Fernando Alonso is reportedly ready to make a return to Formula One with Renault next season, replacing Daniel Ricciardo, who is moving to McLaren.
Alonso won both his world titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006 and, although the team have not made any comment, the BBC, Sky Italia, Spain’s Marca and Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport have claimed the deal is done.
The Spaniard, who will be 39 this month, is regarded as one of the most talented drivers of his generation and won his first grand prix in 2003 in Hungary. He spent 2007 at McLaren alongside Lewis Hamilton before returning to Renault in 2008. Stints with Ferrari and McLaren once more followed but with the latter’s car uncompetitive between 2015 and 2018 Alonso became weary of struggling in midfield and stepped back from F1 in 2018.
At the first race of the season in Austria last week the Renault team principal, Cyril Abiteboul, said they were in talks with various drivers. “We are talking to a few names, some big names, some lesser-known names,” he said. “We are taking the time and again making sure there is a good alignment between what we and what any driver is looking to get in a team like ours.”
Flavio Briatore, the former Renault chief and Alonso’s adviser, said this year that he believed the driver was ready to make a comeback. “Fernando is motivated,” he said. “A year out of Formula One has done him good. He has detoxed himself and I see him more serene and ready to return.”
Alonso has pursued victory in the Le Mans endurance race with Toyota, which he achieved in 2018 and last year, and is still intent on winning the Indy 500 to complete, alongside his F1 victory at Monaco, motor racing’s triple crown. However, he has been explicit in not ruling out a return to F1 if he believed the conditions were right.
Renault are a manufacturer team and have ambitions to become world champions again but have not made the progress they would have wanted and remain firmly in a midfield fight with McLaren and Racing Point.
Alonso would be returning without a realistic shot at the title because car development has been frozen for next year as a cost-saving measure to help F1 weather the financial downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Renault are targeting a major step forward when new regulations and a budget cap are implemented for 2022.