Soon-to-be 39-year-old will be back racing for Renault next season

SPIELBERG BEI KNITTELFELD, Austria-Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso on Wednesday insisted “age doesn’t count” as it was revealed he would make a return to his Renault “family” in 2021, when he will be 39.

Alonso was named as teammate to Esteban Ocon for 2021 at the French team where he won the 2005 and 2006 Formula 1 world titles.

The Spaniard, who has notched up 32 wins and 97 podiums in 314 grand-prix starts, will replace Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, who is McLaren-bound at the end of this season.

Alonso will be 39 in three weeks’ time. However, he is a year younger than fellow former world champion Kimi Raikkonen who is still driving in the championship at 40.

“In motor racing, it is not the age that counts, it is the clock,” Alonso told AFP.

“There is certainly a movement towards increasingly younger drivers but, at Mercedes for example, it would not be a good thing replacing Lewis Hamilton with a younger driver just because he’s 35.

“As long as you stay fit and motivated and don’t decline with age, that doesn’t matter.”

New teammate Ocon was just 10 when Alonso won his 2006 world title.

Alonso, also a former Ferrari driver, said the French team had given him his “fondest memories” in Formula 1.

“Renault is my family,” he added. “It’s a great source of pride and with an immense emotion I’m returning to the team that gave me my chance at the start of my career and which now gives me the opportunity to return to the highest level.”

Alonso left Formula 1 in 2018 after four fruitless years at McLaren and is due to make a third attempt to win the Indianapolis 500 with McLaren in August.

Alonso said he had bought into Renault’s project for next season.

“Their progress this winter gives credibility to the objectives for the 2022 season and I will share all my racing experience with everyone, from the engineers to the mechanics and my teammates,” he said.

“The team wants and has the means to get back on the podium, as do I.”

‘Joy and privilege’

Alonso said he felt “joy” at returning to Formula 1.

“I feel very privileged to be able to choose my own destiny,” he said.

“I could always choose to do what I wanted. I wanted to leave F1 to get some fresh air, now I think it’s a good time to come back because I feel fresh and I had the opportunity.

“When you can do what you love, what you want is a feeling of joy.”

Cyril Abiteboul, managing director of Renault Sport Racing said the signing of Alonso was a sign of Renault’s “plan to continue its commitment to F1 and to return to the top of the field”.

“His presence in our team is a formidable asset on the sporting level but also for the brand to which he is very attached,” Abiteboul said.

“The strength of the bond between him, the team and the fans make him a natural choice. In addition to past successes, it is a bold mutual choice as well as a project for the future.”

Abiteboul added: “His experience and determination will enable us to get the best out of each other to take the team towards the excellence that modern Formula 1 demands.

“He will also bring to our team, which has grown very fast, a culture of racing and winning to overcome hurdles together. Alongside Esteban, his mission will be to help Renault DP World F1 Team prepare for the 2022 season in the best possible conditions.”

F1 teams are in Austria preparing for the second race of the season this Sunday after Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas took the checkered flag in the opening race of the coronavirus-delayed season, also in Austria, last weekend.

Renault’s Ocon finished eighth, while his teammate Ricciardo retired with a cooling issue.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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