Fernando Alonso showed all his old dash to set the fastest time for Renault in the ‘young driver test’ at Abu Dhabi.
Despite the tag given to the post-season test contested by eight of the 10 F1 teams with this year’s cars, 39-year-old Alonso was given special dispensation by the FIA to take part – along with fellow veterans Robert Kubica and Sebastien Buemi.
And Alonso, who will return to the grid next year after two seasons away when Renault are rebranded to Alpine, was able to outpace the Mercedes and Red Bull cars which were the class of the field during the 2020 season.
The Spaniard clocked a best lap of 1min 36.333sec in the afternoon, putting him fastest by 0.262sec from Formula E team-mates Nyck de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne in the two Mercedes W11s.
It was also 0.026sec quicker than Alonso’s 2021 team-mate Esteban Ocon’s best time for Renault in qualifying for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Next came Kubica with a strong performance in the Alfa Romeo, just ahead of Yuki Tsunoda who is expected to be confirmed in the second AlphaTauri seat for 2021 in place of Daniil Kvyat.
But slowest of all 15 runners was Mick Schumacher in the Haas, even though his total of 126 laps was more than all but two of the other drivers.
Alonso’s appearance as a two-time former World Champion in the ‘young driver test’ had caused some consternation among Renault’s rivals as Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel were not allowed to participate for the teams they are joining next year.
Testing in Abu Dhabi… DONE!
P1 // Fernando: 1:36.333, 105 laps
P9 // Zhou: 1:37.902, 98 laps
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) December 15, 2020
McLaren and Racing Point, who will become Aston Martin, did not take part, while Haas ran only one car driven by 2021 F1 rookie Schumacher.
It was only Alonso’s second time driving the 2020 Renault on track, having previously done so on a filming day in Barcelona.
Buemi, who was driving for Red Bull, was among the drivers who had the least amount of running due to an early crash.
The Swiss racer, who competed in F1 for Toro Rosso between 2009 and 2011, went backwards into the barrier in his RB16, damaging the rear wing.
He ended up 12th overall having been able to fit in 24 laps fewer than Juri Vips in the other Red Bull.
Vips was just behind Tsunoda in P6, 1.224sec slower than Alonso and one place ahead of Antonio Fuoco who outpaced Robert Shwartzman in the duo driving for Ferrari.