LONDON • Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will make a Formula One comeback at the age of 39 next year, joining his former team Renault after two seasons away from the pinnacle of motorsport.
The French manufacturer announced his return yesterday, with the Spaniard set to partner 23-year-old Frenchman Esteban Ocon at the team who finished fifth last season.
The former Ferrari driver, who secured back-to-back championships for Renault from 2005-06 and most recently raced for McLaren in 2018, could not hide his excitement at returning to the team where he first made his name.
"Renault is my family, my fondest memories in Formula One with my two world championship titles, but I'm now looking ahead," he said, without revealing the length of his contract. "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's third stint at Renault, after also racing for them in 2008 and 2009, closes another door on four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. The German faces an uncertain future after Ferrari announced he would leave at the end of the season and be replaced by Spaniard Carlos Sainz of McLaren.
Alonso, who is set to make a third attempt to win the Indianapolis 500 with McLaren in August, will be the oldest driver in F1 if Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen, 40, does not continue for another term.
"I have principles and ambitions in line with the team's project," he said. "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.
"The team wants and has the means to get back on the podium, as do I."
His return had been widely expected from the moment Australian Daniel Ricciardo's departure from Renault to McLaren after the conclusion of this season was confirmed.
That created a vacancy alongside Ocon, who told reporters in Austria last weekend that he would be keen to race alongside the two-time Le Mans 24 Hours endurance winner.
With a typical touch of showmanship, Alonso flagged his move up ahead of the announcement with a video on his Instagram page accompanied by music to the blockbuster movie series Back to the Future.
NOT DONE YET
I have principles and ambitions in line with the team's project...
The team wants and has the means to get back on the podium, as do I.
FERNANDO ALONSO, on his ambitions despite being 39 when he returns to F1 next season.
Renault are confident their decision to shun younger talent for a veteran - who made his debut with Minardi in 2001 - will pay off, with their last podium finish coming at the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix and their last win occurring three years earlier in Japan.
Said team boss Cyril Abiteboul: "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."
F1 chief executive Chase Carey also welcomed the "great news", saying: "He is an incredible talent and we can't wait to have him back on the grid in 2021."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS