Alonso the same driver from '05, '06 but Massa fears age 'is a problem'

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Fernando Alonso remains the same driver he was during his championship years at Renault, but his age "is a problem" ahead of his Formula 1 return.

The Spaniard has leapt at the opportunity to come back after two years off the grid, filling the seat vacated by the McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo at the team that will be known as Alpine from 2021.

Due to the limited amount of testing, Alonso has already completed three outings with the French manufacturer, one filming day in the 2020 Renault and two two-day tests in the 2018 car.

And sporting director Alan Permane, who was Giancarlo Fisichella's race engineer when Fernando was champion in 2005 and 2006, admits little has changed in how he operates.

“He’s like all of us, another 14, 15 years older and I’m sure he’s matured, but I still see that driver," he was quoted by GPFans.

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"I was down in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago when he did that filming day and already he’s questioning every detail and you can see he’s thinking about the future.

“Although we were running on Pirelli’s demonstration tyres which are quite a long way from the race tyres, he’s questioning every aspect of the car from the steering wheel layout to the rear ride height and things like that.

“I’m sure that side of it, that side and ambition hasn’t gone at all.”

Of course, Alonso's last experience in F1 was a failed four-year stint at McLaren which included the three-year partnership with Honda.

And commenting on his return CEO Zak Brown believes the grid can expect the same tenacious driver he saw.

"I thoroughly enjoyed racing with him," he told veteran F1 reporter Peter Windsor on his YouTube channel.

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"We have an outstanding relationship. We’ve had a lot more bad times together on the race track than good, unfortunately, and he’s got a reputation that I never really saw.

"Everyone kind of said he would be difficult to manage and I found him quite easy to work with.

"His work ethic and intelligence is second to none and I think at Renault he will be a fierce competitor.

"He’s probably the best all-round driver certainly that I’ve worked with in my short time in Formula 1 and I think the speed will definitely be there, so he’s a guy that will be tough to beat on the track."

However, Alonso's former teammate at Ferrari, Felipe Massa, feels he will struggle up against the young drivers of today.

"Fernando is a phenomenon, a talent difficult to find among drivers," the Brazilian told Spain's AS.

"However, it must be remembered that he comes to a team that is not in the top positions and he has been out of F1 for two years.

"It should not be hidden that it can be a negative effect, as happened to [Michael] Schumacher, who was out for three years and did not return to the level of before.

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"Age is also a factor. Fernando will be 40 years old and will fight 20-25-year-old drivers.

"Age is a problem, but it must be recognized that Alonso is a talent and can do well. For F1 it is positive that Fernando returns."