AUGUST 28, 2007
Piquet and Renault
There is much talk in Holland that Nelson Piquet Jr will replace Giancarlo Fisichella at Renault next season. Piquet is half Brazilian and half Dutch and while Renault has yet to confirm its driver line-up for 2008, the team has obviously been holding out a hope that Fernando Alonso would leave McLaren and go back to his old team. The fact that BMW re-signed its two drivers suggests that he is not available.
Renault was caught on the hop by Alonso’s decision to quit the team back at the end of 2005 and was not able to sign a top star for the 2007 season as all the big names were under contract elsewhere. Team boss Flavio Briatore reckoned that Heikki Kovalainen would grow into a replacement for Alonso but, despite many thousands of kilometres of testing, his progress has been disappointing although he has now finally overtaken Giancarlo Fisichella in the Drivers' World Championship.
Other sources say that McLaren is going to be willing to release Alonso, but this seems unlikely as it makes no sense for McLaren to free one of its biggest assets to a rival team, thus making life difficult for itself. The team has said that Fernando has a contract and hopes that he will honour it. If he does not, it is likely that he will have to sit out 2008 unless some kind of swap could be arranged with another team which would give McLaren a suitable team-mate for Lewis Hamilton. The only driver likely to fit the bill would be Nico Rosberg. Williams would not say no if Alonso came knocking on the door.
Keeping Fisichella in 2008 makes little sense for Renault. He is a solid driver who scores points when he can but he still makes mistakes - as was seen in Turkey. Signing Piquet is a risk but Briatore may be hoping that he will become the star that Kovalainen was supposed to be.
The key issue at Renault, however, is not the drivers because they can do little without a good car. An average driver in a great car can win races in F1, but it is a lot harder for a great driver in an average car. The other point is that Renault has made no secret of the fact that it wants the F1 programme to be cost-effective and thus paying millions for Fernando Alonso makes little sense, unless Briatore can find someone else to pay the Spaniard's salary.
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