Crucial piece of Renault puzzle now due

(GMM) Giancarlo Fisichella is staying put at Renault next year, but arguably the more crucial piece of the puzzle is still to come.

The question of who will fill reigning world champion and 2006 title-leader Fernando Alonso's shoes is a burning one, but a pair of Finns – Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen – are reportedly top of the list.

Current McLaren pilot Raikkonen, if available and affordable, would be the logical choice, as there is some nagging doubt about whether either Fisichella or tester Kovalainen can step into the top Renault role.

Juan Pablo Montoya's name has also been mentioned, but the Colombian – similarly linked with Red Bull and Toyota – could instead find himself with no drive at all and heading back to American open-wheel racing.

Mark Webber is a possibility but, although managed by Flavio Briatore, his future – with a 2007 'option' yet to be taken up – is in Sir Frank Williams' hands.

''A source at the (Renault) team said that there was no formal timetable for announcing the new driver,'' an article in England's Times newspaper said on Friday.

Certainly, Roman 33-year-old Fisichella was giving nothing away, despite earlier dropping the 'Finn' hint to an Italian newspaper.

He said: ''What I can say is that whoever my teammate is, I am not afraid of measuring up to them.''

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