Renault is today expected to announce that Fernando Alonso, its double world champion driver and prodigal son, will return to the team for the 2008 Formula One season. In doing so, he should become the highest earner in the sport.According to reports in the Spanish press, Alonso has signed a deal worth £50 million with the Enstone-run F1 team, which will keep him at Renault for two seasons at least. The Spaniard has also just published a bulletin on his own website in which he confirms the move.
Make me lead driver
It was widely reported that the Spanish driver had signed a letter of intent with Renault in October 2007, after announcing the end of his relationship with McLaren, that gave them first refusal on his services. The reason for the caution was Renault’s hearing with the World Motor Sport Council last week, where it was found guilty of cheating, but from which Flavio Briatore’s team escaped without punishment. Had the team been given the same £50mil fine that McLaren received for cheating back in September, F1 experts were expecting Renault to withdraw its involvement in the sport on cost grounds.Alonso is expected to be partnered at Renault by current test driver Nelson Piquet Jnr, in replacement of Heikki Kovalainen who, say pundits, is replacing Alonso at McLaren. However, Alonso’s contract gives him clear lead driver status over Piquet, a clause which should protect the Spaniard from further embarrassment at the hands of a talented rookie stepping up from GP2.
McLaren to face yet another enquiry
Meanwhile, Alonso's former employer McLaren’s chances on the 2008 F1 grid remain in jeopardy. The World Motor Sport Council has decided that the team must appear at another hearing in February, at which the legality of its 2008 car, the MP4-23, will be decided.The WMSC met last week to review a report on McLaren’s 2008 car written to ascertain whether it would benefit from any intellectual property belonging to Ferrari. At the time, the car could not be given a clean bill of health. Representatives from McLaren, Ferrari, and other competitors in the sport, will be given the opportunity to react to the report on February 14 2008. At that point, the WMSC will decide whether the MP4-23 is legal. And if they decide that it isn’t, McLaren will have only 31 days to make it so before the opening race of the season in Melbourne.