Double World Champion Fernando Alonso will make his return to Formula One later this month, with him partnering Esteban Ocon at Alpine for the 2021 season.
Alonso last raced in the sport in 2018, and Marcin Budkowski, executive director of the newly rebranded Alpine F1 Team, was pleased to see the Spaniard quickly get up to speed during pre-season testing in Bahrain.
“When he was in the car, you could immediately see that he is fast and reliable and that he gives great feedback to our engineers,” Budkowski said.
“That’s always what you can expect from him. He was immediately back on top form.
“Fortunately, he came along a number of times at the races last year and we were able to let him test a number of times in an old F1 car.
“Also, he was in last year’s car during the [young drivers’] test in Abu Dhabi, so he was already in his place within the team,” he added.
Alonso suffered a fractured jaw after he was hit by a car while cycling in Switzerland last month, but Budkowski has said Alonso is “not suffering at all anymore.”
He also commented on Alpine’s assessment of the 2021 pecking order; unsurprisingly, they expect Mercedes and Red Bull to continue to be the two front-runners.
“We are no longer driving in the midfield, but in the normal field. We still expect Mercedes up front.
“They had some problems and will have some difficulties in the opening phase of this season and Red Bull Racing will also be very strong.
“But behind them it’s close and it’s still very difficult to say well where we stand. I hope we’re fast, but McLaren and Aston Martin look really fast too.”
The management of Renault’s F1 works team was rejigged as the team was rebranded following the end of last season, with team principal Cyril Abiteboul leaving the outfit and a number of senior personnel being brought in.
The Enstone-based constructor scored its first podium last year since returning to F1 in 2016, but the French car-maker will be hoping for considerably more success under the outfit’s new moniker, especially from 2022 onwards when the new technical regulations come into effect.