Fernando Alonso is “ready” to return to Formula One amid reports linking him with former team Renault next season, his long-time manager Flavio Briatore has said.
The two-time world champion left F1 in 2018 after four seasons with the then struggling McLaren team, and has since competed in Indycar racing, endurance events and the Dakar Rally.
But Alonso, who will turn 39 in July, could be poised for a dramatic return to the team with which he won his titles in 2005 and 2006.
Speaking to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, Briatore said: “Fernando is motivated. A year out of Formula 1 has done him good. He has detoxed himself and I see him more serene and ready to return.
“We are watching what is happening. Let’s not forget that there is still a championship to run.”
McLaren chief executive Zak Brown told Sky Sports that signing Alonso was a ‘no-brainer’ for Renault as they seek a driver to partner Esteban Ocon.
“Yeah I spoke with him [Alonso] the other day and I was kinda poking around,” Brown said. “I think he’s undecided, and if I was running Renault, that’s who I’d put in the car: big name, fast as anyone, won two championships with them, so he’s got history.
“So, from a Renault perspective I think he’s a bit of a no-brainer to put in.”
A Renault spokesperson told the PA news agency: “We are looking at the very good options we have and working out what works best for us.”
Renault have a vacancy for 2021 after Daniel Ricciardo signed for McLaren, filling the place of Carlos Sainz who is to replace Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari from next year.
Vettel could well rival Alonso for the place at Renault, with the German’s options limited following the decision to part with Ferrari after six years.
Briatore told Gazzetta he was not surprised that Vettel was to leave Ferrari after finishing behind his young team-mate Charles Leclerc in the 2019 standings, likening it to the position Alonso found himself in at McLaren in 2007 when Lewis Hamilton emerged.
“In F1 it has always been about having the winning recipe,” said former Benetton and Renault boss Briatore. “You must have one driver who is focused on the world championship and the other who collects big points, snatching them from rivals.
“Vettel paid for the fact that a very fast boy arrived at the team. It surprised him and the team, as happened at McLaren with Hamilton (in 2007). Two drivers at the same level in a team eventually risk taking points off each other.
“(Sainz) is a good driver, and he had a good championship in 2019 if we consider the car he had available.
“The situation seems clear to me: Ferrari is betting everything on Leclerc and it is good because, as I had the opportunity to say last year, he is a future star.”
The jostling for driver positions in 2021 comes with the 2020 season yet to begin due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Formula One has expressed hope the season can begin in Austria in early July with back-to-back races at the Red Bull Ring, with a deal also in place for Silverstone to host two races this summer subject to quarantine restrictions.