Two time World Champion Fernando Alonso is returning to Formula 1 for 2021, joining the rebranded Renault team as they transform into Alpine.
Re-united with the Enstone team with which he won his two World Championships with 15 years ago, Alonso's two year F1 sabbatical comes to an end this weekend in Bahrain.
Alonso's immediate return was threatened by a recent cycling accident that resulted in jaw injuries and the insertion of metal plates, but he says he's fully ready for his return to Formula 1.
"I’m very excited for the entire weekend," said Alonso.
"There has been a lot of preparation for this moment, not only with the team during testing and the work done at both factories over the winter period, but also personally."
"Ever since I agreed to join Alpine F1 Team, I have put a lot of effort in
to be both physically and mentally prepared for this season."
While Alonso didn't race in Formula 1 in 2019 and 2020, he kept sharp by racing in the World Endurance Championship, an IndyCar appearance, and an attempt on the Dakar Rally.
Alonso believes this extra experience can only stand to him on track this year: "I learnt a lot in my time away from Formula 1, especially all the different styles of racing, but I’m now back in F1 and very motivated for
what should be a challenging season ahead.
"It was fun to be back at the wheel of an F1 car for testing, but now I can’t wait to go racing."
Alonso and Alpine had a trouble-free test in Bahrain, meaning the team go into the season opener with a solid foundation already built.
"We covered a lot of mileage during testing, which is important as it gives you something to build on for the rest of the season," the Spaniard explained. "We also completed most of our programme during the three days in Bahrain, so we are relatively pleased on that front."
But questions mark still remain over whether Alpine can compete near the front of the grid, with the A521 not setting any eye-catching times during the three days of pre-season testing.
"In terms of performance it’s too early to tell," Alonso said.
"I think we won’t know the true pecking order of the grid until the first qualifying session on Saturday where everyone has low fuel, the fastest tyres fitted and full power from the engine. I expect there will be a few surprises.