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Alonso staying at Renault UPDATE #10 Renault F1 is expected to confirm Fernando Alonso as its lead driver in 2009 later today. The big question is not whether the Spaniard will stay but rather who will be with him in the team. There have been rumors that the company is going to keep Nelson Piquet for another season but we have also heard that test driver Lucas di Grassi is a better bet for the long-term and that Piquet may be shunted out to Honda Racing F1, which is apparently keen to try him out. This would work out for Renault team boss Flavio Briatore, who owns a percentage in both drivers and thus will be able to earn from both rather than just one.

Di Grassi has impressed not only as a test driver but did a great job in GP2 this year with Campos Grand Prix (run by Briatore acolyte Alejandro Agag), finishing third in the title despite missing the first three races. Given that he was runner-up to Timo Glock in 2007 this was not entirely surprising.

Piquet says he is confident of staying with the team but his results this year have been patchy at best with a lucky second place in Germany, but otherwise only four points scoring finishes with fourth in Japan, sixth in Hungary, seventh in France and eighth in China. He finished 12th in the World Championship. There is an argument that he will do better next year having gained experience this season, but he came into F1 with plenty of testing mileage and many feel he does not have what it takes to be a top line star. Grandprix.com

A happy Fernando Alonso
10/30/08 Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso says he's thrilled with his ride for 2009, though he won't reveal any contract details until after this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix.  "[I'm] very happy," the Renault driver said Thursday, adding an announcement will be made next week.

Whether Alonso stays at Renault or moves to another team has been one of the most anticipated decisions of the year.

"With Alonso's indecision, other teams tend to wait, too," said teammate Nelson Piquet Jr.

10/27/08 (GMM)  The signs are growing by the day that Fernando Alonso will soon announce his intention to stay at Renault in 2009.

The Spaniard, who won back to back titles with the French team, has been the subject of intense speculation following his return from McLaren this year.

Rumors have linked him with moves to Ferrari, BMW, Honda and others, but it now seems he has decided to commit at least for another season with Enstone based Renault.

"The chance (that he stays at Renault) is fairly big," team boss Flavio Briatore said in interview with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

The Italian hinted strongly that an announcement is imminent, reaffirming that Alonso's decision is due "by the end of the season".

"The last race is this Sunday," Briatore reminded, "so both of the sides will decide then."

Alonso's countryman, the Ferrari test driver Marc Gene, agrees that the 27-year-old Spaniard is likely to stay at Renault in 2009 rather than switch any time soon to Ferrari.

"There is no place at Ferrari for Alonso for at least two years," Gene said at the weekend at Jarama, where in a 2007 Ferrari he broke Gilles Villeneuve's long-standing track record of the Spanish circuit.

Gene explained to Telecinco: "2011 is a long way in the future, and lots can happen in between."

10/12/08 (GMM)  Back to back grand prix winner Fernando Alonso has indeed decided to stay at Renault for the 2009 season.

Germany's most widely circulated newspaper, Bild, reported on Sunday that the Spaniard is now convinced the French squad is a better option than Honda for next year.

Alonso, 27, capped his fortuitous Singapore grand prix victory with a commanding win in Japan, as title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa struck trouble.

Bild am Sonntag newspaper said Alonso is hedging his bets that, by seeing out his Renault contract, he will be best poised to switch to Ferrari should Kimi Raikkonen make an early exit -- a move that would please one of the Spaniard's biggest supporters, Emilio Botin, who is keen to move his Santander sponsorship from McLaren to Ferrari.

Even after winning at Fuji Speedway, however, Alonso is sticking with his promise to announce his plans only after next month's Brazilian grand prix.

"I said that I would make a decision after Brazil but it doesn't mean that I don't know what to do.  I know what to do but I will announce it after Brazil," he said.

10/09/08 Fernando Alonso refused on Thursday to rule out a move from Renault despite being left with few alternatives for 2009.

"I have a contract with Renault for next year and the possibility to take that extension or not," Alonso told reporters at the Japanese Grand Prix.

"I'm not waiting (in order) to make your lives impossible. I prefer to wait until the end of the season. After Brazil I will make my decision."

Alonso said his surprise win in Singapore last month, his first victory in more than a year and Renault's first since the Spaniard won his second title with them in 2006, would have no bearing.

"It's the same question as always," he smiled. "On the Saturday we had the fuel pump problems and I was out of Q2 (the second stage of qualifying) and the question was would it change my decision.

"The day after I won the race and it was 'Will this change your decision?' Nothing changed my decision.

"It will be more important than one single result. It's more about understanding next year's regulations, next year's car, the aerodynamics, whatever. We need to pay attention to that."

Alonso added: "We were extremely lucky with the race -- safety cars, tire decisions, everything was perfect for us. In a normal race Ferrari and McLaren are still unbeatable."

Alonso said he was not surprised to hear BMW-Sauber announce an unchanged line-up.

"It was never a possibility," shrugged the 27-year-old, who rejoined Renault this year after a bitter season at McLaren spent feuding with management and team mate Lewis Hamilton.

"Also for them. It was never a serious approach. They were quite happy with their drivers and there was no time to talk for me.

"Next year anything can happen but now I have three races left and I want to concentrate on driving for Renault which is my job this year. I think next year I will have a competitive car," said Alonso.

10/07/08 (GMM)  The confirmation of BMW-Sauber's driver lineup for 2009 means that Fernando Alonso will almost certainly stay at Renault next year.

That is the insistence of the Spanish press corps, who all but rule out the remaining options for the former double world champion: Honda and Toro Rosso.

The newspaper Diario AS, traditionally closely linked to the 27-year-old driver, said "Fernando believes that his current team will be more competitive" than BMW in 2009.

"We started (the season) far behind BMW, maybe one second, and now we are the same pace as them or even better," said Alonso, who fortuitously won the recent Singapore grand prix with the R28.

"We will keep on pushing.  Three more races to go and next year more," he added.

AS said Alonso was also "not convinced" about BMW's working methods, and believes the extensive rule changes for 2009 could work more in Renault's favor.

Confirmation of Alonso's decision would clear the path for Honda to confirm its own 2009 lineup, with many observers expecting this to be done on the verge of the Japanese squad's home race at Fuji this weekend.

09/21/08 (GMM)  Fernando Alonso has a solid hint that he has finally decided against all other offers in order to remain at Renault in 2009.

The former double world champion, in conversation with journalists from his native Spain, sounded confident that the French team can overcome its problems to be stronger next year.

"The problems with our current car are poor adaptation to the Bridgestone tires, a few tenths behind with the engine, and an aerodynamic deficiency," Alonso, 27, said.

"But they are all problems we have solved to a great extent during the championship.  We started the year in eleventh or twelfth positions and a second behind BMW, and now we are ahead of them.

"Looking ahead to next year, hopefully everything will be in place to fight for the championship."

Alonso also smiled at team boss Flavio Briatore's recent claim that the Renault budget is set to increase by as much as 40 per cent.

"I don't know if that is true or not," he said.

"There have been moments this season where Flavio makes statements to confuse people, perhaps including myself," Alonso explained.  "But I take it neither seriously nor as a joke.

"Renault is a team that tries not to waste as much money as the other teams.  They have a smaller budget than the top teams, but the same was also the case when we won the titles.

"If the budget goes up, it will be good and the team will improve, but that is not something that will influence my decision about 2009 one way or another," Alonso said.

09/19/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  Fernando Alonso has decided against switching to BMW-Sauber or Honda for the 2009 season, according to the Spanish daily newspaper AS.

The sports newspaper claims the 27-year-old Spaniard believes Renault, his current team, is likely to catch up with and pass BMW due to the sweeping rules changes next year.

Diario AS also said Alonso was reluctant to agree to BMW's contractual terms, where he would be bound to a multiple-year term rather than free - as he currently is - to accept a more competitive seat at the end of a season.

The newspaper said BMW finalized its offer to Alonso earlier this week, but that the former double world champion also turned down Honda's bid, on the grounds that the Japanese team is not likely to be competitive as early as 2009.

"Of course I have to look around at the possibilities for next year that exist outside of Renault," Alonso said in interview with Germany's Sport Bild.

"My priority is Renault, but only if we make a big step forwards with the 2009 car."

He confirmed that he has "three or four" options open to him for 2009, and that it is "no secret" that he has been in talks with Honda's team boss Ross Brawn.

09/16/08 (GMM)  As speculation of a deal with BMW-Sauber builds, Fernando Alonso says staying at Renault is his "first option" for the 2009 season.

"I am trying to find the best place that I can be," the former double world champion told Spanish radio Cadena Ser.

"I know all the people and that things can go well here.  They are preparing the new car but I have not seen much of it.

"All the teams are very optimistic about next year.  But Renault have given me two championship cars and so it is easier to believe what they tell me over the others," Alonso said.

Alonso insists he has never intended to think about his next step until late this season, but until Ferrari confirmed at Monza Kimi Raikkonen's plans for the next two years, there was always the faint hope of a vacant seat.

Alonso does not believe that any doors have closed.

"I am 27 and have many more laps to do," he explained.  "If I race in F1 for another eight or ten years, perhaps one day I will again have the opportunity to go there.

"For now I have to try to get back to winning as soon as possible, rather than think about 2010 or 2011," Alonso said.

07/29/08 (GMM)  Flavio Briatore on Tuesday said he thinks double world champion Fernando Alonso will stay at Renault in 2009.

Alonso, the 26-year-old Spaniard, has made no secret of his desire to climb back into a championship-contending car next year, and is not ruling out switching to another team.

"I think he'll stay," Briatore, the French outfit's team principal, told the latest edition of Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He is racing really well, he has missed out on many points.  We have less than we deserve," the Italian added.

Briatore on Tuesday is among the chiefs of the ten formula one teams who are meeting at Maranello, the headquarters of the Ferrari team.

"Formula one needs redesigning," he insisted, highlighting costs, the number of races, and the 'show' in general as the issues he wants to be discussed.

07/20/08 (GMM) Fernando Alonso at Hockenheim dropped a big hint that he has now decided to stay put at Renault for the 2009 season.

It has been suggested for some time that the Spaniard, under contract to the French team for next year but with escape clauses, was considering moving teams.

But with Red Bull announcing its new driver lineup, and Honda likely to field an unchanged team in 2009, it appears likely that Alonso will simply stay at Renault.

It is believed that, while attractive to teams as a former double world champion, other teams are reluctant to give the 26-year-old a seat for next year while it is likely he will then move on to Ferrari in 2010.

To the Spanish newspaper Diario AS, Alonso said it is important Renault improves its position in the constructors' championship - currently seventh - by the end of the season.

"It is important for the budget next year," he said, referring to the bonus money provided by FOM on the basis of a team's finishing position.

"I want to be with a team next year that has a good ranking from the previous season," Alonso explained, "because you don't want to be far down the pitlane, and you know they would have less budget, less space, and they are not a top team.

"So the team that I am with in 2009 will be among the top teams," he added.

Alonso admits that not being in the fight for this year's title is "frustrating".

Referring to qualifying at Hockenheim, he said: "My teammate was out in the Q1 and I am fifth on the grid.

"It's a little frustrating to know that with only a slightly better car, I could be fighting for wins."
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