Fernando Alonso has said that he decided to return to Formula 1 because he loves the sport.
The two-time F1 champion, 39, said he had completed his “check list” of other things to do in his two years away.
Alonso said: “It’s not I was missing it or want a rematch. The two years outside there were things I wanted to do more than driving an F1 car.
“I did them and now it’s time to return. I love to have a racing car in my hands every two weeks.”
He said he felt Mercedes’ domination of the sport was a good opportunity to fulfil some other ambitions.
Alonso has signed to race for at least the next two years for Renault, which will be renamed Alpine from 2021 after the French manufacturer’s sporting brand.
In his two years away from F1, Alonso won Le Mans twice and the World Endurance Championship, and competed in the Dakar Rally and the Indianapolis 500.
He said the one-year delay until 2022 in the introduction of new regulations aimed at closing up the field had given him pause for thought but that ultimately he felt it was a good idea to come back for a year of preparation in 2021.
All those things I did have helped me to liberate my mind from the desires I had and F1 is still in a time there is no great competition,” he said.
“So I thought this was a good time to do the things I wanted to do and then return now with the new regulations in force for 2021.
“That has been postponed to 2022 and I had a time when I didn’t know what to do – do I wait until 2022 and wait for the new regs or return next year and start with a warming up and working with the team? That’s what I went for.”
Alonso was speaking at a news conference timed to coincide with the launch of a new fly-on-the-wall documentary series on Amazon Prime charting his life over the past year.
He deflected questions about whether he could win a third title, a long-time ambition.
“I would love to and my return is not to visit the restaurants of every city,” Alonso said.
“You go for a specific purpose and try to win. Being fifth is better than sixth but it doesn’t change things that much. Either you win or you don’t.
“The goal is to try and win. We know in 2021 it will only be for [Lewis] Hamilton and Mercedes.
“So Renault Alpine, Fernando, Ferrari, Carlos [Sainz], Red Bull, [Max] Verstappen, many people have high hopes. But in one and half years we will all be in the same situation to get on track and see if we can raise the game and be up to the task.
“I am going to train a lot but it is difficult to make such a statement. There is hope, they change the regulations and we hope the Mercedes domination stops.”
The documentary team spent a year with Alonso filming his life, both personal and professional, and he said he hoped the series – of which a second season has already been commissioned – would “show normal people what a driver’s life is like”.
He revealed that he was “afraid of the coronavirus”, and that he still cleans his groceries when he returns from shopping, and that he is uncomfortable about flying, despite the immense amount of travelling he has to do.
“To step on a plane is not something I am thrilled about,” Alonso said. “I have to do it. But when the plane takes off I am not at ease.”
Alonso said the greatest challenge of his return was “getting back into the mindset of F1”. He has this week been at the Renault factories in the UK and France reacquainting himself with the team and spending time in the simulator.
“It’s very demanding and you have to be a perfectionist like in no other category,” Alonso said.
“You have to talk to the engineers, I have my computer where I can listen to the team radio – I am very much involved in what is happening each weekend and that is helping me get up to speed.”
He pointed out that restrictions on testing meant that he would have only a day and a half in the car before the start of the 2021 season.
“There are three days [of pre-season testing] in Barcelona so one and a half days for me. Imagine what it is like to train for three days and then go into the World Championship. Everything has to be ready beforehand.”