Alonso and Vettel: do they have an F1 future?

24th May 2020
Damien Smith

A total of 551 Formula 1 starts, 85 grand prix victories and six world titles. Individually, the career statistics of both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel are impressive enough; together they represent an astonishing tally of success. But the question right now is, in 2021, will all that experience be lost to F1? Or will one or both have the opportunity to add to those figures?


The shuffle of musical chairs triggered by Vettel’s breakdown of contract negotiations with Ferrari has potentially left the two veterans vying for the same seat at Renault. Other options for both are possible, but marginally more so for Vettel who has burnt fewer bridges.

Romain Grosjean, Haas driver and a former team-mate of Alonso’s at Renault, told Sky Sports this week that he’s as intrigued as anyone about what might happen next. “I don't think it’s over, there’s still a seat at Renault, and you hear the rumour of [Fernando] Alonso. Why not?” he said. “I think there are still loads of things going on. I don’t think the saga is quite over yet.”


Alonso: the man most likely?

He’s six years older than Vettel, but it seems Alonso is more likely to be on the grid in 2021. It’s surely worth a flutter on the Spaniard making a sensational return to Renault for a third stint at a team with which he won back-to-back world titles in 2005 and ’06. But there are big question marks that hang over that possibility.

One argument against a deal is that Renault is simply not in the shape it should be to sign a driver of Alonso’s calibre. Daniel Ricciardo’s signing last year was supposed to herald a renewed push towards the front of the grid, but instead the team took a step backwards. No driver, even one as fine as the seven-time grand prix winner, is a ‘silver bullet’ for success in F1. Signing Alonso, with all the expectations that would bring – not least from the man himself – would only increase the pressure on a team not yet firing on all six cylinders and enhance its failure. Just ask McLaren. Does Renault need the hassle? Or would his presence appease a company board that has reviewed the very existence of its team? Does Renault need a top-line star to prove its ambition and drive it forward, and if so is Alonso the man for the task?

As for Alonso himself, would he even want to return to the team? His old McLaren team-mate Jenson Button doesn’t think so. “If Renault were close to the front and he could see that in 2021 or 2022, there are chances of podiums and wins, he would jump at the chance if he had the option,” Button told Sky Sports F1. “But I think it’s going to be a longer process than that if they do get to the front. It’s probably going to be four-plus years. He doesn’t have that time, and he’s not willing to put in that time, I don’t think.”

But intriguingly, Alonso said before Vettel’s Ferrari split was even known that he pretty much knew what he’d be doing next year, and his old manager Flavio Briatore further fuelled speculation when he said Fernando is ready to come back, after what will be two years out since stepping back from McLaren at the end of 2018. Has Alonso already got something up his sleeve? If so, it won’t be at Mercedes and Red Bull, who have all made it clear in the past they won’t touch him. So that only realistically leaves Renault – doesn’t it? Read on…


Vettel: Renault, retirement… or something else?

In the past few seasons at Ferrari Sebastian Vettel has increasingly looked a jaded figure, a far cry from the cocksure young man who swept to four consecutive world titles with Red Bull between 2010-13. The string of mistakes became embarrassing and although the likes of Grosjean and Button have expressed surprise at his Ferrari split, it really shouldn’t be considered so. The partnership had clearly run out of steam.

Vettel is an intelligent man with a healthy perspective on F1’s place in the wider world. He also has three small children, and no matter who you are, that is both a distraction and a game-changer on priorities. He has those four world titles and the third most F1 wins in history (53). Does he still really need this? That’s surely what he must ask himself as he considers his next move, still at the age of just 32.

If the answer is ‘yes, I’m still hungry’, what are his F1 options? Renault is the most obvious, given the open seat Ricciardo is leaving. Like Alonso, he’d need an awful lot of motivation to join a team with such a mountain to climb, even more so given that he’ll be stepping straight out of a competitive Ferrari.

From Renault’s perspective, he’d be a great asset, arguably more than Alonso given his age and the fact he won’t have been out of the game for two years. But aside from Renault, where else could Seb pitch up? Mercedes? Surely only if something goes drastically wrong in the team’s negotiations for a new deal with Lewis Hamilton – or if the six-time champion decides on a shock retirement. Vettel needs such a seismic shift to land the best drive in F1 – but perhaps that slim possibility will keep him from any definitive decision until Hamilton is firmly locked under contract. As for Vettel replacing Valtteri Bottas, lining up alongside Hamilton, doesn’t make much sense. Such a line-up would be too destabilising and potentially combustible.

So how about a Vettel return to Red Bull? Christian Horner recently said it would be “enormously unlikely” given the team’s commitment to Max Verstappen, and his own aversion to the old ‘two bulls in one field’ analogy. Helmut Marko has also said Vettel’s too expensive, so unless that was a negotiating ploy to bring down his price, a Red Bull move can probably be ruled out.

Which leaves… Aston Martin. If he’s considering Renault, why not a team that in its current guise as Racing Point is at least a match on form? Also, does new owner Lawrence Stroll have an appetite for a big marquee signing as a statement of intent for Aston’s first season in F1 since 1960? It’s not necessarily such a silly idea. And on that same basis, Alonso could also be in the picture.

Perhaps this lack of motor racing has gone to our heads and our imagination is running riot… But as Grosjean says, there’s an awful lot still to play out – and there could be a surprise or two still to come before the 2021 grid is done.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • F1

  • F1 2021

  • Fernando Alonso

  • Sebastian Vettel

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