The roller coaster of a new Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso pilots his Alpine during the first tests at the Portimão circuit.

Nine months have passed since Fernando Alonso confirmed his return to Formula 1 after spending two seasons out of the competition that made him one of the most relevant Spanish athletes in history. His reappearance in the great circus at the age of 39 was sold in a big way, both from the championship itself and from Renault, the team that convinced him to return and with whom in his day (2005 and 2006) he won the two titles that appear in your service record. However, the start of the championship that he has starred in has not caused the impact calculated by any of the parties, to the point of being camouflaged as one of the peloton. After the first two stops on the calendar, Alonso accumulates a single point, which, in addition, was taken as a result of the penalty that the stewards imposed on Raikkonen in Imola, 10 days ago. A poor background that has motivated the Asturian to show an unusual facet in him.

“Lack of experience cannot be used as an excuse to justify that he did not do well. I have to improve and be more prepared next time, ”Alonso summed up after crossing the finish line in eleventh place, more than a minute behind the winner (Verstappen), in a race that was almost an odyssey; with rain and interruptions caused by tremendous accidents like Valtteri Bottas and George Russell. That grand prize is the perfect metaphor for the roller coaster the two-time world champion has been on since last summer.

Renault is now called Alpine, and in addition to the name it has also changed the executives and the business structure. But there is more. Six weeks before the start of the championship, Alonso was hit by a car while training on a bicycle around Lugano. The accident required an operation on his face that made him reach the preseason tests by a hair, which, in addition, were compressed to only a day and a half per pilot as a result of the restrictions by the covid. In the first grand prix of the course (Bahrain), a sandwich wrap that clogged a brake duct forced him to drop out before the halfway point of the test. In Imola he crossed the finish line in eleventh before Raikkonen’s sanction replaced him in tenth. This weekend, in Portimão (the race, this Sunday at 4:00 pm; Movistar F1 and DAZN), Alonso and Alpine face the third opportunity to make sense of the project they share and with which they hope to start climbing positions in the table.

In his debut on the Portuguese track, the Oviedo finished with the fifth best time, just three tenths behind the fastest (Lewis Hamilton). “This is the most comfortable time I have felt inside the car. I soon got to set-up, so I concentrated on getting used to the circuit, “he said as he got off the A521.

In 2020, Renault finished in fifth place in the manufacturers’ standings after playing third place with McLaren (third) and Racing Point (fourth) until the last round. Now, Alpine ranks seventh, with just three points, one world (38 points) behind third (McLaren).

The situation worries Davide Brivio, sports director of the French team, recruited by Luca de Meo, Renault’s boss, after the former captained the reconquest of the MotoGP title by Suzuki (2020) and at the hand of Joan Mir, two decades later (Kenny Roberts Junior, in 2000). Brivio asks for patience so that all the pieces of the gear fit together, including the injection of experience that will bring the most relevant incorporation that has been made. “Fernando must be given time. It is not easy to return to F1 after having been away for two years. You will need a few races before you can be 100% ”, the executive tells EL PAÍS.

The former Suzuki manager was always passionate about motorsports, although he had never had the opportunity to exchange a word with Alonso before. The motivation that has led him to challenge himself again and to test himself in the F-1 stands out from him, when he had no need to do so. “The simple fact of accepting this challenge already explains the motivation that you have. If he only wanted to have fun, he would run in resistance, the Dakar or anywhere else ”, adds Brivio, who does not hide the admiration that the event caused him. mea culpa sung by his pilot in Imola. “The great champions are self-critical, because that leads them to improve. What is even more remarkable is that he did it publicly. Without a doubt, the team appreciated that a lot because no one asked for it, ”emphasizes the Italian.

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