In many team changes ahead of the new Formula 1 season, 39-year-old Fernando Alonso will be making a return to the track. He'll represent the new rebranded Alpine team, formerly Renault, with whom he won a championship with in 2005 and 2006.
Alonso will be opposite Esteban Ocon for the upcoming season. Ocon, fifteen years his younger, returns to the Renault/Alpine setup. The team have launched their new 'A521' car ahead of the new campaign.
It hasn't all been smooth sailing for the former Drivers Champion ahead of the team's launch and testing. The Spaniard got into a cycling accident, preventing him from being at the reveal of the A251. Alonso was there virtually, and spoke about how he felt:
I feel great and in the best shape I've ever been before both physically and mentally.
CEO of the new team, Laurent Rossi, was quizzed by reporters about the accident. He said Alonso had to undergo surgery but will be ready for testing this weekend.
Fernando is doing very well. He had a bad accident. A bike accident is rarely something that goes easy, but he was lucky and he ended up only suffering from his jaw. So besides the necessary surgery and care, the rest is totally fine. Fernando is completely fit. He is totally operational.
Alpine executives have confirmed Alonso will be in Bahrain for the upcoming testing period, and fully fit for the first race of the season in Sakhir on March 28th.
Ahead of his return, he has been described as "quite demanding" and "extremely motivated". Racing director Davide Brivio said Alonso was keen to "get back to the most competitive environment." Brivio added:
(He's) just extremely motivated, extremely willing to put together everything necessary to get the best out of the car, the best out of the team. Because he's not coming back just to drive a car. He's coming back to try to get good results, to get some satisfaction.
Alonso last competed in a F1 race during the 2018 season. He has kept himself busy in the interim, however. During the 2019 season, he served as a brand ambassador for McLaren to help drivers and test out the development of their cars. He entered the Indie 500 in 2019 and 2020, finishing 21st overall in the later.
Alonso also entered the Dakar Rally in 2020 after a five month training programme. He finished 13th in the race. Before his last F1 appearance in 2018, Alonso cited a number of number of gripes with the sport, but has said he's looking forward to the new rule changes this year.