Renault’s sporting director, Steve Nielsen, says Fernando Alonso’s return to the team in 2008 was a ‘mistake’ and had he been the Spaniard’s manager, he would have urged the two-time world champion to stay with McLaren.
Alonso joined the Woking team for the 2007 season, partnering rookie, Lewis Hamilton. However, as the season progressed it became clear that Alonso hadn’t been given the number one status he received at Renault.
This led to some tension within the team, leading to Alonso returning to Renault, where he felt comfortable.
“Fernando was clearly our No1 driver. I think he liked that. And when he joined McLaren, I’m sure he expected the same thing,” Nielsen told eurosport.fr.
“But McLaren treat their drivers equally and Lewis, even though in his first year in F1, was very fast. Fernando was shocked at having been denied No1 status and surprised by Lewis’s speed. It was an uncomfortable situation for him.
“From there his relationship with McLaren deteriorated and everything about it has been published [in the Spygate scandal]. We know what happened and he came back [to Renault].
“In fact, I think – and I do not know if he agrees with me on this but he knows I love him – that his return to us was probably a mistake.
“If I had been his manager at the time, I would have said: ‘Listen, you have to do this, stay and beat this guy. Firstly because you have the best car now, secondly because your best chance of being champion next season is by still driving for McLaren.'”
Lewis Hamilton went onto win the championship in the 2008 season, whilst Fernando Alonso finished in fifth.
Nielsen reckons has Alonso stayed with the team, he would have been a stronger person for it: “I think he would have come out stronger.”