Renault making plans for Alonso to test F1 car this year

2020 Russian Grand Prix

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Renault intend to give Fernando Alonso a chance to drive one of their Formula 1 cars this year.

The team’s managing director Cyril Abiteboul said they are considering how to get the two-times world champion into one of their cars ahead of his race return for the 2021 F1 season. This could involved driving their 2020 car in a filming day, or a giving him a run in one of the team’s two-year-old chassis.

Alonso visited the Renault facilities in Enstone and Viry-Châtillon this week and did a session in their simulator as he prepares for his return. Abiteboul said the driver was “happy to be back” at the team he won both his championships with in 2005 and 2006.

“He’s definitely keen on getting back to behind the steering wheel,” said Abiteboul. “So we see that and we are building the programme.

“There is a couple of opportunities, obviously within the restrictions of the sporting regulations, things like filming days that we’ve not done so far. There is a [post]-season test that I have already commented on, we will see when we get there.”

Renault’s other option to give Alonso seat time would be to run a 2018 car, said Abiteboul. “We also have a two-year-old car programme that we can run pretty much anywhere and we would probably do a bit of that also. So you’ll see him in action. I can’t say here, where and when exactly yet.”

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Abiteboul was not able to accompany Alonso to Enstone, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. But he believes Alonso responded favourably to the team’s upgraded facilities and preparations for his return.

Alonso visited the Renault factory last week
“He was really impressed by all the changes in Viry, all the new people, the energy, the drive, the determination that there is in Viry. We are developing a new power unit for what will now be 2022 – it was supposed to be ’21, but it’s shifted by a year.

“Obviously I am biased when I say that but it’s something that is extremely important to us to see Fernando and to see this pride and his excitement in his in his eyes. He has also been a witness to all the changes in Enstone. But a nice building is not a statement of what’s coming. So we just need to work very hard to make sure that he has a car that that he wants and also that he deserves.”

Abiteboul admitted the team’s simulator is “not necessarily the main strength of the team and we are working hard actually to try and improve in that area. It’s “typically an area where there’s been a lack of investment in the last few years,” he added.

“But from a broader perspective, first we saw a Fernando that’s happy to be back. Not yet back in action but back in the team environment, in particular in a team that he’s that he knows and where he obviously has good souvenirs. But souvenirs are not a reflection of what’s going to going to happen so we need also to be forward-looking.”

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2020 Russian Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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11 comments on “Renault making plans for Alonso to test F1 car this year”

  1. Is there any reason they couldn’t get him to do a Friday practice one weekend? That would be ace

    1. @marcusbreese Renault is one of ‘those’ teams that generally never use drivers other than the regulars for FP1s.

      1. @jerejj not strictly true.
        – Ocon 2016
        – Sirotkin 2016 / 17
        – Markelov 2018
        So given that I can’t see why they couldn’t give Alonso of all people a ride.

        The only two reasons why I think they won’t give him a FP1 test would be:
        1) if Renat are still fighting for 3rd in the championship, they wouldn’t risk wasting FP1;
        2) if they want to avoid any direct comparisons that an official timed session might provide

        1. I agree, it does seem odd they don’t let Fernando have an FP1 drive. Maybe there’s some contractual reason that prevents this happening at this time.

        2. @eurobrun Yes, but the most recent of those is from 2018. The point was that Renault is one of those teams along with Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull Racing, and Mclaren (except for the latter half of 2018) that rarely if ever use a non-regular driver for an FP1. Teams lower down the grid do this more often. I don’t recall Mercedes ever using a non-regular driver for Friday running since the return of the full-works team back in 2010, nor Red Bull except for the team’s early days, nor Ferrari. Mclaren as well since the early V8-days besides 2018.

          1. Sub drivers on Friday can only be diminishing their contracted drivers potential by allowing a young hopeful with money steal their time from being in the seat. Besides that young hopeful probably will see little of the opportunity to bear fruit. Why, because if the team cant gain much from the existing race team. Then how in the hell can this sub driver ever expect to make A bit of difference.
            Again taking the limited time of Prac/quali from a number Two or worse, a number One happens. Take money out of it. Then what sense us made from this activity. Didn’t make sense years ago and certainly not today.

          2. 2020 has clearly gone on for way too long! 2018 was only 1 and a half seasons ago.
            Correct: Mercedes and Ferrari (and to memory Red Bull) have never used FP1 drivers, but if anything your McLaren Norris example, is a perfect logic for why Renault would give Alonso an FP1 drive this year!

  2. We are developing a new power unit for what will now be 2022 – it was supposed to be ’21, but it’s shifted by a year.

    Sigh! Maybe Fernando is happy to be back, but do the folks at Renault know their history? Fernando wants podiums, he wants lots of points, he wants prestige! I just can’t imagine any F1 driver, and especially a driver of Fernando’s calibre, saying, “I’ll take your second best engine, thanks”. If he sees an unused engine at the back of a garage and asks, “What’s that?”, and they say, “That’s the 2022 engine, we don’t want to use it this year because it’s too powerful”, well, they are going to discover their F1 driver isn’t always nice and happy. Do they want him telling the world “This is a GP2 car”? Keeping Fernando happy means having the best engine and the best hybrid system they’ve got in his car. They need to have that Mark 2 engine (or whatever Mark it is) to be in Fernando’s car at pre-season testing.

    1. Hello, we’re currently having that thing, covid, you know. Because of that, the rules change supposed to happen in 2021 is shifted to 2022, development effectively frozen and this is applies to EVERY team. This is what they talk about. There are token system with very few tokens allowed for the next year, you cannot build a completely new engine with that. And even if you could, you cannot simply drop it onto old chassis.

      1. Oh, that’s what’s happened. Sorry if I’ve offended anyone.

  3. Of course he will have to run the current car. Anything else wouldn’t make sense.

    I bet he’s wringing his hands seeinng how close Renault is to podiums these days, and I can’t wait either.

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