Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul says the returning Fernando Alonso is like “a big shark,” but that his arrival in 2021 will not distract Renault from its long-term goals.
Alonso is replacing McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo next season, which will be the final year under the current aerodynamic regulations. Formula One hopes the sweeping changes to the rules for 2022 will shake up the pecking order after seven years of unchallenged Mercedes domination.
Last week, Alonso returned to the cockpit of an F1 car in a Renault test at Spain’s Circuit de Catalunya, just days after Ricciardo had claimed the team’s first podium finish since returning to the grid in 2016. Despite the team’s clear upward trajectory, Abiteboul is determined to keep the bigger picture in focus.
Abiteboul said Alonso has shown a full commitment to the long-term project since signing his 2021 contract.
“You would be impressed to measure his level of interest,” Abiteboul said of the two-time world champion. “I think that when he actually joined the team, his communication was very much about 2022; the way the team and season and the car has progressed, the more he starts to be interested in 2021.
“Fernando is like a big shark: As soon as he starts to feel the blood, he wants to attack. That’s what I see — a shark, very angry.”
Despite Alonso’s determination to find instant success, Abiteboul said he must ensure the team does not lose sight of its long-term goals.
“We will have to have a very strict discipline,” Abiteboul said. “In relation to that, the FIA has made our situation and life easier; from a strategic perspective there is no question mark. Right now, it is full steam ahead on the 2021 car. … We have no ability to develop the aerodynamics of the 2022 car.
“And we actually have found out that, despite the limitation from the homologation and the token system, there is quite a lot of performance that is going to come from the 2021 car.”
He added: “It’s good, but I can also tell you that on the first of January 2022, the 2021 [season] will be behind. There will be 100 percent focus on the 2022 car, so despite the better results, despite Fernando pushing also, our agenda should not change — will not change. The agenda will be to put the priority on the 2022 car.”