test for Fernando Alonso
Here’s Fernando Alonso in the R.S.20 at Barcelona