Alonso is ready to return in 2021, says ex-boss Briatore


LONDON (Reuters) – Two-times world champion Fernando Alonso is ready for a Formula One comeback, his long-time adviser and former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore has said amid increasing speculation about a return to Renault.

The 38-year-old Spaniard left Formula One at the end of 2018 but is seen as a possible replacement for Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who is moving to McLaren in 2021.

“Fernando is motivated. A year away from Formula One has done him good. He has detoxed himself and I see him calmer and ready to return,” Briatore, who left Renault in 2009 after a race-fixing scandal, told Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport.

Renault are expected to take their time before making any driver announcement, with the 2020 season yet to start due to COVID-19.

Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel is also available after Ferrari announced the German would be leaving at the end of the year.

Alonso won his titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006 to end seven-times champion Michael Schumacher’s long reign.

He moved to McLaren for a tumultuous 2007 season alongside a rookie Lewis Hamilton but returned to Renault for 2008 and 2009 before moving to Ferrari and then back to McLaren in 2015.

The two-times Le Mans 24 Hours winner has made the Indianapolis 500 his main target this year in a bid to become only the second man after the late Graham Hill to complete the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’.

The Spaniard turns 40 next year but former Ferrari team mate and 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen is that age already and still racing with Alfa Romeo.

Renault finished fifth overall last year but represent Alonso’s best, and possibly only, chance of a comeback.

Ferrari and Red Bull have put an emphasis on youth while Mercedes look sure to reach a new deal with six-times world champion Hamilton.

Mercedes are the only F1 team with both drivers over 30 and the champions are more likely to go for a youngster like George Russell, now at Williams, should they replace Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton looks sure to stay.

McLaren boss Zak Brown told Sky Sports television that he saw Alonso to Renault as a ‘bit of a no-brainer’.

“I think he’s undecided, and if I was running Renault, that’s who I’d put in the car: big name, fast as anyone, won two championships with them, so he’s got history,” said the American, who spoke to Alonso recently.

Brown said Alonso would jump at the chance to win again but might be less interested in a team still some way off.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge