Mark Webber would have preferred F1 to find the next Fernando Alonso rather than see the 39-year-old himself return to the sport.
Alonso is unquestionably one of the most talented drivers of the 21st century and when he left the grid at the end of the 2018 season, there were plenty of supporters hoping they would again see the two-time former World Champion back in an F1 car at some point.
That has, of course, happened this season, with the Spaniard joining up with Alpine on a two-year deal, and he showed on the opening race weekend of 2021 in Bahrain that he has not lost his pace – although he did have to retire due to a sandwich wrapper getting stuck in the car’s brake duct.
Not everyone is so pleased with his arrival back on the F1 scene, with former Red Bull driver Webber thinking the sport should instead prioritise its rising stars.
During the On the Marbles podcast, he said: “Mixed emotions on this one for me. I have a massive amount of respect for Fernando, he’s one of the best that ever raced.
“What he did against Michael [Schumacher], what he did against Lewis [Hamilton]…he’s done some incredible stuff and on Sundays, there weren’t many better.
“But there’s a point where…I just love youth coming through, I love [asking] ‘where’s the next Max Verstappen? Where’s the next Charles Leclerc?’ They’re great for the sport.
“Fernando’s a big name, huge for Spain, great for the sport, but I just like that our sport should continue to look for the future and find the Alonso we found 20 years ago.”
On his return to Formula 1, Alonso said he was eager to give the new regulations coming into the sport a go, but their introduction has been delayed until 2022.
That means for now he will likely have to settle for a midfield battle and with such a winner’s mentality, Webber feels if things do not go his way the situation could soon become sour.
He said: “It’s all happy days when there’s a bit of champagne flying around and Fernando is dominating or even beating his team-mate consistently and he’s the one performing and bringing more to the team. That’s all great.
“If it’s the other way around, if [Esteban] Ocon has his measure and the team is mid-pack, there could be some friction because Fernando will not accept being outperformed by Ocon fair and square and if that does happen, that will be a challenge.”