Walking away from Formula 1 after the 2018 season, Fernando Alonso says he always knew he would be back but that one “cannot underestimate” the challenges of making a comeback.
Despondent with McLaren’s form and Formula 1 in general after yet another season in which only three teams were fighting for regular race wins, Alonso took a break from Formula 1.
Trying his hand at endurance racing, the Dakar Rally and the Daytona 500, he returned to the grid last year, intrigued by 2022’s all-new technical regulations that the sport’s bosses insisted would bring the field closer together.
He scored 81 points in his first year back, including a podium finish in Qatar, and matched his tally this season although lost a chunk of points because of Alpine’s reliability issues.
It was nonetheless a good season for the double former World Champion, the 41-year-old in the fight for best of the rest were it not for his DNFs.
Alonso says it has left him “much more happy” and ready for what comes next as he feels his level of performance increased this season.
“Coming back to the sport is never a guarantee that you will be okay and competitive and you still enjoy everything in Formula 1,” he said, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“So I had some concerns, obviously, two years ago when I did the demo [in Abu Dhabi] before the young driver test in 2020.
“And I think last year I was not maybe 100 per cent happy with the performance and with how the season went.
“This year, I’m much more happy with the car and with the performance itself, and much more I think ready for the next challenge.
“So you cannot underestimate coming back to the sport.
“You need a few races or even one full season to feel 100 per cent again and it is what happened to me, but I’m happy now that I feel at a very good level.”
He says he did enjoy his two years away from the circus as he got to tick off various series from his bucket list.
“In 2018, for me, even the front wing, I don’t know if you noticed, it was written ‘see you later’,” he said. “It was not a ‘bye bye’.
“So in a way, in my head, it was always the 2021 rules, an opportunity to come back.
“I had in my head different challenges at that point. I wanted to race at Daytona, Dakar, Le Mans. I wanted to fight for a World Endurance Championship.
“I don’t know, I had different things and Formula 1 was not a priority, or I didn’t have my head in Formula 1 anymore.
“But I love Formula 1. And I felt in 2021 it could be an opportunity with the new rules and maybe everything re-shuffles a little bit, in terms of how the teams are or the competitiveness of them.
“So I fulfilled all my boxes in those years away from Formula 1 and I still watched the races at home. And yeah, the rules. They postponed the rules one year for 2022. But I came in 2021 anyway.”