Guest Author - Christine Blachford
Fernando Alonso has finally announced his imminent return to Renault. A note on his official website was swiftly followed by a statement from the team proudly confirming their two 2008 drivers as Fernando Alonso and Nelsinho Piquet.
It is the debut F1 drive for Piquet, son of three times World Champion Nelson Piquet, as he has impressed Renault in previous testing sessions. For Fernando, it is a return to the team that brought him two World Championships.
Both Briatore and Alonso are full of optimism about the future, and their quotes reflect positive thoughts about a return to glory for the team that have suffered with performance this year.
The move isn’t a surprise. There has been speculation for months, well before Alonso’s split with McLaren was even public knowledge. Now that Renault have escaped any serious penalty in the McLaren espionage hearing, Alonso had no reason not to return to the winning partnership he had in 2005 and 2006.
The move leaves 2007 drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen without a race drive for the next season. Fisichella was already testing for other teams, including Force India, and preparing for his future outside of Renault. We didn’t know if Kovalainen would be retained for the future in the French team, but now it has been announced he won’t be, he has said there are a couple of options open to him that he is currently weighing up.
Of course the speculation is that Kovalainen would have been too fast to partner Alonso. Renault would not want an experience like McLaren this year, where the rookie driver outshines the temperamental champ. However, it could just be that Briatore wants to give Piquet a chance, after his consistent testing ability with a difficult car in 2007.
The only question remaining about this deal is how long the contract is for. Rumours in the paddock continue that Alonso’s main desire is to join Ferrari – a team which can, and will, mould themselves around him. However, both Ferrari drivers are contracted until 2009, so Alonso was presumably only looking for a one year deal for 2008.
When information leaked about Renault’s discussions with Alonso about his plans for the upcoming season, Briatore said that the main hold up was negotiating the duration of the drive. It would appear that whatever Alonso wanted, he has now been given. So whilst speculation is over for 2008, it will remain for his plans in 2009.