Fernando Alonso is returning to Formula One racing in 2021 for a third term at Renault, the team he won his two world titles with more than a decade ago.
Alonso named Renault his "family" when the return was announced on Wednesday, and the French team named the decision ti sign the Spanish veteran "bold and meaningful for the future."
Alonso, who turns 39 later in the month, left the elite series after 17 years in 2018, following four largely disappointing years at McLaren.
But he never ruled out a comeback and now he is to take the place of Daniel Ricciardo who moves on to McLaren next year, with Frenchman Esteban Ocon the team-mate.
“Renault is my family, my fondest memories in Formula One with my two World Championship titles, but I’m now looking ahead," Alonso said in a team statement.
"It’s a great source of pride and with an immense emotion I’m returning to the team that gave me my chance at the start of my career and which now gives me the opportunity to return to the highest level.
"I have principles and ambitions in line with the team’s project ... The team wants and has the means to get back on the podium, as do I.”
Considered one of the best drivers in the sport, Alonso has won 32 grands prix from 311 starts since a 2001 debut at Minardi, and took the world title in 2005 and 2006 during his first term at Renault.
The Spaniard, who also has three runner-up finishes, raced for McLaren-Mercedes (2007) and Ferrari (2010-2014) as well, plus a second term at Renault 2008 and 2009.
His last victory was at the 2013 home event in Barcelona, and next year he could become the man with the most F1 races, as his 311 starts are just 11 shoy of Rubens Barrichello's 322, with still active Kimi Raikkonen currently on 313.
Alonso has competed in other motorsport events as well, winning the Le Mans 24 hours twice, and competing in the 2020 Dakar Rally.
He next month plans to make another attempt at winning the Indianapolis 500 to complete a rare triple crown of victories at the Monaco F1 Grand Prix, the Le Mans 24 hours (which he has both won) and Indy 500.
Renault hope to relive their glory days from Alonso's titles 2005 and 2006, and get themselves ready for 2022 with its sweeping rule changes, by bringing Alonso back.
Since their return as a works team in 2016, they have had trouble matching the big three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Last season they were then even beaten by resurgent McLaren for fourth place in the constructors' championship.
Alonso should adapt quickly as he is still familiar with the current generation of cars. It is not clear whether he would also drive the new car in 2022 but his contract is widely believed to be over two years.
Renault sports managing director Cyril Abiteboul said the signing was a clear indication the French carmaker continues "its commitment to F1 and to return to the top of the field.
"His presence in our team is a formidable asset on the sporting level but also for the brand to which he is very attached," Abiteboul said.
"He will also bring to our team, which has grown very fast, a culture of racing and winning to overcome hurdles together. Alongside Esteban, his mission will be to help Renault prepare for the 2022 season in the best possible conditions.”
Formula One CEO Chase Carey welcomed Alonso back with open arms, speaking if "great news" and naming the driver "an incredible talent."
Alonso's arrival at Renault meanwhile further limits the options for four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, whose Ferrari contract won't be renewed beyond the current season and who is yet to find a new team.