• Chris Kato

Why Renault's Latest Podium is Good News for Fernando Alonso

The happiest man for Renault's latest podium might've been the guy replacing Ricciardo for 2021

Courtesy - Renault Sport

On the back of a successful Eifel Grand Prix weekend for Renault, the Enstone team is back at work on Tuesday in Barcelona for one of their most important filming days in recent memory. Two time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso made his unofficial return to the sport on Tuesday for his first outing in the R.S.20, completing 100km of running over 21 laps around the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya. It was the first time Alonso has driven an F1 car since April of 2019 and his first time back in a Renault F1 car since his last stint with the team in 2009.

"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, said Alonso. 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 forwards, which is quite important there. Everything felt good. I wasn’t able to maximize the performance of the car because I’m not up to speed yet, but I’m happy with the day."

It was great to see Alonso back in an F1 car where he belongs and he seems refreshed and ready to attack the 2021 season with full steam ahead. With Renault's recent podium at the Eifel Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo and the team were ecstatic to finally see all their hard work and progress rewarded, but was the happiest team member actually Alonso who was watching from a far?

Why Ricciardo's Podium is Good News for Alonso

Courtesy - Formula1.com

Ricciardo and Renault have been on a great run of form as of late with Ricciardo finishing no lower than sixth in his last five outings. Strong P4 results in Belgium and Tuscany eventually lead to the payoff at the Eifel Grand Prix with Renault scoring their first podium since 2011. It shows the progress that Renault have made with their car and the stellar driving from Ricciardo. It was a bittersweet moment as obviously Ricciardo will be leaving Renault for McLaren at the end of the season, but it's looking good at the moment for Daniel's successor. This recent run of form for Renault is great news for Fernando Alonso. It looks as though maybe for the first time in a decade or so, Alonso made a move to a team at the right time. Renault have vastly under delivered since their return to the sport and have also lost a lot of customers like Red Bull and now McLaren along the way. The constant talk of Renault pulling out of the sport has gone in and out of news cycles in the past few years but now as the team re-brands to Alpine for 2021, it looks as though this could be the start of something big. Seeing as the 2021 regulations will remain roughly the same, Alonso could jump into the Alpine next year and actually bring the fight to the likes of Racing Point, McLaren, and maybe even Red Bull. 2021 is not the main focus for Alonso and Renault but what Ricciardo is showing this season is that the car is capable of battling for podiums and consistent top five finishes. Now you pass that car along to a two time world champion and one of the all-time greats, we could be in for a very fun season indeed in 2021. The big changes that are coming in 2022 provide teams like Renault, Racing, Point, and McLaren a chance to take the next step and begin competing for race victories. If Renault continue their progress and get things right for 2022, Fernando Alonso could be in a great position to add to his tally of race victories and even world championships. It's not a guarantee however, as we saw in the last big regulation change in 2014, only one team got it spot on and they've dominated ever since but who knows, maybe this time it will be Renault/Alpine who get all the ingredients together and return to their winning ways.

What does Alonso Bring to Renault?

Courtesy - Renault Sport

When Renault announced Alonso's return to the team a few months ago, their were many mixed reactions amongst the F1 community about his return. A few questioned the purpose of Renault's driver academy when they skipped over young talent for a 39 year old veteran. No matter where you stand on Alonso's return, having one of F1's all-time greats back in the sport is a positive for all. At the end of the day, their are very few drivers out there with the talent, knowledge, and experience like Fernando Alonso. What he brings to Renault is championship pedigree and a ruthless work ethic that will need to be matched by everyone at Enstone to satisfy Alonso's needs. They've had success together in the past, but this is a new era with many different team members and staff so it will be a whole new challenge for the likes of Cyril Abiteboul and company. Alonso is a very strong personality which has done a lot of good for him in the past but has also backfired for him at times.

Renault have found themselves in quite a unique situation in terms of their driver lineup. Losing a driver the caliber of Daniel Ricciardo is a huge blow to any team as their are not many drivers of his talent that can replace him. That is of course unless you have a two time world champion waiting in the wings to fill the Aussie's shoes. Ricciardo is a world championship caliber driver, but replacing him with Alonso is definitely an upgrade which should be a huge boost for the team. However, it is going to be a big ask of young talent Esteban Ocon to be able to handle the pressure of another elite teammate. So far in 2020, we've seen Ricciardo regularly outperform Ocon and lead Renault to big points hauls. To Ocon's credit, he has closed that gap a little as the season has gone on but he still has quite a ways to go in order to match Ricciardo at every race weekend. His task doesn't get any easier next year either with Alonso lining up beside him. Fernando is one of the toughest teammates you could possibly have and if we remember back to his stint with McLaren, he crushed his younger teammate Stoffel Vandoorne in qualifying and put a stop to any of that young driver hype. Let's hope Ocon can deal with that Alonso pressure effectively as Renault/Alpine will need both drivers fighting for maximum points against their main rivals.

Should Ricciardo Have Stayed with Renault?

Courtesy - Formularapida.net

Renault have finally made that step forward that they have been desperately working towards in the past couple of seasons. After 11 races, Daniel Ricciardo currently sits 4th in the drivers standings with Renault only 6 points back of Racing Point for third in the Constructor's standings. It all seems to be coming together for Renault at a time when the mid-field battle is as close as it has ever been. With Ferrari's brutal form in 2020, its opened the door for a team like Renault to finish in the top three of the world championship. So with this recent Ricciardo/Renault success, is Daniel Ricciardo regretting his move to McLaren? Personally, I don't think he has made a mistake. I guess only time will tell whether he should have stayed at Renault or not, but he made a decision at the time that he thought was best for his career. In the end, it's really a win win situation for Ricciardo as he is going to another team that is on the up and up in McLaren. Currently, McLaren are ahead of Renault in the Constructor's standings and have overall had a better season than Renault. Both McLaren drivers have scored podium finishes and Carlos Sainz was within one place of a race victory in Monza. I think Renault's success as of late has also a lot to do with Daniel Ricciardo's talent. He is maximizing the potential of the car and it's upgrades and we've really seen the Ricciardo of old flourish in the last five races. Ricciardo looked at his short time at Renault and just didn't see enough from them to warrant a further stay in Enstone. The car under performed last year and the team just fell short of Ricciardo's expectations. The big question will of course be answered in 2022 as to whether this move was a mistake or not. Between Ricciardo and Alonso, one of them will have hit the jackpot come 2022 but who will it be? Only time will tell, but it is an exciting time for these mid-field teams who hopefully will have the chance to fight at the front with the new rules and regulations.

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