Fernando Alonso will return to Renault in 2017, representing his third tenure with the Enstone operation.
Alonso has inked a two-year agreement, with an option for a third season, by which stage the Spaniard will be 38.
Alonso claimed dual titles in his initial collaboration with the French marque, in 2005 and 2006, though he has failed to add to this tally following near-misses in 2007, 2010 and 2012.
Remarked Alonso “For many seasons, I try to have the third title, with McLaren, with Ferrari and again McLaren, but I don’t want anymore. I have a good feeling with Renault, many people I remember and many good memories.”
Renault’s managing director, Cyril Abiteboul, admitted that the manufacturer’s ultimately successful bid to land Alonso played a large role in returning to the sport in its own right following a five-season absence.
“Having Fernando on board is a huge coup, a huge vote of confidence that we made the right decision. By his arrival we aim to have a package we can already have podiums with, and with Fernando driving, to win races and then championships”, said the Frenchman.
Rising thirty-five, the move shapes as Alonso’s final pursuit of an elusive third crown, having grown disillusioned with progress at McLaren since rejoining the outfit ahead of the 2015 season.
The implication of this announcement is that the Spaniard will not honour the final season of his existing contract with McLaren. Stoffel Vandoorne is expected to be confirmed as his replacement.
The Belgian, who will deputise for Alonso at Bahrain this weekend after the Spaniard was deemed unfit to race on account of his spectacular crash at Australia, could make his full-time debut as imminently as June’s Canadian Grand Prix – following Alonso’s home event at Spain and the subsequent Monaco Grand Prix.
This outcome, heavily favoured by McLaren chief executive officer, Ron Dennis, would in turn provide Alonso with an opportunity to enjoy a sustained break prior to undertaking the next chapter of a fantastical career, blighted by being in the wrong places at the wrong time.
For his part, Dennis remained circumspect regarding the Spaniard’s impending departure. “The fundamental elements to achieve the objectives which company strives for haven’t been forthcoming. With the fullness of time, company hopes to rectify this, however it was mutually agreed that both parties will benefit through dissolution of the relationship”, elucidated the Briton.
Alonso last stood atop the podium at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, and hasn’t visited the rostrum in an official capacity since the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix. An impromptu trip to the dais alongsideteammate, Jenson Button, in a rare moment of levity nearing the conclusion of a miserable campaign, at last season’s Brazilian Grand Prix, drew the ire of Dennis.
That the victor of 32 Grands Prix has opted for a return to an operation which has just re-entered the sport, speaks volumes about his faith, or lack thereof, in the McLaren-Honda collaboration, and foremost, his own desperation.
On the previous occasion that Alonso departed McLaren for Renault, he followed that up with a switch to Ferrari. Yet this move surely amounts to the final destination for the Spaniard?