Mark Webber has said that he hopes Fernando Alonso isn’t going to struggle in his comeback and suffer a similar decline to Valentino Rossi in MotoGP.
Alonso generated great excitement when it was announced he’d be returning to the field for this season with the Alpine team – an outfit he knows well given their Renault roots.
He did, of course, win two Drivers’ titles with the Renault team back in 2005 and 2006 and there’s a case to suggest he should have won even more with his talent but, for one reason or another, he never added to his tally.
At Alpine this season there isn’t going to be a title challenge – that much is certain – but Alonso returned with a view to the new regulations coming into the sport in 2022 potentially helping him get back to the front of the grid.
For Webber, though, any comeback has its potential pitfalls and, after a retirement in Bahrain thanks to a sandwich wrapper in his brake duct and a 10th-placed finish at Imola – one behind his team-mate Esteban Ocon who also out-qualified him that weekend – the Spaniard needs to be careful of them.
He said to Marca:
“I’m a superfan of Fernando and he knows that.
“He was something spectacular. But I was worried because I knew it wouldn’t be easy for him, it’s a fact that it’s been complicated. When your name’s Alonso, Schumacher, Lauda…comebacks can be complicated. It’s been proven in many sports.
“I don’t doubt, far from it, Fernando’s motivation. He’s extraordinary, very versatile with many types of cars, but Formula 1 doesn’t understand patience. It’s the pinnacle, you can’t apologise and say ‘I need more time’.
“Why is that? Because in F1 you always have to be ready and he knows that.”
Webber continued to ponder whether age would be a limiting factor in Alonso getting right back to the front of the grid in the seasons to come, drawing comparisons with MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi and his struggles this season:
“That’s my question – can Fernando today surpass the Fernando of 15 years ago?
“He’s just as good, he has more experience but… is he really as fast, as brave? That’s a question only he can answer. I’m always positive about him, but the facts are different.
“Look at Valentino Rossi. He’s suffering, it’s horrible, I hate to see him, I refuse to see him like this. We know he can turn it around because we trust him, but the stopwatch never lies, it’s the damned reality.”
Alonso won’t be challenging for wins this season but that’s down more to the car than anything else.
In Bahrain he looked pretty solid before an unfortunate retirement and, though he finished behind Ocon at Imola, he did at least register a points-finish.
He’s two races into his comeback and there’s still certainly more to come from the Spaniard – we just need to wait and see exactly how much.