Alonso confirmed at Renault for 2017

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?


Magnussen headlines Renault return

Kevin Magnussen has secured a return to the Formula One grid, the Dane completing the line-up at Enstone as Renault marks their return to factory status.

The 23-year old has usurped Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, whose PDVSA backing has dried up following five seasons on the grid at Williams and Lotus. Though the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix victor has already confirmed that he will not compete in the category this season, he hasn’t dismissed a return to the grid in 2017.

GP2 outfit former ART Team Principal Frederic Vasseur has been installed as Racing Director at the operation known officially as the Renault Sport F1 Team, whilst Bob Bell returns to the fold as chief technical officer.

A striking black livery was unveiled at the launch, though a final scheme is set to appear ahead of the opening race at Melbourne next month.

2014 GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer’s impending debut has been ratified, the Briton rewarded for his reserve driver efforts last season. The 25-year old has been afforded a rare opportunity with a works outfit, though expectations will be lower than customary on account of the whirlwind nature with which the Renault return has eventuated.

Esteban Ocon has been handed the reserve driver role following his time in the Mercedes development programme.

Magnussen’s sole outing across any category throughout 2015 came with his erstwhile employer McLaren. On that particular occasion – the curtain raising Australian Grand Prix, the Dane, deputising for a recuperating Fernando Alonso, suffered the ignominy of failing to reach the grid, setting in motion Honda’s inglorious return campaign to the sport.

Further ignominy came when the Dane’s services were terminated by the Woking operation via phone on his 23rd birthday, invoking Ron Dennis’ infamous remark that Magnussen “did not behave as he should have.” If his Melbourne outing represented the capture data to compliment this sentiment, it amounted to a raw deal.

Great expectations were thrust upon Magnussen following his third place, which ultimately amounted to second following the disqualification of Daniel Ricciardo, on his debut at the 2014 Australian GP. This proved to be the watermark of his campaign, a lacklustre MP4-29 ensuring the Dane.languished in the midfield for the balance of the season.

Outscored 55 points to 126 by team-mate Jenson Button, Magnussen nevertheless expected to be retained for 2015. That he was snubbed in favour of the Briton alongside a returning Fernando Alonso following a painfully protracted process was a bitter pill to swallow.

The Dane forwent a full-time IndyCar berth to substitute for the Spaniard at Melbourne. With the benefit of foresight, Magnussen must have surely wished that he had settled for the former.

Just as it seemed that he may have been lost to Formula One forever, a lifeline has emerged

Having scaled back its’ commitments in acrimonious circumstances at the conclusion of 2009, following the fallout from the events of the Singapore Grand Prix ‘crashgate’ the year prior, Renault returned to its’ true calling – engines.

Four consecutive constructors’ titles gleaned between 2010 and 2013 in unison with Red Bull vindicated the decision.

The irony is that both, though more so the former, were so focused on their successful trajectory that each was exposed as a day late and a dollar short with the introduction of turbo ‘power units’ ahead of the 2014 season. Three victories, the only wrested from Mercedes grasp, was the result, a far cry from the lofty heights of the fourteen achieved in 2013.

Far worse was to beckon. A ceaseless war of words between the company and the energy drinks giant blighted the 2015 campaign, as a resurgent Ferrari cast Renault further down the pecking order. Reliability issues were all too frequent, its’ blushes spared only by Honda’s non-existent presence.

Tired of the persecution and feeling unloved for their sizeable contribution to the aforementioned golden era, the bigwigs at Viry Chatillon were compelled to take decisive action, and thus, reacquisition of the Enstone operation.

However, it took such a long period for confirmation to come, that the outfit is well behind the curve for their return campaign which commences in seven weeks’ time. The 2016 challenger was equipped to run with Mercedes power, the task to marry the Renault power unit to the well advanced chassis is not ideal.

Thus, Magnussen must remain patient in 2016, and anticipate frustration as Renault feels its’ way back into the game following six seasons away from the coalface. Time is on his side, and if Renault’s three-year plan to reach the top, as they did in their previous tenure is realised, he is at the right place at the right moment.

One individual who does not count time on his side is Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard will be monitoring developments with an eager eye. Marking the tenth anniversary of his second and most recent title, the 34-year old is bound to become restless if his 2016 season is as fruitless as his return campaign with the Woking outfit.

A return to the scene of his glories following too many near misses to recall would represent a romantic notion. Much water has to pass under the bridge until this can be contemplated.

For now, we should be pleased to witness another manufacturer’s presence on the grid, as well as a driver worthy of their place.