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UPDATE: Official press release from Renault confirming Alonso's return can be read

Emerging reports confirm that Fernando Alonso has signed a two-year contract with the Renault F1 Team, with which he won a pair of world titles before defecting to a tumultuous and disappointing year with McLaren.

The contract, according to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, will make Alonso one of the top-paid drivers currently in F1 at a staggering $50 million per season (According to the Wikipedia, Kimi Räikkönen makes $51 million/year). The deal is also reported to include minimal obligations towards Renault's sponsors, an exit clause should Alonso wish to terminate early, and clear, defined #1 status for Alonso over his team-mate.

That role, according to the reports, is set to be taken up by Nelson Piquet, Jr., who will be filling the #2 spot at Renault. The news subsequently leaves current drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen without confirmed rides for next season, fuelling speculation that Kovalainen could take up Alonso's now-vacant seat at McLaren, especially since news broke of Nico Rosberg's renewal at Williams.

The official announcement from Renault is anticipated shortly, and Alonso is expected to begin testing next year's Renault car at his native Spain's Valencia test track late in January.

[Source: F1-Live.com]



PRESS RELEASE:

ING Renault F1 Team announces 2008 driver line-up

The ING Renault F1 Team is pleased to announce a competitive driver duo for the 2008 Formula 1 season. Next year, double world champion Fernando Alonso will drive alongside Brazilian rookie Nelson Piquet Jr. They will be supported by Frenchman Romain Grosjean, reigning 2007 F3 Euroseries Champion and a product of Renault's driver development scheme, in the role of test driver.

"Fernando and Nelsinho will form one of the most exciting driver line up of 2008," commented Renault F1 Team Managing Director Flavio Briatore. "We are delighted to be welcoming Fernando back home to the team where he enjoyed his greatest success. His abilities as a driver and a team leader are well known, and we look forward to forging another strong partnership. What's more, he knows the team well and how we operate; he will feel comfortable straight away in this environment. Nelsinho is one of the most promising young talents in motorsport. After his success in GP2, he has spent a year learning the ropes as our test driver and getting to know the team ; he is now ready to step up to the next level."

ING Renault F1 Team President Bernard Rey commented: "The entire team has been working flat out over the past months to return to the front of the field, and a top-line driver line-up is essential to achieving our targets. Our recent technology investments, the return of Fernando Alonso to the team, and the promotion of Nelsinho Piquet, all signal our intent to return to winning ways next year. Renault is also delighted to welcome a talented, young
Frenchman to the team as test driver."

Fernando Alonso rejoins the Renault F1 Team after spending the 2007 season at McLaren-Mercedes. Alonso drove for the Renault F1 Team between 2003 and 2006, during which time he scored 15 Grand Prix victories and won two world championships, in 2005 and 2006. He will play a key role in the team's efforts to return to the front of the field in 2008.

"I am delighted to be returning to Renault," commented the 26 year-old Spaniard. "This is the team where I grew up as a driver in Formula 1. Now it is time for us to begin a new chapter together. I am very excited about working with this great team once more, and confident that together we can move back to the front of the field. Renault had a difficult year in 2007, but I know that the team has real strength in depth. I am confident they can produce a fast and competitive car and be back at the top in 2008."

Nelson Piquet Jr will complete the team's race driver line-up. The 22 year-old Brazilian spent 2007 as the Renault F1 Team's test and reserve driver, after finishing runner-up in the 2006 GP2 series championship. He will make his F1 debut at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix.

"First of all, I want to thank Flavio and Renault for putting their confidence in me for 2008,"commented Nelsinho. "It is a fantastic opportunity to make my Formula 1 debut with one of the top teams on the grid, and alongside one of the very best drivers in the sport. This drive is something I have been working towards since the end of 2006, and I am proud that my performances as test driver have earned me this position. I am looking forward to teaming
up with Fernando, and learning from him. As a rookie, there is no better way to start your career than to have a double world champion as your reference point."

The team's 2008 challenger, the Renault R28, will run for the first time at a three-day teams test in Valencia, Spain from 22 – 24 January. The car will be officially launched at Renault's corporate communications headquarters in Paris, France on Thursday 31 January 2008.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 14 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Maybe Alonso and Renault won't be competitive enough next year, but they will win the championship again before their gig together is over.
      Alonso is a top driver, he can develop cars and knows well how things at Renault work. And Renault has been developing their '08 car since mid-'07. They might be up there with McLaren and Ferrari already.
      And we still have to see how good is Hamilton at making winning cars. We have seen that from Alonso twice.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's so obnoxiously stupid that people have a problem with Fernando getting paid so much. Renault and sure as hell Ghosn would not agree to pay $50 mil unless they thought he was worth it. Secondly I doubt that Alonso himself asked for above mentioned figure, I suspect it were his managers. Look just like anywhere else compensation is determined by free labor market, we have no problem with MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL and other organizations pay what seems to us ludicrous amounts.

      And please stop defending McLaren, this is a team which always had fantastic drivers, no shortage of cash and yet hasn't done anything worthwhile since Mika won championship back in 1998. Ron Dennis is an arrogant psychopath who has never respected any of his drivers. He failed to control the situation between Senna and Prost, lost Senna to Williams in 1993, drove Hakkinen to near suicide (fortunately end result as a premature retirement), was behind the Montoya fiasco, and now Alonso. Let's not forget unreliable engines, horrid chassis, failed FIA crash tests. List goes on and on.

      There are better styles of running a team and I think it'll start hurting McLaren as early as next year. Why? Well look at Brawn going to Honda, look at Newey at Red Bull, Renault should be back in action too. And of course, Ferrari.
      • 7 Years Ago
      And you guys are ignoring the very real posibility of one of the BMW's being right in the thick of it as well. Or a fired-up Rosberg in a Williams rocket. There has to be a wild card next year out of all the mid-field cars, especially with largely stable rules. I think Button without traction control, in a pretty decent Honda could be a serious contender. Whatever, it'll be an epic season.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Raikkonen v Hamilton v Alonso v Massa.

      Sounds like the makings of a great season. I'm pulling for Hamilton. I think Massa will steal too many points from Raikkonen and Piquet Jr. will surprise Alonso at Renault.

      If Alonso thought Hamilton was trouble, wait till he gets a load of the Brazilian, who's dad is a triple world champ and sure to teach his son some of the tricks that gave him a psychological advantage over Nigel Mansell. Mansell was no pushover, either, and as we've seen, Alonso is pretty fragile when it comes to dealing with strong teammates. Number one status or not, Alonso can be destabilised.

      Of course, if Heikki goes to McLaren, he could possibly upset the cart there too. But I think Hamilton can withstand having a powerful teammate.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Forget about Nelsinho being Hamilton II. This year Alonso knows well how Bridgestones behave (that was Hamilton's advantage last season), and Nelsinho isn't going to be given as many extra laps as Hamilton enjoyed, which allowed him to win a few races. Remember: we still have to see Hamilton win a race where he doesn't start at the pole position.
        Just because Hamilton had an incredible rookie season doesn't mean every rookie can beat Alonso now.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hugo,

      While Nelson might not be Hamilton II, you cannot deny his pedigree. And if you think his old man is not teaching him his tricks, you're sadly mistaken.

      I grant you have a point that Flavio will not let Piquet destabilise Alonso. However, what goes on behind closed doors will show up on the track. Piquet will not be a slouch.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I used to like Fernando, especially since I work with a dude from Spain. Now, not so much.
      • 7 Years Ago
      well, this means the top 4 drivers will be in 3 different teams, which should make constructor's championship next year more interesting than just a fezza vs cheating macca head to head.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm with JohnR on this one.

      Hamilton almost worked everyone this year (too bad for a couple silly mistakes). I'm hopeful that this means MB/McLaren will give him a bit more attention from the get go this season, as he appeared to have to fight for it a bit last year.
      • 7 Years Ago
      That's exactly where that cry baby belongs. I don't expect any surprises from Piquet, not because he can't but because even if he did outshine Alonso on track, Flavio will always tip the balance in Alonso's favor while having is head stuck up his ass the whole time.
      I hope he does well @ Renault again. The prospect of a 4 way fight for both the constructors and drivers championships is very intriguing.
      • 7 Years Ago
      No surprises here.

      But the fact that he's getting paid so much knowing full well that he is a flakey prima donna with insecurities kinda chaps my ass. He reminds me of Bono from that South Park episode about who could lay the biggest turd.

      Here's to hoping Hamilton owns him at every venue next year.
        • 7 Years Ago
        He's like a Premiership Footballer!!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Uh, top paid? Except Kimi gets paid more?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_sports_contracts
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