Former Formula 1 team boss Flavio Briatore says that he's delighted to see a revitalised Fernando Alonso returning to the sport in 2021.
As principal of Renault in 2003, Briatore was instrumental in giving Alonso his big break in F1. Together they went on score back-to-back driver and team titles in 2005 and 2006.
“I liked Fernando because he’s very quick, he was incredible, I hadn’t seen anything like it," Briatore told Spanish terrestrial television channel Antena 3 this week.
“He was so young back then. I watched him, we spoke and I put a contract in front of him after that conversation. You see that kind of talent and react quickly."
Briatore also managed Alonso's career and the two of them grew close together over their years in F1. "Fernando and I are family," he stated.
“We did something incredible together, what memories," he added. "Everyone experienced that. He’s unique. He’s honourable, strong, solid."
Alonso went on to drive for McLaren and Ferrari, but quit the sport at the end of 2018 to pursue his dream of clinching the unofficial Triple Crown of Motorsport by targeting wins at Le Mans and Indianapolis to go with his two F1 victories at Monaco.
But after two years away the 39-year-old is to make his Grand Prix comeback in familiar surroundings at Renault - and Briatore couldn't be happier.
“I’m delighted he’s returned," he said. "He’s one of the best and we’re going to see that next year. He’s in super form and very motivated."
And Briatore confirmed that he'd had a hand in the comeback. “We work together, yes. We have worked together for his return to F1."
Briatore contracted coronavirus over the summer and was briefly hospitalised in Milan, but the 70-year-old insisted that the whole thing had been blown up out of proportion by the media.
“There was a lot of talk about it in the press,” he acknowledged. “I recovered, but if you followed the press it seemed I had died! But I haven't died, I am feeling phenomenal.
“Covid-19 is terrible but for me it was like a mild pneumonia," he added. "I was admitted to the hospital for five days, and then had to quarantine for three weeks at home to recover."