After two seasons away from the highest category of motorsport, Fernando Alonso decided to return to Formula 1 in 2021 at the hands of Alpine, previously Renault, with the sole objective of regaining sensations behind the wheel of the fastest single-seaters in the world to reach the as prepared as possible for the arrival of the new 2022 technical regulations.
With “The Plan” as the flag and the real possibility of making a jump in the hierarchical order of the grid due to the new ground effect single-seaters, the French structure excited all its fans, but after the first three races, that illusion was has turned into frustration.
During the preseason, the sensations were not the best, especially in terms of reliability. With Alpine and Renault acknowledging that they had bet on performance in the new and refreshed power unit , they were aware that they could neglect another of the key aspects of the engine; the reliability.
Already at the Barcelona Circuit, the Alpine A522 left Alonso stranded on the last day of testing, just at the moment when the Asturian pushed a little more and looked for the performance of his car, causing the first faces of concern in the garage due to the great smoke that the single-seater gave off, visible from almost all parts of the track.
Although some of the problems were repeated in the Bahrain tests, Alpine and Alonso arrived at the first grand prix of the season full of confidence. However, many problems during the race and a hydraulic problem in the engine left the Spanish rider far behind, ninth and with a bad feeling.
In Saudi Arabia, both Alonso and his teammate, Esteban Ocon, showed that the Alpine could be a competitive car, getting into Q3 and fighting to be the best of the rest.
But the problems returned to the Asturian car and this time they were more serious. Just as Alonso found fresh air to race, his car’s power unit suddenly stopped, forcing him to retire without even being able to return to the pits on his own.
A fault in the water pump caused the engine to not have enough cooling and the oil heated up above the stipulated level, causing damage to the engine that made Alpine decide to abandon said engine, premiering the third engine of the season for the single-seater Alonso in the third race of 2022; the Australian Grand Prix.
With 21 races still to go, the Spanish rider arrived in Melbourne at the limit of some of the elements of the power unit, something very worrying at this point in the course, since from this moment on, any replacement, with the exception of a recovery of the engine from Bahrain, would carry a grid penalty.
In Australia, the sensations related to performance were even better than in the first two Grands Prix of the year, in practice and especially Alonso, who showed a very competitive pace, even approaching the strongest teams, Ferrari and Red Bull.
Although everyone expected a drop in performance in qualifying, the Spaniard surprised everyone by staying close to the big favourites, but on his first lap of Q3, just at the moment when he was setting a lap that was better than the Leclerc’s pole at the time, he suffered a problem with the oil seal ring and the car was completely blocked, going directly into the wall.
Once again a reliability problem , the third in three races, compromised Fernando Alonso’s weekend. Starting from tenth position, the race was not easy either. The traffic, the pace and a wrong strategy took the Spanish driver to the last position.
Meanwhile, Esteban Ocon has stayed out of trouble, although he has been less competitive than his teammate on most occasions that they have both been able to share the track on equal terms. After three races, the Frenchman already has 20 units, due to the very poor two points that Alonso has managed to add.
This could be due to the fact that Alpine and Renault are in the first phase of learning their new power unit , an engine in which it must be remembered that they bet everything on power, neglecting reliability, due to the freezing they have suffered. propellants in this 2022.
Although it is true that the sensations in terms of performance have been frankly good, if they do not manage to turn the situation around and improve reliability in the next races, it would be of little use to have more power than some of their rivals.
However, it should be noted that the freezing of the current engines only affects performance, so if Renault and Alpine decide to make any modifications related to reliability, they would receive the approval of the FIA and, without a doubt, if they manage to reach the At a time when the engine is powerful and reliable, the approach of both would end up being a total success, not only thinking about 2022, but also in the coming seasons that will continue with the same regulations.