For and against: The return of Fernando Alonso

Date published: January 31 2020

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Since leaving F1, Fernando Alonso has always left the door open for a return. His recent comments suggest it may well happen, but is it a good idea?

He could do what Niki Lauda did and add to his championship tally, or he, like his old rival Michael Schumacher, could struggle to recapture the magic. Let’s weigh up the pros and cons of a potential comeback.

The chance for a treble 

There aren’t many people who would disagree that Alonso should have more than just two World Championships. In three seasons he missed out in the final race, and he was stuck outperforming poor cars for many others.

The elite group of drivers to have won three titles (Lauda, Senna, Piquet, Stewart, Brabham) is one that the Spaniard will be desperate to be part of, and he’ll feel he deserves to be. If he can return and do so, banishing the demons of 2007, 2010 and 2012 in the process, it’ll create a storyline that will never be forgotten.

Proving a point

Modest is not a word that would be used to describe Alonso. He’s never been shy to say he’s better than his competitors, shown by his recent comments about Lewis Hamilton. However, he left the grid with fewer titles than the Brit and Sebastian Vettel and was unable to fight with them in the final three years of his career.

If, and it’s a big if, he can return to the grid in a car as quick as the ones they’re driving, he’ll finally have the chance to prove to the world that he really is the best of his generation, even if he the number of titles doesn’t reflect that. It would give him and the fans the answers to questions that have long been at the heart of conversations about his ability and his standing amongst the all-time great drivers.

The spectacle

Regardless of whether it’s a good idea for him or not, a driver of his calibre and ability returning would be great for the sport and everyone interested in it. Formula 1 is undoubtedly at its best when it has the best drivers in the world going wheel to wheel with each other every race and, with Alonso back, that’d certainly be the case.

The prospect of the 38-year-old not only reigniting the fight with his long-term rivals, Hamilton and Vettel, but also the next generation of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, is quite frankly mouth-watering. Who wouldn’t want that?!

Less time for the Triple Crown

Ever since he entered the Indy 500 in 2017, the talk of Alonso becoming the second ever driver to win the Triple Crown has refused to die down. He’s made no secret of his desire to do so, and after winning Le Mans, is just one event away. However, with the Spaniard soon turning 40, time isn’t on his side.

Winning Indy 500 and competing in Formula 1 is entirely possible, as Graham Hill proved, but doing the latter undeniably makes a win at Indianapolis more difficult to achieve. Winning the Triple Crown would ensure Alonso goes down in history as one of the best racing drivers ever – should he really jeopardise that just to return to a field where he’s already won two titles?

At least he will have one more clear shot at it later this year.

No room at the inn

You may think Alonso would only come back if offered a top seat, but there’s very little space at those teams.

Ferrari and Red Bull have Leclerc and Verstappen tied down for the foreseeable future, while Hamilton looks set to extend his stay at Mercedes. All three teams will most likely favour getting a number two to assist their star man rather than signing up Alonso.

This means that Alonso’s only route back on to the grid could be with a midfield team such as Renault. 2021 regulations could mean they end up at the top themselves, but it’s a risk, and such risks haven’t worked out for the Spaniard in the past.

The last thing he’ll want to do is make his comeback only to be stuck in a poor car yet again.

Tarnishing his legacy

Alonso left the grid with his reputation intact. He’s generally considered to be one of the best drivers of the 21st century who possessed a huge amount of pace and talent up to his very last race. If, after coming back, he struggled and it became clear that he no longer had that pace, that would all change.

He need only look at how Schumacher’s return went for an example of that. The German left as the best of all time and came back only to be comfortably beaten by his team-mate Nico Rosberg and generally struggle.

Alonso, who’s confident that he hasn’t got any worse since retiring, will not want to suffer the same fate.

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