Jenson Button is expecting a very different Fernando Alonso to return to F1 next year, thanks in part to his experience in sportscar racing where the Spaniard learned to be a team player.
Alonso will return to the grid in 2021 after a two-year absence, a period during which the 39-year-old collected a second win at Le Mans with Toyota as well as a world title in the World Endurance Championship while also tackling the Indy 500 and the grueling Dakar rally-raid event.
But Formula 1 has exerted its irresistible attraction once again on the Spaniard who has renewed his allegiance with the team with which he conquered his two world titles in 2005 and 2006.
However, Button believes his former McLaren teammate will have benefited from his time away from F1, just as Kimi Raikkonen did during his two-year spell away from the sport.
"[Raikkonen] got away from F1 and spent a few years away and realised how good F1 is," Button told Autosport.
"That’s why they go back, and that’s why Fernando is going back. It definitely helped him and Fernando will come back a better driver as well, I think.
"Whether he’s more skilled as a racing driver, or if it’s the way he works with the team, I think he will be very different.
"It will be interesting to see because the Fernando from four years ago or three years ago, you wouldn’t want in your team.
"But now I think he's much more of a team player and understands that it is necessary to succeed."
Renault F1 director Alain Prost admitted that Alonso's reputation as a trouble-maker and his track record of publicly unleashing his frustrations in difficult times were initially a cause for concern for his future team.
But Prost says that lengthy talks with the 39-year-old before the two parties agreed to their two-year deal alleviated Renault's concerns.
"I really trust him that he’s going to have another philosophy," said Prost.
"Two years outside Formula 1 in my opinion was maybe not bad for him to have a different feeling, different view.
"He knows what he’s going to get in terms of performance of the car, he knows that 2021 is also going to be a little bit difficult.
"He’s prepared for that. I really think he’s going to be very different than people understand."