Renault's sporting director explains Alonso's best qualities ahead of his 2021 return
Ahead of Fernando Alonso’s hotly anticipated return in 2021, Renault Sporting Director Alan Permane explains why it's not just 'speed' but 'adaptablity' that are the two-time champion’s best qualities, and how the Spaniard is already showing an intense desire to prepare for next season.
Just about four months remain until the 2021 season begins and that means Alonso will be back in a Renault - or Alpine as they'll then be known - having won the 2005 and 2006 titles with the squad. In the latest Beyond The Grid podcast, Permane – who was race engineer for Alonso’s team mate Jarno Trulli during those pivotal years – speaks about the Spaniard’s best qualities.
“It’s his speed,” says Permane. “I didn’t engineer Fernando ever – I suspect I did at a test with him at some point – but his adaptability, as well, was incredible.
“So in 2004, I was engineering Trulli, we did get the better of him once there; we won in Monaco… that was my first win as race engineer, that was pretty special. But Fernando had this way of driving that car where he would really hammer the front tyres, to… have this really sharp turn-in and use that to stabilise the car and was very tough on front tyres.
“We had refuelling in those days so multiple [pit] stops were common. And I remember saying to Giancarlo [Fisichella] at the start of 2005 – I remember exactly where we were – sat in the canteen at Enstone, thinking we’re going to get this bloke because we’ve got one tyre [set] for qualifying and the race.
“And Fernando, just overnight, figured out his driving style, completely, to cope with that single tyre rule, and all of a sudden was super gentle on the left front tyre. So I think adaptability was one of his key strengths,” explained Permane.
Those qualities, Permane says, are still strong ahead of the 39-year-old’s return to F1. Alonso has tested Renault’s 2020 car in Barcelona, and their 2018 machine in Bahrain this season.
“Of course he’s phenomenally quick, but I think adaptability and just having dealings with him again since this summer in preparation for next year, it’s his attention to detail. It’s incredible,” continued Permane. “Just questions, questions, questions… and all sorts of things come in all the time, non-stop. So it’s going to be a good year next year.”
In particular, Permane says Alonso has been so eager to prepare that he’s been keenly involved with the team’s running this season too!
“I feel that on the end of my phone, on race weekend, he’s texting or messaging me on the laptop saying ‘don’t forget this’ or ‘think about that’ and he’s sat at home!”
“And he’s listening to our meetings through there and you think ‘he’s got a point there’… and I know that is only going to be tenfold when he comes,” concludes Permane.