Opinion: Ricciardo realised his Renault error but sure Fernando, go ahead and join

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Rarely has the landscape of Formula 1 changed so much so quickly as it has between Tuesday morning and Thursday lunchtime this week.

From Sebastian Vettel confirming his exit from Ferrari after five years to Carlos Sainz being named his successor, leading Daniel Ricciardo to make the leap to McLaren.

At the end of this game of musical chairs, it is Renault that is now left with a decision to make on who should replace the Australian.

Clearly, it's something the French manufacturer didn't want to be doing as proven by team boss Cyril Abiteboul's dig at Ricciardo about "reciprocated confidence, unity and commitment".

But this is the problem with Renault, their talk is way bigger than their bite. As a manufacturer, they think they share a similar status to Mercedes and Ferrari, but the way they operate leaves them no bigger or much better than Racing Point or Alfa Romeo.

Perhaps some of that is F1's fault, as the budget needed to be successful is well above most companies would be prepared to spend.

And maybe the big changes coming for 2022 are all that Renault needs to once again become a leading force in the sport.

However, having been wooed from Red Bull with promises of progress, clearly, based on the results of last year, the team's potential for this season and how they plan to approach 2022, which was originally 2021, Ricciardo doesn't think they'll be threatening the front any time soon.

It should also be noted that, in contrast, McLaren made huge gains last year to finish fourth in the Constructors' standings.

And though the company may have to be smart to overcome the financial impact of coronavirus, the Woking-based outfit does look in a good place to challenge the top three teams in the future.

So it makes absolute sense for the 30-year-old, who let's be honest only has a few more years left at his peak, to snap at the chance to join a stronger team.

But what about Renault, where do they go from here? Well, they have three options, an Academy driver such as Christian Lundgaard, a current F1 driver, perhaps someone like Pierre Gasly, or bringing back an ex-driver such as Nico Hulkenberg or, yes, Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard somehow can't help himself when it comes to being linked to an F1 return. Some murmurs even tied him to Ferrari when it was suggested Sebastian Vettel was increasingly unlikely to re-sign.

Still, now that another of his former teams has a seat available, once again the Alonso hype train is back on the tracks.

Reports from Spain suggest the double world champion may be interested and could even accept a reduced salary if Renault can fight for podiums and wins.

If not, F1 commercial rights holder Liberty Media would get involved and contribute money towards securing his return it is suggested, quite remarkable at a time when they are struggling to financially agree on terms with circuits to organise a new season.

And of course, financial compensation will be the only way to placate Alonso because there's no way before 2022 that Renault will be in any position to compete where he wants.

But why would the 38-year-old even want to come back to F1 just to run in the midfield as he did in his final years at McLaren? It makes no sense and Liberty only want him to have a popular figure they can use as a marketing tool.

You know what though Fernando, go ahead. If you fancy wasting time in F1 rather than competing in WEC or the Dakar Rally as you've suggested, you've been known to make poor decisions before so why not do it again.

Just don't go complaining on the radio or to the media when you realise what you've done.