Renault was always the rumour mill's favourite option for the future of Fernando Alonso and on December 10th it was confirmed that Alonso will indeed return to the team with which he won his back-to-back titles. After a fraught year with McLaren the Spaniard rejoins Renault for 2008 and will be partnered by Nelson A. Piquet.
"I am delighted to be returning to Renault," said Alonso. "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."
Alonso, who finished just one point behind champion Kimi Raikkonen this year, had well-documented problems with McLaren but he still described it as a good season. Renault was the team he was most expected to go to after splitting with McLaren and once the French squad escaped punishment for its own spy scandal that reportedly cleared the way.
"We are delighted to be welcoming Fernando back home to the team where he enjoyed his greatest success," said Renault managing director Flavio Briatore. "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."
Piquet was the team's third driver in 2007 and steps up to replace Heikki Kovalainen, while current F3 Euroseries champ Romain Grosjean takes the test driver role. Piquet, son of the three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet, was runner up in GP2 in 2006 before joining Renault full time. Next year's challenger, the R28, will have its first test at Valencia late January and will be officially launched on January 31st in Paris.
"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," said Piquet. "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."
No doubt speculation will now turn to the future of Kovalainen, who spent just one season at Renault. The Finn is one of the names linked with the McLaren seat that Alonso vacated, along with the team's test driver Pedro de la Rosa. McLaren has said that it is no hurry to make a decision but now Alonso has made his move what's left of the driver market is likely to follow.