Updated: Feb 28, 2022
Written by Lissie Mackintosh, Edited by Morgan Holiday
Last week, the legend himself Fernando Alonso confirmed the extension of his contract with Alpine F1 team for the 2022 season. Alonso turned 40 this year, making him one of the older drivers on the grid. Whilst he doesn’t look a day over 21, the news has done some speculating about whether the 2022 season could be one of his last. Alonso has not won a world championship in 15 years, taking his last title in 2006 with Renault. It only made sense that following his two year sabbatical from 2019-2021 that Alonso signed with the Renault team who had rebranded as Alpine. But the question remains, can the Spaniard still win a world title? Will it be with Alpine in 2022?
We must firstly assess how Alonso’s two year sabbatical has affected his performance this season. Many have compared Fernando’s break to that of Michael Schumacher’s, with the likes of Moss questioning whether Schumacher was ‘past it’ upon his return to the sport. While Alonso’s performance since re-joining F1 in 2021 has not rivalled his previous greatness thus far, what we have seen from him this season is an intense fighting spirit, and his close battle with Hamilton in Hungary is the most recent proof of this.
In terms of the car, it will be crucial to see how Alpine adapts to the new 2022 rules and designs the car around the new aerodynamic regulations. Having produced an initial car design in which the wind tunnel seriously hindered Alpine’s progress and placing them on the back foot after the Winter break, there are high hopes that the team will conquer their car design for next season. Having said this, Alpine have proved that they still have a competitive car with their huge success for Ocon in Hungary after changing his chassis in July 2021. Alpine are running 5th in the Constructors’ Championship standings ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. However the team has only seen a few podiums in the last couple of years, and it is clear that Alpine is no longer revelling in Renault’s glory days. Ultimately, whilst Nico Rosberg has contended that the state of the Alpine car has arguably made Alonso’s return to F1 more difficult – stating that “The Alpine is not an easy car to control”, it is Marcin Budkowski (Alpine Executive Director) has hit the nail on the head in saying that he is ‘managing to extract the maximum of this car’.
Overall, it is hard to say where Alpine will be next season. In a car which is very much still racing in the midfield and struggling to get podiums and fight for wins regularly, it is looking unlikely that Alonso is set for another world title with Alpine in the next season. However, Alonso is on top form, and it is for this reason that I would not be surprised if Alonso signed with another top team for 2023 if the opportunity arose. F1 journalist Chris Medland summed it up nicely, saying that ‘his form is back, now he just needs the car’. And as Alonso makes 40 look like the new 21, I’d never say never at the possibility of it happening for him again. Alonso’s still got it.