There was a time when Fernando Alonso was the boss. Due to his talent, character and ambition, the first and only Spanish Formula 1 world champion projected an aura as powerful as the one that now surrounds Max Verstappen. That flow of strength accompanied the Asturian from before chaining the two titles he held with Renault, in 2005 and 2006, after his famous signing for McLaren (2007), and also when he donned the Ferrari suit, whom he captained for a five years (2010 – 2014). The day he decided to leave the team He got fully into a gray area (the same color as the McLaren that gave him so much trouble between 2015 and 2018) from which he has not yet finished leaving. The two years of relative rest (2019 and 2020) – he was proclaimed endurance world champion, won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice, entered the Dakar and the Indianapolis 500 – took him away from those spotlights that so much They had bothered him during his time in F1, even though later, when he had the opportunity to return, again with a repainted Alpine Renault (2021), he threw himself headfirst. And he did it despite the great unknowns that the project generated for those who wanted to see them. Doubts that time has confirmed as more than justified.
It has been a season and almost a half since Alonso returned to form on an F1 grid, and there is not the slightest indication that his famous “plan” that he has been disclosing since then offers the slightest fruit. The oldest member of the grid will turn 41 next month, and the possibility that 2022 will definitively mark the end of his time at the Great Circus, has been circulating for a long time in the huddles of the paddock. At the gates of the eighth stop on the calendar, which this weekend is held in Baku, the Spaniard is 13th in the general table, with only ten points in his locker. Alpine, which occupies the sixth position in the statistics reserved for constructors, will have work to match the fifth place in which it ended 2021, with the economic damage that this entails in prizes (around six million euros).
In the last World Championship, Alonso finished just ahead of Esteban Ocon, his teammate, a maxim that has been repeated throughout his career with the exceptions of 2007, the famous year of Lewis Hamilton’s debut, of the fire inside McLaren and of spy-gate; and 2015, when he was overtaken by Jenson Button, already in his second spell with the British team. The 20 points that currently separate him from Ocon do not seem easy to reduce, especially if we take into account the fragility and lack of punch shown by the car they both drive. Of the seven stops on the calendar disputed, his best result is the seventh place achieved in Monaco, two weeks ago, after forming a train behind his car that despaired more than one and two of his rivals. Seven days before, in Montmeló, he carried out what is surely his best race so far in the championship, given that he was able to climb from last place to ninth.
Minutes before starting at the Circuit, Luca de Meo, CEO of the Renault group, had the opportunity to silence any doubts about Alonso’s future beyond this year, given that his contract expires at the end of the year. Far from ending the uncertainty, the Italian fueled it a little more: “We love Fernando very much, and in the end we will have to find a solution for everyone, because we also have Esteban and Oscar. [Piastri, el corredor reserva]”. The 21-year-old Australian comes from the French structure’s training academy and has everything to take on a leading role in the medium or long term. In 2020 and 2021 he was crowned in Formula 3 and Formula 2, respectively. His landing in F1 in 2023 seems like a fact, but it remains to be seen what colors his suit will wear. If we take into account the market and the existing vacancies, there are two options that make more sense than the rest: to go to Williams or Alpine, precisely in Alonso’s place. “I see myself running a couple more years. If it’s with Alpine, it’ll be good. If it is elsewhere, too”, warns the two-time champion, who this Sunday (1:00 p.m., Dazn), in Azerbaijan, has the best showcase to vindicate himself.
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