Alonso completes simulator session and seat fit at Renault as he bids to get ‘ahead of the game’ for 2021
Fernando Alonso’s preparations for a full-time return to F1 next season stepped up a gear this week, as he paid his first visits to Renault’s Enstone and Viry factories for 10 years.
The 39-year-old Spaniard, who won two world championships with the team in 2005 and 2006, will partner Esteban Ocon in the rebranded Alpine F1 Team from next year, with his visit to Enstone – and to the team’s power unit facility in Viry-Chatillon, France - a chance for Alonso to, in Renault’s words, “get ahead of the game for 2021”.
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Over the two days at Enstone, Alonso completed a full day in the on-site driver-in-the-loop simulator, a seat fit and engineering meetings with technical staff, while also paying a visit to the wind tunnel to see progress for next year. Alonso then flew to Paris to catch up with Renault engine technicians at Viry as he visited the dynos and engine build workshops at the French site.
“Being back at Enstone was a very good experience, they were very emotional days,” said Alonso. “A lot of things have changed; the simulator is new, the wind tunnel has been updated, but a few things are the same: there are the same offices, the gym that I used to visit a lot…
“It was a like a first day at school, with lots of things to learn and get through, but it was very productive. I’ve followed a programme in the simulator, getting used to the car a little, testing the facilities – last time I was here the simulator didn’t exist! Then I had a seat fit and meetings with key people to understand the programme for next year. It was really just getting up to speed.”
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Alonso added that his visit, plus the team’s recent form, had left him optimistic for his return.
“I think the team is in good shape for the future. The last few races were encouraging for everyone, for myself too. To see Renault back in a competitive manner is a good thing for the sport and I’ve been delighted to see the improvements.
“We’ve still got a long way to go and the midfield is very tight but I think the guys have done an amazing job trackside. The last couple of races were very exciting to watch and I am looking forward to being back in the mix. I’ll now follow what the team needs from my side – some sim days, helping some weekends and being available for the team for anything they need.”
Renault Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said Alonso’s trip proved how motivated he is ahead of his return.
“It’s been great to see Fernando back at the team in person,” he said. “He’s hugely motivated to have the best start possible. He wants to be very involved in the preparations.
"Spending three days at Enstone and Viry gave both sides the opportunity to restart those links and set the foundations at a very early stage, which will be critical to hit the ground running in 2021, a key year in our progress as a team.”
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In a storied F1 career, which has also included stints at McLaren and Ferrari, Alonso has not only won two world championships, he has also finished runner-up three times. His 32 victories place him sixth on the all-time list, and he's also sixth in all-time podium finishes with 97. Meanwhile, with 311 starts, only Rubens Barrichello (322) and Kimi Raikkonen (321) have been involved in more Grands Prix.