Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah pushing for Fernando Alonso Dakar return

Sam Cooper
Fernando Alonso smiles. Saudi Arabia, January 2020.

Fernando Alonso smiles before the Dakar Rally. Saudi Arabia, January 2020.

Dakar Rally driver Nasser Al-Attiyah has backed Fernando Alonso to return to the race one day having competed in 2020.

Following his exit from Formula 1, Alonso tried his hand at other forms of racing including his third crack at the Indy 500 as well as a maiden entry into the Dakar Rally.

The Spaniard participated in the 2020 edition, which was eventually won by Carlos Sainz Snr and Lucas Cruz, and finished 13th without a stage win.

Despite this, the two-time F1 World Champion showed enough to impress four-time Dakar Rally champion Al-Attiyah.

The Qatari, who won the most recent edition in January said he hoped to see Alonso one day return to the event.

“Still I push Fernando to have him again in Dakar,” Al-Attiyah said, as reported by Motorsport.com.

“I know Fernando from F1 but I met him when he joined the team in 2020.

“The team asked me to help teach Fernando in the sand dunes. It was three days in Qatar and under 50C and it was a really amazing job [by him]. He is very, very talented.

“What we did for the first time in Dakar, he showed the speed. For this kind of race you need to have experience, because if you see the history of Dakar you need to have four-five-six years of experience until you can win.

“But it was really nice to have Fernando. Still we are talking. We are waiting for him.”

No Formula 1 champion has ever won the Dakar Rally but there have been former F1 drivers who have been successful. Jacky Ickx won it in 1983, three years after he retired from F1, while Jean-Louis Schlesser won the Granada-Dakar and Paris-Dakar-Cairo in 1999 and 2000 respectivley.

Alonso is no stranger to participating in races outside of Formula 1 and has competed in no less than seven differet competitions.

Aside from Formula 1, Alonso is a two-time Le Mans winner having won it back to back in 2018 and 2019 with Toyota Gazoo Racing. Alonso also has the rare accolade of having won every Le Mans race he has entered.

The Le Mans race was the final event of the 2018–19 FIA World Endurance Championship in which Alonso, alongside Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima finished first in the Drivers’ standings.

The Spaniard has not been as successful in IndyCar having twice entered the Indy 500 but never having finished inside the top 20.

His first entry came in 2017, when McLaren gave him permission to skip the Monaco Grand Prix, and he finished 24th. In 2019 he failed to qualify before a 21st-place finish in 2020.

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