Alonso to return to F1 next year
Fernando Alonso’s return to Formula One has been confirmed by Renault after BBC News broke the story on Tuesday. The thirty-eight-year-old will replace Daniel Ricciardo, for a third stint at the Enstone team where he won his two titles in 2005-2006.
Alonso is one off the most successful, determined yet controversial stars of recent F1 history, will partner Esteban Ocon in 2021 with Ricciardo already signed by McLaren.
He said, “It’s a great source of pride and with an immense emotion I’m returning to the team that gave me my chance at the start of my career and which now gives me the opportunity to return to the highest level.”
Renault, however, could be a risk, the Enstone based team hasn’t been on the podium since 2013 when it was privately owned. Alonso remains the manufacturer’s last race winner in 2009.
F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul said, “The signing of Fernando Alonso is part of Renault’s plan to continue its commitment to F1 and to return to the top of the field.”
“The strength of the bond between him, the team and the fans make him a natural choice. In addition to past successes, it is a bold mutual choice as well as a project for the future.”
This year Alonso is making his third attempt at the Indianapolis 500, A win at Indianapolis would mean Alonso becomes just the second driver after Graham Hill to claim the ‘Triple Crown’ of victories at the Monaco GP, Le Mans 24 Hours and Indy 500.
The thirty-eight-year-old has taken part in over 300 Grands Prix winning thirty-two races with Renault, McLaren and Ferrari – but found himself thwarted in attempts to win a third world crown, coming within a handful of points in each of 2007, 2010 and 2012.
He last won a race in 2013, with his most-recent podium achieved a year later.
Alonso’s return will also end speculation that Sebastian Vettel, dropped by Ferrari for 2021 to make way for McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, could join the team next to Ocon.
Alonso carer so far
Fernando Alonso says that Renault has a credible plan for its Formula One programme that gives him the chance to “return to the highest level” in 2022. On Wednesday it was announced that two-time champion Alonso would be returning to the team in 2021, marking his return to F1.
The return to Renault will mark his third stint with the French manufacturer, the most recent ending in 2009. Alonso had long-stated that he would only entertain a potential return to F1 if he had the chance to fight at the front and be competitive once again.
Alonso said in the team’s announcement that he was convinced by the plan Renault had for its F1 programme moving forward, giving him the chance to fulfil his wishes.
He says, “It’s a great source of pride and with an immense emotion I’m returning to the team that gave me my chance at the start of my career, and which now gives me the opportunity to return to the highest level.”
“I have principles and ambitions in line with the team’s project. Their progress this winter gives credibility to the objectives for the 2022 season and I will share all my racing experience with everyone from the engineers to the mechanics and my teammates.”
Alonso remains the team’s last winner for the team as a constructor, that win was at the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix. He has also not managed a victory since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix.
The Spaniard endured four frustrating seasons with McLaren that yielded no race finish better than fifth before walking away from F1 to explore interests outside the sport.
Renault has failed to score a podium finish since returning to F1 as a factory team in 2016 and slipped from fourth to fifth in the constructors’ championship last year.
Alonso won the FIA World Endurance Championship title in the 2018-19 season with Toyota, claiming two victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the process, and also took part in this year’s Dakar Rally with the Japanese manufacturer.
No feud between Källenius and Wolff
Mercedes CEO Ola Källenius has dismissed reports an internal feud with F1 team boss Toto Wolff and revealed the key factors that he thinks will make his company commit to a long-term future in the sport.
This comes as Liberty Media, the FIA and the teams have just under five months to renegotiate the Concorde Agreement, here has been a winter of speculation about Mercedes’ ongoing commitment to Grand Prix racing.
Reports suggested that the German car manufacturer was ready to pull out and that matters were not helped by Källenius and Wolff not seeing eye-to-eye on matters. But, at last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, Källenius moved quickly to rubbish suggestions that he and Wolff were enemies.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Wolff said, “Well, not everything you read in the media is true. Toto and I are very close. We speak quite often. I’m very happy to be here and support the team after all the hard work that they have done over the winter.”
Mercedes has yet to sign the new agreement with Källenius saying that F1’s push to reduce costs and become CO2 neutral in the future were key factors in him seeing it remain.
Saying “I think there are two things that are very important for the future of Formula One. It’s on the one hand to reduce the cost basis, and a lot of work has gone into that. We have been instrumental in defining what that new cost basis should look like, which will make the sport more financially robust.”
The other thing that Mercedes want to ensure it has the best hybrid technology in the world and moves towards a carbon-neutral by 2030, which were announced in the long term plan last year.
Ricciardo “not devastated” by early retirement
Daniel Ricciardo says he was “not devastated” by his early retirement in the Austrian Grand Prix because of an engine cooling issue and says it will be addressed for this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix.
The Australian was running in tenth when he was called in to retire on lap seventeen and admitted to some frustration after two safety cars and a high attrition race created opportunities for his fellow midfield runners. Ricciardo is, however, taking the chaos in the race as an opportunity this weekend.
He believes that the team could have scored a good haul of points. Ricciardo told Motorsport.com, “Certainly a premature end to the race. It was early when we had the issue and then seeing the safety cars and everything coming out later in the race, I’m sure we could have been there to grab a nice little bag of points. But it was obviously not to be.”
“I think the reason why I’m not completely devastated right now is because we’re back in a week and we get another chance at this track, so I’m optimistic that we’ll get it right in seven day’s time.”
Ricciardo explained that the cooling issues lead to rising temperatures and the team asked him to bring the car back safety before it got worst, they believe they have managed to save everything.
Ricciardo believes that the cooling issue is an easy fix: “I’m certainly optimistic, I believe they’re pretty close to finding out the source of the issue and from what I understand it’s something that can be fixed and managed within the window that we’ve got up until next weekend.”
He also says that the other teams had similar problems throughout the race, which could be more from the drivers than mechanical. Ricciardo also says that any frustration was outweighed by the simple fact of the season finally getting underway.
I wasn’t trying to back Hamilton up – Bottas
Valtteri Bottas says he was not trying to back his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton into the pack at the Austrian Grand Prix. In the closing laps of the race, Hamilton was running second when he was handed a five-second penalty for his clash with Alex Albon.
That mad Hamilton was desperate to stay sufficiently clear of his immediate pursuers. However, the six-time champion had to run at the same pace as Bottas, after the team instructed Bottas to slow to allow Hamilton to build a big enough gap over the rest of the field, which ultimately failed.
Bottas dropped his pace significantly on with two laps to go, before picking it up again, and after the flag fell Hamilton was demoted to fourth place by Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris, both of whom stayed close enough to be within the five-second margin.
That theory was dismissed by the Finn, he says the was preparing for an attempt to go for the fastest lap on the last lap. Saying “I also knew that there’s going to be an opportunity to try and go for the fastest lap of the race, which would be silly not to, even though we couldn’t use the kerbs, but at least to try within the limits. So I was charging the pack as well.”
Hamilton says he knows that Bottas wouldn’t have slowed deliberately, describing the Finn as “a pure racer and wants to win through pure, merit”.
Bottas says there is “no tension” with Hamilton after an eventful weekend. In qualifying Hamilton’s final run in Q3 was compromised when Bottas, who was already on pole after the first runs, went off in front of him.
Hamilton was second fastest but was demoted three places after failing to slow under yellow flags after Bottas went into the gravel. Bottas admitted that there had been an unfortunate set of circumstances over the weekend, but stressed that the air had been cleared with his teammate.
Saying, “There are incidents and unlucky events, and I’m sure you all know that in F1 many things can happen and sometimes things just go the way they go.”
Kubica to drive in first practice at Styrian GP
Robert Kubica is to drive in first practice for Alfa Romeo at this weekends Styrian Grand Prix. Kubica who left the sport at the end of last season has returned to the team where he made his debut in 2006 as reserve driver this season.
He will drive Antonio Giovinazzi’s car in first practice session at the Red Bull Ring on Friday. Kubica completed two half-day outings for Alfa during pre-season testing, ending up as the fastest driver on the opening morning of the second test.
Saying “I am looking forward to returning to action this weekend, especially after the long break the whole world of motorsport had to observe. My objective, as always, is to provide as much data as possible for our engineers and to give them my feedback from within the cockpit.”
Kubica says that it is going to be a new experience, going racing at the same circuit less than a week after the last race. There aim will be to fine-tune the cars based on last weekend’s race.
Alfa team principal Frederic Vasseur said, “I am looking forward to seeing Robert in the car on Friday. A driver with his experience always comes up with valuable feedback and he’ll be able to help us continue learning about our car.”
Vasseur says that Kubica was fully embedded in the teams engineering meetings last weekend, which will give him knowledge, help us progress further.
Last year Kubica finished twentieth in the race. Williams will also be running their reserve driver, with Jack Aitken will drive for Williams in place of George Russell.
Gasly’s retirement due to brake failure
Pierre Gasly says that Alpha Tauri asked him to retire after just ten laps of the Austrian Grand Prix due to fears of an brake failure. The Frenchman was running twelfth when his brakes started to overheat and was instructed to pit.
But the 24-year-old asked for one more lap to try and get the brake temperatures under control, and duly went on to finish seventh in an attrition race. Seven place was the Italian teams best result at an opening race sine Sebastien Buemi’s seventh on his debut in the 2009 Australian Grand Prix.
Gasly told Autosport, “I mean, we were that close from retiring the car. The team asked me actually to box on lap ten, because my brake pedal was completely flat and the temperatures were going over the roof, and I just asked for one more lap.”
“They told me ‘Okay, try’. I stayed out, things got better, and in the end w,e finished P7, so we were one lap [away] to box the car, and then next lap stayed out and managed to get a couple of points.”
Following the scare, the Frenchman took advantage of the retirements ahead of him as well as Alex Albon’s spin after his collision with Lewis Hamilton. He says he knew that it would be challenging, but all he needed to do was stay out of trouble.
Adding, “The progress showed by the team, with steps forward in the general setup and relative performance from Friday’s sessions to the race, makes us look forward to next week’s Styrian Grand Prix, where we hope to be able to replicate today’s result or achieve an even better one.”
Gasly’s team-mate Daniil Kvyat was also running in the points when contact with Esteban Ocon’s Renault resulted in a puncture.