Fernando Alonso is the “Godfather of everybody” declared Renault CEO Luca de Meo who is galvanising the rebranded former Renault team to provide the veteran Spaniard with the tools to turn the outfit into front-runners again.
In 2005 and 2006, the team led by Flavio Briatore won their only two titles as a constructor with Alonso in the cockpit; he was in his mid-twenties at the time.
Now, at 39, his immediate plans are to climb a mountain with the aptly named Alpine F1 Team, and develop the car to top-of-the-midfield competitiveness which it was not at the season opener in Bahrain.
However, the French company’s boss has clear intentions to address the issue.
Speaking to Top Gear, De Meo outlined his vision and plans for the rebranded team: “I’m not a magician, I don’t have a crystal ball. My expectation is that we get better and better every race. The real challenge will start in 2022 which doesn’t mean we want to have a poor season in 2021.
“We have Fernando, who wants to win all the time, and Esteban [Ocon] is young and doesn’t want to waste his time being stuck at the back of the grid. We need to give the drivers good service as a team.
“Alonso? Well we know he’s not a rookie. The feedback I had [from the test in Bahrain] was that it took him about 10 laps to get to the limit of the car and start saying, ‘this or that doesn’t work’. He gets it immediately.
“Our focus is to actually give him a car where he can have fun. And then you never know what happens in a Grand Prix, right? Maybe we need to be a little bit lucky, but we’ll be doing everything we can for him and for Esteban.
“Renault is Fernando’s home, but I want him to use his experience to help us all grow. He has a different role to the one from 15 years ago. He’s the Godfather of everybody. The only thing I’m asking him is to help us become a top team because it’s about attitude and mindset. And he has it.”
With Cyril Abiteboul’s abrupt departure, Alpine have been left with an multi-pronged leadership; De Meo explained: “We had to integrate the F1 story into a new story. It’s difficult to do that with people who interpreted the role and led the organisation in another direction.
“Renault Sport and Renault F1 and Alpine were kind of on the border of the system. When they needed the support of the mothership they would come, but their comfort zone was to stay out of the thing. Alpine is one of the four brands we’re putting in front of the consumer, it’s totally integrated in the mainstream strategy of the group.
“Laurent [Rossi, Alpine CEO] and I did the ‘Renaulution’ plan together, he has experience in other companies, he knows the system. The Alpine story is not only a racing story, it’s a business story. But he also started as an engineer, he’s very passionate, and he will look at the thing from a slightly different angle.
“I also wanted to make the system flatter and more direct. Davide Brivio [Racing Director] is a great guy. Sometimes I like to find an unexpected solution. A guy from Moto GP coming to F1 might not seem obvious, but the worlds are not so far apart.
“What counts is the quality of the people, good leaders can learn and adapt. It’s also good to inject some new blood into the sport. But I want to thank Cyril [Abiteboul] for the work he and his people did. It was a good start but now we turn the page.”
THat page has Alonso very much in the picture,