RACE DEBRIEF

    Fernando Alonso is set to return to Formula 1 for the first time since 2018 this season, as the two-time champion prepares to launch his comeback with Alpine. But despite a promising season for Renault in 2020, Alonso was keeping his counsel when it came to making bold predictions about how Alpine will fare in 2021.

    Although a shadow of doubt was cast over Alonso’s F1 return following a cycling accident in Switzerland that broke his jaw, both Alonso and Alpine have made positive noises about the chances of the Spaniard being mended in time for 2021 pre-season testing on March 12-14.

    READ MORE: Alonso discharged from hospital to continue recovery from cycling accident

    And asked in the latest issue of the Official Formula 1 Magazine what his expectations were for the season ahead, Alonso said he would wait until at least that test in Bahrain before coming to any conclusions.

    “I didn’t start thinking about that yet – I think we are too early into preparations,” said Alonso. “Maybe after the winter test you can imagine or dream about the first race and where you can be. Right now, I didn’t have any thoughts about that.

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    “Our job is to be at least fighting for the top 10”

    “Realistically, we have to have our feet on the ground,” he added, “knowing that even if there are some changes for this year, they are not dramatic, so performance will not be too different compared to last year.

    “I think Mercedes will be in front of everybody, then there will be Red Bull and there will be a close fight between a few teams. Alpine will be within that group of teams and that will be interesting to see who adapts better to the new regulations. I think it will be very tight, so we could be fighting for sixth or seventh on the grid or it could be 15th very easily. Our job is to be at least fighting for the top 10.”

    READ MORE: 2022 F1 regulation changes play into Alonso’s hands, says Pat Symonds

    In recent months, Alonso has tested both Renault’s 2018 car and the R.S.20 that Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon took to three podiums during the 2020 season. But having spent the past two years driving everything from an IndyCar to a Dakar off-road machine, Alonso was candid about how long it had taken him to get back up to speed with F1.

    “I said at the time that the [2020] car was faster than me in terms of everything coming quicker than I expected,” he said. “I had to adapt to the braking points, the cornering speeds I had to rethink a little bit as I approached a corner.

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    Alonso drove the R.S.20 at the post-2020 season test in Abu Dhabi

    “All those things were… not new, as I have a good memory, but my last two races were at Indy and Dakar. So you arrive at a corner with a 4x4 car and then the next time you drive you are arriving at Turn 1 at Barcelona in a Formula 1 car... and it’s day and night!”

    MUST-SEE: Fernando Alonso drives his 2005 title-winning Renault R25 at Abu Dhabi

    Read more of the interview with Fernando Alonso, including why he didn’t want to wait until 2022 to return to F1, and how Alpine’s Enstone facility has changed since the last time he drove the for the squad in 2009, in Issue 11 of the Official Formula 1 Magazine.