The first race on the 2021 Formula 1 calendar was Sunday in Bahrain, where Lewis Hamilton won in somewhat thrilling fashion. But there were a lot of other storylines as well, like, how F1 returnee and former world champion Fernando Alonso would do. Not great, it turns out.
Alonso is driving for the Alpine team, which last year was called Renault, which finished fifth in the constructor’s standings in 2020 but is hoping to do a bit better in 2021. Alpine is competing with fellow midfield combatants McLaren, Aston Martin and Ferrari, as the frontrunners Red Bull and Mercedes battle for the title.
On Sunday, the Bahrain Grand Prix basically stuck to this storyline, except Alpine failed to show up, with Esteban Ocon finishing 13th — out of the points — and Alonso not finishing at all.
“After the second stop, a sandwich wrap paper got stuck inside the rear brake duct of Fernando’s car, which led to high temperatures and caused some damage to the brake system,” said team executive director Marcin Budkowski.
“So we retired him for safety reasons.”
Alonso had qualified ninth for the race at Sakhir but retired on lap 32.
Driving for Alpine is a homecoming for Alonso, who won both of his Formula 1 titles for Renault in 2005 and 2006, though no one expects him to do that again this year. Either way, he’ll be hoping for less misfortune in two weeks in Italy.
And Sunday’s race was, more broadly speaking, an exciting harbinger for the season to come. There was Hamilton’s battle with Max Verstappen on the final laps; there was Yuki Tsunoda’s solid, points-winning debut; and there was Sergio Perez’s impressive drive from last to fifth.
And that’s not even to mention Nikita Mazepin crashing out on his third turn ever in a Formula One race, a little cosmic justice. More of this please, F1.