(Reuters) – Double world champion Fernando Alonso said he was ready for a fresh start as he tested the latest Renault Formula One car in Barcelona on Tuesday.
The Spaniard, a two-times Le Mans 24 Hours winner, has not competed in a grand prix since he left McLaren at the end of 2018 but is returning next year as replacement for departing Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
“It’s going to be like a new beginning, getting surprised about the speed of the car, the braking performance, the corner speed, a lot of things that will surprise me once again,” the 39-year-old said before the filming day.
The test in the RS20 car came 20 years after Alonso first tested with Benetton — the team that then became Renault — at the same circuit.
Alonso said preparing for the limited mileage outing had been complicated by COVID-19 restrictions, with fewer days in the simulator to adjust, but the run was worth it.
“The feeling was good. I think the car is obviously outperforming me at the moment, because I cannot extract the maximum from the car,” he said after completing the maximum 100km allowed.
“Getting back to the F1 speed is not so easy. I was improving lap after lap, and trying to give feedback to the engineers. Also we had some filming to do, so there were cameras, there were drones following on track.”
Team boss Cyril Abiteboul said after Sunday’s Eifel Grand Prix at Germany’s Nuerburgring, where Ricciardo finished third for Renault’s first podium since their return as a constructor in 2016, that Alonso was champing to return.
“We received a message before, during and after the race,” said the Frenchman.
“I think Fernando is like a big shark. And as soon as he starts to feel the blood he wants to attack. That’s what I see – I see a shark very hungry.”
The Spaniard, who won his titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006, has competed in the Dakar Rally and Indianapolis 500 since he was last in Formula One.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis)