“He’s at the top of his game still,” says Button of Alonso, who he believes could be a title contender in his 40s.
Sky F1’s Jenson Button believes age will be no barrier for Fernando Alonso when the Spaniard returns to the sport next year – and would not stop him challenging for a third title with Renault in 2022.
Alonso will be 39 when he returns to F1 after a two-year absence next season – and 40 in 2022 when the Spaniard and Renault are hoping the sport’s rule changes will allow the team to make big progress Asked if he could win a title in his 40s, Button said of his former team-mate: “I think it’s possible for someone like Fernando, I really do. The guy lives and breathes motor racing.”
Alonso has remained busy – and competitive – since stepping away from F1 at the end of 2018.
He added a second Le Mans 24 Hours title to his honours last year with Toyota, clinching the overall World Endurance Championship in the process, while he has also won the Daytona 24 Hours sportscar race. Alonso also impressed in the Dakar Rally at the start of this year, while he is gearing up for a third attempt at the Indy 500 with McLaren in August.
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“He’s at the top of his game still and I think it’s great that the two-time world champion is going to be racing back in Formula 1,” Button told Sky Sports News. “He is a very fiery character and we don’t really know how it’s going to end up with Renault, but I need to congratulate them for bringing him back to Formula 1.
“With the new regulations coming in 2022, with one year with the team [in 2021], hopefully he can help develop their car and [then] they will be fighting at the front. We all want to see Fernando fighting with the best of them at the front.”
Nigel Mansell is the only driver in the last 50 years to win a Grand Prix in his 40s, when the 1992 champion claimed his final win at the 1994 Australian GP.
Michael Schumacher returned to F1 in 2010 aged 41 after three years away from the grid. Although his comeback was not especially successful, the seven-time champion did in 2012 set the fastest time of Monaco qualifying and finish on the podium in Valencia, aged 43.
Kimi Raikkonen is F1’s oldest race winner since Mansell, winning the 2018 US GP for Ferrari having turned 39.
What’s in store for new team-mate Ocon?
Alonso has been signed to replace the McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo alongside rising French star Esteban Ocon next season.
Button was Alonso’s team-mate for two seasons at McLaren when the team were struggling for form with Honda, and the Sky F1 pundit said: “He’s a tough competitor, Fernando. We were team-mates for a couple of years and it wasn’t our best years ion Formula 1, the McLaren-Honda period. But the only thing that really kept us going was the fight with each other through that period of time. It was fantastic, we had some great fights then.”
For his part, Ocon is looking forward to working with the two-time champion.
“Very excited to be racing with Fernando. He’s a legend,” said Ocon.
“It’s great to see him coming back in the sport, Fernando is very linked to Renault and they love him, of course, and the last success with the team.