Weeks of speculation have ended with the announcement that Fernando Alonso will be racing for Renault next season. His team-mate at the French manufacturer will be Nelsinho Piquet Jr making it an all-new line-up for Renault for the 2008 season.
“Fernando and Nelsinho will form one of the most exciting driver line up of 2008,â€ team boss Flavio Briatore said. “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.”
Alonso has fond memories of the team having won the drivers championship with them in 2005 and 2006 before moving to McLaren for the 2007 season. The Spanish driver is hoping that his return will also see his fortunes revived.
“I am delighted to be returning to Renault,” Alonso said. “This is the team where I grew up as a driver in Formula One. 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.”
Piquet will be making his Formula 1 race debut at the start of the season having spent a year with Renault as their test driver. “First of all, I want to thank Flavio and Renault for putting their confidence in me for 2008,” said Piquet. “It is a fantastic opportunity to make my Formula One 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.”
Renault have also announced that their 2008 challenger the R28 will be unveiled at Valencia in January. The new car will take to the track for the first time at the Ricardo Tormo circuit on January 22nd on a three-day test session. The R28 will then officially be launched in Paris at Renault s corporate communications HQ on January 31.
With Alonso now confirmed at Renault, the driver shuffle can now begin. There are many drivers who have yet to have their race-seats for 2008 confirmed. Many teams and drivers were waiting to see where Alonso would race in 2008 before signing contracts. Giancarlo Fisichella, Heikki Kovalainen and Ralf Schumacher are amongst many big names who have yet to have a confirmed race-seat for next season.