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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Renault confirms Alonso, Piquet for 2009

The ING Renault F1 Team confirmed it will retain both Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet for the 2009 season, with the Spaniard signing a two-year contract extension keeping him at Enstone through 2010.

“We are happy to confirm both Fernando and Nelson for next season,” said Flavio Briatore. “This gives the ING Renault F1 Team one of the most exciting driver pairings with the perfect blend of youth and experience.”

For much of the season, Alonso's future with the squad was in doubt. As the team struggled, rumors swirled that the double world champion, who had returned to the team following a turbulent season at McLaren, was set to move.

Nearly everyone in the paddock had been mentioned in connection with Alonso at some point. As Renault's performance improved, however, and Alonso recorded back-to-back wins in Singapore and Japan, staying at the team seemed more likely.

In fact it is rumored his contract bound him to the team once it claimed fourth in the championship.

Now, by signing an extension, it would seem Alonso has definatively put those rumors to bed.

“Fernando’s commitment for the next two seasons confirms the faith he has in the team and we are delighted to continue working with him,” Briatore said. “He has been a big asset throughout this difficult season andhis leadership and talent, matched with the team’s hard work and determination, have paid off with our recent performances, which have placed the ING Renault F1 Team back among the top competitors of Formula 1.”

Alonso said Renault was always his first choice.

“It’s a very close-knit team with a competitive and winning mentality, and also a relaxed and warm attitude, whichsuits me perfectly,” he explained. “In the past we have won championships together, as well as going through tough moments, but we are now determined to show that we can repeat that success together in the coming seasons.”

Piquet struggled tremendously this year, and many thought he could be replaced by one of Renault's young testing talents, Lucas Di Grassi or Romain Grosjean, but for the moment it appears his job is safe.

“Obviously I am delighted to have the opportunity to race for the ING Renault F1 Team for a second year,” he said. “Although I have had a tough year, I have learned a lot from my rookie season and I will aim to put that experience to good use next season. I want to thank the team for their support this year and for the trust they have shown in me for the future.”

Honda was thought to be making a run at Alonso, but just because the Spaniard is out of the running, it does not mean incumbants Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are out of the woods. Honda is testing Bruno Senna later this month, as well as another, yet-to-be named driver.

With Honda chief Nick Fry backing Button in an interview with the BBC, it would seem Rubens would be the odd man out if someone is to be replaced.

Toro Rosso has also yet to confirm its lineup, with Sebastian Vettel moving to parent team Red Bull and the future of Sebastien Bourdais in doubt.
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