Sebastian Vettel has said goodbye to Formula One but there’s a persistent feeling amongst F1 observers and drivers alike that Sebastian may yet return to the sport as a driver. Fernando Alonso recently spoke about how the feeling of returning to F1 “cannot be underestimated.”
The Spanish double world champion left the sport for two seasons before returning to join the French owned Alpine team. Alonso admits at the time he was unsure whether he would be able to compete at the same level he did previously.
Alonso explains the pull of an F1 return
Missing out on 2 years of F1 car evolutions despite his vast experience was a big ask, but Fernando believes he is now back to 100%.
“Coming back to the sport is never a guarantee that you will be okay and competitive, and you still enjoy everything in Formula 1,” revealed Fernando.
“So I had some concerns, obviously, two years ago, when I did the demo [in Abu Dhabi], before the young driver test in 2020.
“And I think last year I was not maybe 100 percent happy with the performance and with how the season went.
F1 comebacks not easy
Alonso believes it took him a season to become comfortable in the car.
“This year, I’m much more happy with the car and with the performance itself, and much more I think ready for the next challenge.
“So, you cannot underestimate coming back to the sport. But you need a few races or even one full season to feel 100 percent again, and it is what happened to me. But I’m happy now that I feel a very good level.”
Fernando admitted when he parted company with McLaren he never believed it would be a permanent goodbye from F1
“In 2018 [at the season finale] even the front wing, I don’t know if you noticed, it was written ‘see you later’. It was not a bye-bye.”
Big F1 regulation changes attracted Fernando
The double world champion always had an eye on the new car design regulations in the hope the Mercedes dominance would be broken.
“So in a way, in my head, it was always the 2021 rules, an opportunity to come back.”
The planned regulation changes for 2021 were eventually enacted in 2022 following an agreed delay on their implementation due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
That said Fernando had other racing plans outside of F1 when he retired for the first time. He was downbeat having signed for McLaren who had become a works team outfit with the aerial of Honda and their power unit.
Life outside of Formula One
“I had in my head different challenges at that point, I wanted to race in Daytona, in Dakar, in Le Mans. And I wanted to fight for a World Endurance Championship. I don’t know, I had different things, and Formula 1 was not a priority, or I didn’t have my head in Formula 1 anymore.
“But I love Formula 1. And I felt that in 2021 it could be an opportunity with the new rules and maybe everything re-shuffles a little bit, in terms of how the teams are, or the competitiveness of them.
“So I fulfill all my boxes in those years away from Formula 1, and I still watch the races at home. And yeah, the rules. They postponed the rules one year for 2022. But I came in 2021 anyway.”
Fernando has signed a two year contract with Aston Martin to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel who many are hoping will do the same as Alonso and return to racing in F1 after a year away.
Vettel F1 comeback inevitable?
Mick Schumacher believes Vettel’s “vast experience” will be attractive to a number of teams who may attempt to entice the German champion back into the sport.
“A comeback by Sebastian in Formula 1 cannot be ruled out. You can see that now again with Nico Hulkenberg and also with Fernando Alonso, who is always keen to come back or to continue,” said Schumacher.
That said the Hülkenberg comparison isn’t exact because he was dropped and did not choose to retire from F1. Yet 7 time world champion Michael Schumacher made a comeback as did Kimi Raikkonen, so a Vettel return is entirely plausible.
“In Formula 1, there are many factors that lead to being fast. One of them is experience. New drivers take a long time to get to the level of a Sebastian Vettel,” continued Schumacher.
“Sebastian, with his vast experience, already has the chance to come back in a year or two and race at the front.
“Whether he’ll actually do that then, I don’t know. Maybe after a year or two with his family he’ll have the strength to make a comeback.”
The key influence on whether Vettel returns as a Formula One driver may well be how Sebastian feels once the racing returns in 2023. Unlike Alonso Vettel has no plans to race any other series and so going ‘cold turkey’ from his life passion will not be easy for Sebastian.
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