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Alonso’s Ambitious F1 Return

He feels he hasn't lost momentum either

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After a 2 year hiatus from the sport, two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso returns.

As the 2021 season kicked off in Bahrain, it was like he never left F1. He succeeded into Q3 and progressed well until he was let down by a technical fault.

The Spaniard minimised concerns over his return speaking with specific media outlets at Autodromo do Algarve before Portugal’s race.

“I was the first to admit that I was not 100 percent in Imola and not comfortable and probably underperforming,” said Alonso. “But it was one race and in one race that with that underperformance, I finished two-tenths of a second behind my teammate. So it cannot be a big thing.

“At the end of the year, we’ll talk. If I underperform the whole season and everything was more difficult than expected, okay, maybe there is a point to really discuss and go deep into the questions of why it is more difficult than previously or something.

But in Bahrain, I was happy and probably overperforming. In Imola, underperforming. But we need a couple of races to settle down everything.”

Given the two weeks between Emilia and the Portugal Grand Prix, it certainly raised suspicion if the team could succeed. he said. “I am at a point in my life where I feel good and I feel capable of driving better than ever. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t find difficulties while entering a new adventure or in this comeback.

“At the same time, I had one weekend where I was not totally comfortable in Imola and the problem that in Formula 1 there are a lot of media, a lot of articles and unfortunately two weeks between races because if it was back to back from Imola to [Algarve], there would’ve been much less talk.”

His comments were proven later throughout that weekend, however, he was unable to do enough to make it into Q3 like teammate Estaban Ocon. He took 8th in the race, scoring more points than usual and what was turning out to be a good race weekend for the team.

“I’m aware it’s a challenge and it’s [especially] a challenge this year also because the midfield has been always a challenge,” Alonso acknowledged. “Where your team or your position was quite defined, and a supreme weekend would be doing it at 105 percent but we can perform in 90 percent, normally you can be between ninth or eleventh.

“This year, with the midfield as it is, you can be seventh or 15th in two tenths [of a second] if you don’t perform perfectly. So we [must] go for that perfection every weekend.”

“Right now, I think especially after the pandemic, it’s a series that is more capable to produce a good show and producing a good competition,” he explained.

“The teams are still very strong and in good health, economically and on the performance, side to produce fantastic cars and a good show while some other series, maybe they’ve been more affected by the pandemic and by the sponsorship and by everything.”

Alonso also supports Sprint Qualifying in the hope it may succeed.

“I hope the sprint races are a success this year and we can make it even better for the future,” he said. “Maybe we will see things that are good, we will see things that they are not so good.”

In many ways, Alonso sees his returning season as an interim year. From the moment he signed with Alpine is was no secret that he wanted the team to prioritise developing their car for the 2022 F1 season and the new regulations – delayed due to the pandemic.

“On the overall picture, yes, 2021 is a preparation year, it’s no doubt,” he said. “I think everybody on the grid, after the delay of the 2021 rules into 2022, we understood and we accepted that 2021 is preparation year, is a post-Covid season with more or less similar cars of last year.

“It’s a season to test things like the sprint races. It’s a test season in a way for many things.” There may be “a revolution in 2022”, he says, “and that’s what we will want in terms of fighting for the championship and other possibilities.”

He is completely certain he still has the speed within him to claim another victory and given his array of experience that speed is now allied to a superior understanding, benefitting from his team’s advice and expertise.

“I think you are maybe more mature now and you are working closely with your team,” he says of his development over the past 20 years. “When you come into Formula 1 and you are young you listen to everyone, yes, you try to understand what they are trying to tell you.

“But when it comes to your instinct of driving when you close the visor, you are just racing hard. Because your background until that point was only karting and younger formulas that you have to survive by yourself only, you didn’t have that amount of people just helping you. So you are still driving and feeling like that.

But then with time – you still rely on your instinct, yes – but you are driving as a part of the team and try to optimise things.

“So it’s not that you lose the speed, but you are driving in what you believe is the most efficient way of driving the car and maybe sometimes even against your instinct of what you will do if you were out on track. But eventually, you understand and you believe and you trust that you are doing the best way for the overall performance.”

Many experienced drivers have difficulty adjusting to new teams, especially in 2021 coming back after a year off due to the pandemic and Alonso is no different. Hopefully, it’s not long until his yellow and blue helmet is seen at the top of the grid again.

Headline Image: Dppi/LPS via Zuma Press 

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