London: `Never say never` has always been a popular saying in Formula One and Fernando Alonso`s return to McLaren proves the point.
The team`s announcement on Thursday that the double world champion will race for them next season with 2009 champion Jenson Button came as no surprise, since it had been widely accepted as fact months ago.
But at the end of 2007, such a scenario would have been laughable.
Then, it looked as if the Spaniard had well and truly burned his boats at Woking only a year after joining from Renault as world champion.
McLaren and Ferrari had been embroiled in a spying scandal that rocked the sport and landed McLaren with a record $100 million fine for having confidential Ferrari technical documents in their possession.
Alonso, who was found to have incriminating emails, had testified to the governing FIA under immunity.
Barely on speaking terms with team principal Ron Dennis, he returned to Renault in a falling-out triggered even before the spy controversy by the team refusing to favour him over hotshot protege Lewis Hamilton.
When Alonso joined Ferrari in 2010 and declared his seemingly eternal allegiance to the Italian team, talking of seeing out his career at Maranello, the very idea of him returning to McLaren sounded preposterous.
The ousting of Martin Whitmarsh as McLaren principal earlier this year, and return of Dennis to overall control, only made that look less likely.
But never say never.
Dennis, smiling and with an arm on Alonso`s shoulders on Thursday, just wants McLaren to be back on top and winning. Alonso wants that third title that is long overdue and that Ferrari failed to deliver.
The little Spaniard is intensely competitive and every bit as determined as Dennis. In the end, both wanted the same thing and saw each other as the best way of getting it.
Both now appear to regret what happened in 2007.
"One of the things I really respect is that he chose to change direction, leaving one of the most successful teams in F1 and coming back to McLaren and addressing what we feel is unfinished business," Dennis said.
"Fernando is going to prove that he is an absolute winner. But also he is going to show that he can re-integrate with our team.
"I could probably have done things better," he added, addressing the past problems. "I don`t anticipate any issues between Fernando and I."
"I felt it was unfinished business already when I left," he said. "I brought number one to the cockpit and now I want to bring it back from the inside, driving for them."
In Button he has a likeable and easy-going team mate with more experience than anyone else on the grid, a man hugely popular within McLaren and as competitive as anyone.
The pairing may not be quite the fire and ice combination that was held up when Alonso was joined by Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari but there are enough contrasts between them to spice things up next season.
Button, for one thing, has been compared to French four- times world champion Alain Prost for his smoothness at the wheel and tactical nous. Alonso, like Hamilton, had the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna as a boyhood hero.
Prost and Senna provided Honda-powered McLaren with their most dominant season in 1988, their first year together when they won all but one race, but the relationship soon soured.
Alonso and Button, the first pairing of a new Honda era, may revive memories of old but McLaren must first give them a car capable of winning races before any sparks fly.
With Mercedes dominant this year, and Honda`s new V6 turbo power unit beset with problems on its first proper test, it could take all of Button`s new two-year contract for that to happen.
But never say never.