No matter where he goes, Fernando Alonso always has some sort of drama following him around.
He must be sick and tired of it, I know I would be.
All he wants in life is to be in a position to challenge for a third Formula 1 world championship title.
His first two titles came with relatively little friction in terms of team politics and management issues, but since then, no matter what team he has been involved in, drama has been glued to him like an unwelcome stench and a third title still eludes him.
McLaren Part 1
Alonso joined McLaren in 2007 in the belief that he would be team leader at the Woking-based squad and that he could quickly add another world championship to his tally.
Unfortunately for the Spaniard, he was well matched by his rookie team-mate, Lewis Hamilton and things very quickly got out of hand.
Hamilton quickly proved that he was just as quick as Alonso, but Alonso felt the team were giving Hamilton preferential treatment – something that Ron Dennis continually denied.
But, Alonso couldn’t shake off that feeling and that emotion boiled over, with Alonso attempting to sabotage Hamilton’s final qualifying lap at the Hungarian Grand Prix by sitting in the pit bay much longer than was required in Q3.
It was the start of a toxic relationship between Alonso and the management, and then ‘spygate’ happened.
It was reported at the time that Alonso had found out that McLaren were spying on Ferrari via one of their engineers and attempted to use that to leverage McLaren into ensuring Hamilton’s car ran out of fuel at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
It was alleged that Dennis refused to accept the terms and reported his own team to the FIA, which resulted in McLaren being excluded from that season’s constructors’ championship.
Soon after, Alonso’s contract was terminated and the double world champion returned to Renault.
Not the return Renault envisaged
Renault were not the same team that Alonso had left when he returned in 2008. The team were struggling to be competitive, floundering in the midfield and of course, Alonso wasn’t happy, yet he had no alternatives.
But once again, drama at the team unfolded at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
It was Alonso’s first win of the season, but it was tainted when it came to light that his team-mate, Nelson Piquet Jr, had deliberately crashed his Renault midway through the race, so that Alonso could gain the lead with the involvement of the safety car.
Renault were thrown out of the championship, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds received bans and Piquet Jr’s F1 career was over.
They won the Fuji race in Japan only three weeks later on pure pace so it was a shame they resorted to such tactics.
It was another huge blotch on Alonso’s CV and in 2010 he vacated the Enstone-based team and headed to Italy to race for Ferrari.
Life at Ferrari started out well for Alonso. He was fully involved in the 2010 title fight and went into the final race of the season still able to win his third championship, but a strategic error from Ferrari, to cover off main rival Mark Webber, meant that he lost a lot of time behind the Renault of Vitaly Petrov, and he ended up finishing runner-up in the standings behind Sebastian Vettel.
In 2012, Alonso was the favourite all season long, dragging a below par F2012 to an historic championship decider against Vettel at Brazil that year but lost out once again leaving him ruing the catapulting Romain Grosjean at Spa.
Unfortunately, that was as competitive as things got for Alonso at Ferrari and to this day, is the last time he was fully involved in a season long title battle.
The Ferraris that followed were not as strong as the F10 chassis, and Alonso grew frustrated that the team had not been able to produce a car capable of winning the championship.
In Alonso style, he didn’t beat around the bush and was publicly vocal in his criticism of Ferrari, something that didn’t go down well with his employers, and in 2014 he was searching for a move elsewhere for the following year, cutting his contract short.
McLaren Part 2
Despite the calamity of their first relationship, McLaren decided to sign Alonso for the 2015 season, and with Honda returning to the team, they promised that McLaren would reign victorious once again.
The reality was completely the opposite. The car was one of the slowest on the grid, the engine was unreliable and the team looked like the laughing stock of F1.
Once again, Alonso made his feelings clear, likening the Honda engine to a “GP2 engine, argh”. Like times prior, this wasn’t a situation that Alonso had created, but his vocal and public criticisms seemed to damage the team more than it helped it.
After five years struggling to make the McLaren competitive again, Alonso decided to retire from F1 at the end of 2019, but even then, he still couldn’t shake the drama.
In partnership with McLaren and Andretti Racing, Alonso entered the 2017 running of the Indy 500. Alonso qualified fifth but failed to finish the race. He had led 27 laps and looked to be in contention of the race win until mechanical issues struck the car.
The positive first attempt prompted McLaren to enter their own team, in conjunction with Carlin-Chevrolet, with Alonso at the wheel for 2019, but it couldn’t have been any worse, with Alonso failing to qualify for the race after the team made miscalculations, causing the floor of his car to scrape along the track, while the gear ratios were also incorrectly set.
It meant that Alonso was faced with another disaster, something else that had gone wrong.
It doesn’t matter what he does, the bad luck just keeps following him about.
Return to F1
Having spent a few years away from F1, Alonso decided 2021 was the time to return and that Renault was the team he had confidence in to deliver a world title within the next three to five years.
Renault are yet to win a race since their return to F1, but in the last year they have made significant improvements, achieving podium finishes in 2020.
So, despite Alonso’s ambitious target, it is not completely beyond the realms of possibility that the team could be fighting for wins and championships when the regulations change in 2022.
But, shortly after Alonso’s announcement, Renault confirmed that the team would be re-branded to Alpine for 2021.
On the face of it, that’s not an issue. The team is still effectively Renault, everything is still in place financially, just from a different pot. Let’s crack on.
But, in the last week Renault and Alpine have undergone some major changes that nobody was expecting and it once again leaves Alonso right in the middle of a major drama.
In the last few weeks it has been reported that Davide Brivio had left his role at the Suzuki MotoGP team and would be joining Alpine as CEO, yet despite Renault making various leadership announcements at both their firm and Alpine’s, Brivio’s name hasn’t been mentioned.
That is peculiar enough, but to add to that, Alpine Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul abruptly left the team this week.
It is not known why this is the case and worse still, no replacement has been announced.
With only two months to go until testing for the new F1 season gets underway, Alonso is in a team that has nobody steering the ship.
Abiteboul has been prominent in helping Renault make improvements over the last few years, and so it is alarming that he has bailed shortly before the new season is about to get underway.
And Brivio, well, questions still remain about whether he is joining the team and if so, in what role.
You can imagine that Alonso would have been hoping that this would be the first time he joins a team without any major complications, but he has been denied it once again.
A lot of the drama Alonso has been involved in over the years has not been his own making, but clearly he is not totally innocent on every occasion.
And despite it initially looking like 2021 could be the year he has a straightforward F1 season, that has rudely been swiped away from him just as the new year begins.
It remains to be seen how the Renault/Alpine situation pans out, but with Alonso in the mix, you can pretty much guarantee that we will see more fireworks at some stage later in the year.