Renault retain Alonso and Piquet for '09
|By Steven English
||Wednesday, November 5th 2008, 14:16 GMT
Renault have confirmed an unchanged driver line-up for the 2009 season, with Fernando Alonso agreeing a two-year extension to his deal with the team.
His teammate Nelson Piquet has only been signed for one further season at present.
Team boss Flavio Briatore believes the announcement gives Renault a well-balanced driver line-up going into next year's championship.
"This gives the ING Renault F1 Team one of the most exciting driver pairings with the perfect blend of youth and experience," he said.
"Fernando's commitment for the next two seasons confirms the faith he has in the team and we are delighted to continue working with him.
"He has been a big asset throughout this difficult season and his leadership and talent, matched with the team's hard work and determination, have paid off with our recent performances, which have placed the ING Renault F1 Team back among the top competitors of Formula 1."
Alonso won two world championships with Renault before leaving for McLaren at the end of 2006, but he returned this year after failing to gel with the Woking-based squad.
Although this season began badly for Alonso and Renault, they staged a late-season resurgence that saw the Spaniard win in Singapore and Japan.
"After a difficult start to the season, we have overcome our difficulties and constantly improved our performances," said Alonso.
"My back-to-back wins in Singapore and Japan, and my recent second place podium finish in Brazil, have proved how competitive we can be.
"In the past we have won championships together, as well as going through tough moments, but we are now determined to show that we can repeat that success together in the coming seasons."
The double champion had been linked with Ferrari and BMW, and heavily courted by Honda, before agreeing his extended Renault deal.
"I have decided to stay with the ING Renault F1 team because, as I have often repeated this season, they have always been my first choice and I feel very happy and comfortable with them," Alonso said.
"It's a very close-knit team with a competitive and winning mentality, and also a relaxed and warm attitude, which suits me perfectly."
Piquet's future at Renault had been in doubt after he struggled for much of his rookie season - particularly in qualifying - but his form improved towards the end of the year, highlighted by a strong drive from 11th on the grid to fourth in Japan.
"Obviously I am delighted to have the opportunity to race for the ING Renault F1 Team for a second year," he said.
"Although I have had a tough year, I have learned a lot from my rookie season and I will aim to put that experience to good use next season. I want to thank the team for their support this year and for the trust they have shown in me for the future.
"I'm already excited about 2009 and looking forward to working with the team over the winter so that we can start next season strongly."