During his sabbatical from Formula 1 after a difficult second stint at McLaren, Alonso ventured into a wide variety of motorsport disciplines including endurance racing, but arguably faced his toughest challenge when he entered Dakar at the beginning of 2020.
Driving the factory Toyota Hilux in the prestigious cross-country rally in Saudi Arabia, the Spaniard exceeded expectations by finishing inside the top 10 in eight of the 12 stages, eventually registering a respectable 13th-place result in the final standings.
Alonso has since put his focus back on F1 and recently signed a multi-year deal to move to Aston Martin, keeping him in grand prix racing until at least the end of the 2024 season.
However, there is no clarity on what he will do beyond the end of his current deal, and a move to other championships cannot be ruled out.
Four-time Dakar winner Al-Attiyah feels Alonso has the appetite for cross-country rallying and believes it would be possible for any top-level driver to succeed in the marathon once they have enough experience of tackling the terrain.
“Still I push Fernando to have him again in Dakar,” the Qatari driver said when asked by Motorsport.com when asked about the prospects of Alonso returning to the rally.
“I know Fernando from F1 but I met him when he joined the team in 2020.
“The team asked me to help teach Fernando in the sand dunes. It was three days in Qatar and under 50C and it was a really amazing job [by him]. He is very, very talented.
“What we did for the first time in Dakar, he showed the speed. For this kind of race you need to have experience, because if you see the history of Dakar you need to have four-five-six years of experience until you can win.
“But it was really nice to have Fernando. Still we are talking. We are waiting for him.”
#310 Toyota Gazoo Racing: Fernando Alonso, Marc Coma
Photo by: Toyota Racing
Pressed further if he thought Alonso could make a comeback, Al-Attiyah said: “I think so. He loved the Dakar, and I am sure that maybe after next year or in two years [he will come back]”
Al-Attiyah will hope to defend his title in next year’s Dakar, which will again run entirely in Saudi Arabia but over 14 stages instead of 12.
Action will kick off with the Prologue on 31st December at the end of this month, with the New Year’s Day marking the start of the first full stage.
Al-Attiyah will be joined in the factory Toyota stable by Giniel de Villiers and Henk Lategan for what will be the 45th running of the rally raid.