As we went to press Fernando Alonso had just completed his first laps in a Renault F1 car for the first time in nine years.

Spaniard Alonso drove the Renault DP World F1 Team’s 2020 car, the R.S.20, during a filming day at his home track, Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona. 


The day’s activity chiefly involved drones and cameras filming promotional material ahead of the double World Champion’s much anticipated return to F1 with his team of old in 2021. 


Notably it was at Barcelona 20 years earlier that Alonso made his debut for Renault’s predecessor, Benetton. He won 2006’s F1 GP there, too, for Renault on his way to the second of his two titles with the team… 


The filming day marked the first time since April 2019 that Alonso had driven an F1 car. He enthused:

“It felt amazing to be able to drive these cars after two years and feel the speed again, how everything comes so fast, corner after corner, the performance under braking and all the things a Formula 1 car has to offer. To feel it once again felt nice.”

He added: “I think the car was a nice surprise. We know the car is performing well at the last couple of races and I felt the grip and certainly good potential in it. The last time I drove a Renault engine was in 2018 and I felt a step forward, which is quite important there.” 


Although F1’s rules prevented him from driving the R.S.20 ‘in anger’, he was still able to work with the Renault crew on a few home comforts inside the R.S.20’s cockpit. 


Alonso explained: “Most of the day was a little bit of filming with some drones on track and some action behind the camera. At the same time, it was about working with the team to do a couple of laps and for me to find comfort in the seat, the steering wheel and the pedals. These are things for next year which, over winter, could be very tight. It’s our first steps.” 


Alonso said he had sent a congratulatory text as soon as Daniel Ricciardo – who he replaces in 2021 – had given Renault its first podium finish in F1 in the previous weekend’s Eifel GP had finish (see separate story).


He admitted: “I wrote the message and then had my finger on send until Daniel crossed the line. I didn’t want to send it before in case for luck reasons!” 


Ricciardo’s podium finish and an improvement in results generally by the Renault team of late have certainly given Alonso added motivation. 


Indeed, Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul has likened Alonso to “a hungry shark” in his approach with the engineers at the Renault team’s two bases at Enstone, UK and Viry Châtillon, France.


Alonso said: “I’m still the same (after the Eifel GP result). I know what the team is capable of and I know the prospects for the future are good. The podium is a thing that had to happen. The most important thing is to follow the trend that we see now, keep the momentum into next year, especially for 2022 and I think we know how to do it.