Monday, December 10, 2007

Alonso returns to Renault

So my last post has been answered... Alonso has moved back to Renault. But what will this mean...

... for 2009

Alonso is unlikely to have a contract at Ferrari for 2009 and if he does it's by no means bullet-proof. If the Ferrari contract does exist it is likely that the new Renault contract is largely condition based ie: he may have an option to leave if Renault under-perform but otherwise he's stuck. Briatore would never agree to Alonso taking a simple one year tenancy and then handing him over to the Scuderia.

... for the Renault team

The introduction of Nelson Piquet Jnr is also quite telling. This, I should imagine, was a bargaining tool to get Alonso in on a small(ish) wage package. By putting a rookie in the number 2 car Alonso can dominate the team. Now I know your thinking that Hamilton was a rookie and that Piquet only finished 12 points adrift of him in the 2006 GP2 championship blah blah blah... but this is entirely different. Alonso is Mr Renault - the team loves him as he's a proven winner, he can get a great set-up with the mechanics, and Briatore has no qualms about running Alonso as a clear number 1 - especially over a rookie. Alonso will get preferential treatment over Piquet.

... for Heikki Kovalainen

Well possibly a McLaren drive. Yet De la Rosa is a serious contender for the McLaren seat as he would allow the team to focus on Hamilton and keep the Spanish sponsors happy. To me the move to oust Kovalainen was a bargaining tool for Renault to lure Alonso back. By dropping Heikki they eliminate any immediate challenge from an established team-mate (something Alonso genuinely fears) and can more easily exercise team tactics over a very grateful Piquet (making Alonso number 1). I desperately hope Kovalainen can secure the McLaren seat and after his performances toward the end of last season he certainly deserves it.

... for the WMSC decision and the sport as a whole

Both Alonso and Renault were waiting for the World Motorsport Council's (WMSC) verdict before confirming a decision. It seems as though Renault weren't entirely ready to commit to their future in F1 without knowing that their bank balance would go untouched by the FIA. I think Renault would have pulled the plug if they were handed a McLaren sized fine and what's most worrying is that I think the WMSC knew that and acted accordingly. Essentially the FIA set a precedent that it could not maintain and that is a very dangerous thing for any governing body to do.

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