Fernando Alonso, Renault, Imola, 2020

Renault to run Alonso in ‘young driver’ test alongside Zhou

2020 F1 season

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Fernando Alonso will participate in the post-season test at Yas Marina which was originally designated for young drivers, Renault has announced.

The two-times world champion will be the second-oldest driver on the grid when he makes his comeback next year. He will share testing duties with one of Renault’s junior drivers, Guanyu Zhou, in the test on December 15th.

Renault was eager to give Alonso his first opportunity to drive their current F1 car on representative tyres. He previously drove the RS20 at the Circuit de Catalunya as part of a filming day, for which purpose demonstration tyres had to be used.

Rival teams previously resisted Renault’s efforts to include Alonso in the test. Some are now expected to include drivers besides their junior talents in the test.

“We would like to thank the FIA and F1 for their acceptance of our test plans, made in recognition of our commitment to young drivers throughout junior motorsport and to Fernando’s own dedication to furthering the careers of young talents,” said Renault’s managing director Cyril Abiteboul.

“Zhou has experienced the benefit of the Renault Sport Academy, having joined its ranks last year. He has worked hard and made a genuine contribution to the performance of the team through his work in the simulator and test programme. I am delighted he can drive the RS20 to complement his journey so far.

“For Fernando this will be the next step in his return. He has worked tirelessly to make sure he is as ready as he possibly can be for 2021. He wants to contribute fully – not just to the team, but to the fans and the sport he has missed in the past two years.”

Other drivers already confirmed to participate in the test include Ferrari’s Antonio Fuoco and Robert Shwartzman, Alfa Romeo’s Callum Ilott, plus Roy Nissany and Jack Aitken for Williams.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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46 comments on “Renault to run Alonso in ‘young driver’ test alongside Zhou”

  1. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    3rd December 2020, 12:27

    Completely nuts & insane – Alonso has no place in the young driver test and the FIA should not have allowed Renault to do so. I find this really a disgrace of both the FIA and Renault for even asking the FIA to allow it.

    1. I think this a package deal made so a other team can get a engine.

      1. @macleod unlikely since Renault would be obliged to supply any team without an engine supply anyway.

    2. Gotta admit, he can jump in any car and get up to speed quick. His first Friday practice is all he needs. This is kinda over the top.

  2. Si (@simislakkinen)
    3rd December 2020, 12:49

    “We would like to thank the FIA and F1 for their acceptance of our test plans, made in recognition of our commitment to young drivers throughout junior motorsport and to Fernando’s own dedication to furthering the careers of young talents,”

    Well that’s the most shamelessly insane bit of PR I’ve read for a long time. I get that it’s PR speak, but how did he say that with a straight face? About as ridiculous as the Bahrain GP press release I remember reading in 2010 celebrating the fantastic success of the extended circuit. Good that they’ve decided to go with the opposite idea this weekend.

  3. Ridiculous, and an unfair advantage. He is going to gain valuable experience with the car and could already alter development directions.

    1. so he is doing his job, good.

  4. Why do they not let him run in a FP1 session? Is this not allowed?

  5. A precedent has been set.

    1. In so doing by also allowing Kubica and Buemi.
      Well this Young Drivers Test was fine until yesterday but it’s just been broken, unsurprisingly by someone who set fire in most team he’s been running for.

      1. Yeah, those two aren’t exactly young, nor do they lack race experience. Not to mention that McLaren used to run Paffet in these well into his 30s too until a few years back @jeff1s. Sure, it’s nonsense, but this is not just about Alonso, nor is it new @jerejj

        1. Completely forgot about Paffett, but who did not? At least he’d never actually competed in F1.

          Alonso, who is kind of obsessed about his reputation, didn’t make a smart move on this one.

        2. Paffett never actually made a Grand Prix start…so despite him being a vastly experienced test driver I think he did legimately qualify to do those tests strangely.

        3. @bascb technically, there was a period when Michael Schumacher was eligible for the “Young Driver” tests, and I think Ferrari did make use of that clause back in 2009 when Michael carried out a test for them that year as a possible substitute for Felipe Massa after his accident.

          As you note, quite a few teams have abused the rules on “Young Driver Tests” in the past and it has been a fairly significant point of contention. To that end, de la Rosa complained a decade ago that the rules excluded some drivers who were genuinely young drivers and should have been eligible for testing, whilst allowing other teams to run much older drivers who were professional test drivers or ex-F1 drivers – and many of those issues persist to today due to a lack of reform for the rules.

  6. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    3rd December 2020, 13:09

    How do you do, fellow kids?

    1. How the time flies. Just like 20 years ago

  7. I turned 31 this year. I’m glad I’m considered very young by the FIA. There’s still a chance for me!

  8. I shrugged with FIA bending (OK breaking) its own rules, it’s what they’re known for, but this –

    made in recognition of our commitment to young drivers throughout junior motorsport and to Fernando’s own dedication to furthering the careers of young talents

    – is about as cynical as company PR spin gets. Yuck.

    1. @david-br Is the FIA able to provide free to provide specific examples of Alonso’s dedication to furthering the careers of young talents. I am sure that plenty of past and present drivers would be able to provide plenty of specific evidence to the contrary.

  9. Won’t somebody please think of the children?

  10. Hahaha, he hasnt entered yet and already the intrigues start. His campaign for WDC will be useless given he always loses focus on racing and only excels at being a drama king. Renault + Abiteboul + Ocon + Alonso = most toxic environment ever

  11. Alonso is young of spirit :D

  12. I doubt in any other year this would have flown but with teams only fairly reluctantly running this test, extending the time their staff are forced to be away even further after the triple-header and a brutal season, they have a lot of leverage for whatever they’re willing to commit to.

    (McLaren, who have nothing to gain from it since they’re switching PU supplier next season anyway, are already not doing it and I’m almost surprised other teams haven’t pulled out)

    1. Good points; maybe other teams are contractually bound and (thus)/or have monetary incentives to go through with it @hazelsouthwell?

      Suppose at least none of these drivers drove the actual 2020 F1 car already.

      1. @bosyber Probably. If you can get a decent sponsorship whack out of it maybe it’s worth forcing the team to miss Christmas…

        Testing time is obviously valuable but I could easily understand if teams chose not to do this test or insisted on using experienced drivers to guarantee they were able to get more out of it. Very hard to tell someone they need to stay out for an untested junior to potentially gather data.

        1. @hazelsouthwell Good points but then they should have justified Alonso’s inclusion as an exception in an exceptional year, rather than abusing all logic (and everyone’s intelligence) with the argument that it’s a ‘recognition’ of his work with young drivers.

      2. Didn’t Kubica already have a few sessions for Alfa Romeo though @bosyber?

        And yeah, I would think that for the teams at the backend of the grid the only reason to do these are bags of money to get them through the winter. And then there are the likes of Renault who want to get Alonso all they can to make him feel they are wholly behind them (And Zhou to pay for it?) and Red Bull who need every idea they can get to finally make that car a mercedes beater in more than just freak races.

  13. Jeffrey Powell
    3rd December 2020, 13:37

    It’s a pity Alain Prost hasn’t got a Super License they could run a real Legend then.

    1. He would probably run circles around those guys. Lol

  14. Is there any chance this has to do with the whole pink Mercedes protests. The way that whole issue ended with teams like Renault dropping their protests. I always believed they might be some back door deals there. The FIA certainly wanted the issue to go away

  15. OK, so no “Young Driver” test anymore?

  16. Great way to gauge zhou and where Alonso is at.

  17. well i suppose sainz can have a go with the ferrari then?

  18. Alonso really should step aside himself regardless of whether this is technically allowed, he’s outstaying his welcome by not allowing young talent at least a chance to test. Poor form.

  19. What a yoke!

  20. It’s like having Jesus come to your local church and expecting him to learn again from junior parishioners

  21. Jose Lopes da Silva
    3rd December 2020, 16:37

    I’d go with Jeffrey Powell’s suggestion. I’d like to see Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen and Nico Rosberg in the Young Driver Test. Also Emmerson Fittipaldi could test for Haas along with his grandson.

    1. No to Fittipaldi, as he only won in ’72 when JYS injured his wrist & won in ’74 ‘cos JYS retired immediately team-mate Francois Cevert R.I.P. died in practice @ ’73 Watkins Glen.

      If FA can drive then Dan should be able to leave Reggie immediately after last race [they will not let him] & drive + Seb, going Ferrari to pink/green Merc.

  22. It would seem clear that not all teams are keen to dedicate resources to a “Young driver’s” test session. Understandable.
    I can’t blame them as this has a cost associated and there is very little benefit. If you have your drivers signed for next year and beyond and there is a limited amount of useful technical feedback that the “test” will reveal, then why spend the $$$ to do it.?
    Using existing team drivers may get them some useful data, but by February, it may be obsolete anyway. As may the current drivers.
    If it turns into a real test session, it would only have value if the teams brought components from next year’s car and an experienced driver who can provide the feedback needed. Assuming they are not already bolting to another squad.
    There will be the argument that young drivers need testing and experience. Problem is the Teams are justifiably selfish and with budget limits, they can and will get brutally frugal.
    As a “Young Driver’s Test” this is done and finished. Doubt we will see it next year.

  23. And then surprise, surprise on the day of testing Zhou is under weather, stuck at an airport, or otherwise indisposed and therefore Alonso will do all the testing.

    Just turn it into a normal testing session, if you can’t even abide by your own philosophy.

    As per usual, the FIA and F1 make me very sad indeed.

  24. Lolll this has to be one of the funniest string of comments ever on Racefans. Well played everybody. I agree, it’s dumb. And embarrassing.

  25. Errrr, Young driver test… Neh, Well I love seeing Alonso drive, so that is Ok I guess?

  26. “Today I’m going to show you guys how to rant on the radio – in the Alonso way!”

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