Renault believes there is great value in Fernando Alonso’s test programme in a 2018-spec car ahead of his Formula 1 comeback in 2021 after announcing further running plans.
Two-time world champion Alonso will return to F1 full-time next year with Renault, having last raced in 2018 before quitting in order to focus on outside racing events.
Alonso completed a short filming day in Renault’s 2020 F1 car in Barcelona last month before undertaking a two-day test in the team’s 2018 car in Bahrain last week.
The Spaniard will continue his preparations with another two-day test in the 2018 car, taking place this weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
Asked by Autosport about the thinking behind Alonso’s test running, Renault F1 executive director Marcin Budkowski said it was a useful way for him to get back up to speed and re-adjust to F1 machinery.
“He wants more days in a car to get used to the team, to get used to the systems, the procedures, to fine tune his seating position and the steering wheel and everything,” Budkowski explained.
“But he also hasn’t driven the car for two years. They are bloody fast cars. He needs to get back in shape, get back in the rhythm, so he’s taking any opportunity he can to drive.”
Budkowski added that with Renault fine tuning minor things such as steering wheel placement or seat position, it will save it time ahead of the reduced pre-season running for 2021.
“It’s an opportunity to drive and work with him on things like the steering wheel, his favourite button position, how he wants to be able to activate all the different systems in the car, and practice our procedures,” Budkowski said.
“It seems simple but the more we practice these things, the less we have to do in winter testing. We only have three days of running for our two drivers in winter testing next year, so practicing FIA procedures, all the various things he will need to have under his belt that might be different from what he experienced before, and also getting accustom to the team.
“The car is different, its our 2018 car. We’ve improved quite a lot since ’18. But it’s the same DNA of a car. The ’20 car is a better car, but at the end of the day, getting him used to a Renault car, even if it’s a two-year-old car, is beneficial.”
Since making his last F1 start with McLaren in 2018, Alonso has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship with Toyota, as well as taking part in the Dakar Rally and the Indianapolis 500.
Alonso has signed a two-year deal for his third stint in F1 with Renault, having previously raced for the team in 2002-06 and 2008-09, and has his sights set on the shift in regulations for 2022 to return to the front of the order.
Budkowski hailed Alonso’s determination and curiosity in all of Renault’s F1 plans, revealing that he was willing to get a head start on development work for 2022 at the earliest opportunity.
“We were in the windtunnel, and he said, ‘so you can’t run the ’22 car at the moment?'” Budkowski recalled.
“I said, ‘no, we can’t do it because of the regulations.’ He said, ‘when can you start developing?’ and I said 1 January.
“‘OK, are you running on 1 January?’ Well normally we don’t, but this year we might, as it’s the year. He said, ‘OK, we have to run on 1 January, I can come here and help you’.
“This is the level of motivation of Fernando at the moment.”
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