The ING Renault team enters the 2008 season with a brand new line up. OK, not exactly brand new. None of the 2007 Renault drivers has survived Flavio’s winter clean up. However one of the new drivers is recycled, repackaged and more expensive Fernando Alonso.
Fernando Alonso – Spain
Born: 29 July 1981
In F1 since 2001 – 2001 Minardi, 2002 Jaguar and Renault testing, 2003 – 2006 Renault, 2007 McLaren
Best Result: 2005 and 2006 Formula 1 Champion
Career wins: 19
Pole positions: 17
Podium Finishes: 49
Fernando Alonso is the highest ranked active Formula 1 driver when it comes to race wins (19, ahead of Kimi with 15) and pole positions (17, ahead of Kimi with 14). Considering the expected relative strength of Ferrari and Renault in 2008, this may not be so by the end of the season.
The speculation about Alonso’s possible return to Renault began way before his exit from McLaren has been announced. Briatore went public not that long ago, that first discussions about this happened already in Melbourne 2007. Now he is back, the question is for how long. His long term commitment to Renault has been questioned with rumours about future move to Ferrari adding extra fuel to the fire. Recently Keke Rosberg specualted that Alonso may also be eyeing BMW Sauber … The fact is that he is now in Renault and he would need to give the team more than his famed 6 tenths if he is to add to his race wins and pole positions tally. Fight for the title may be out of his reach this season but I would not bet against him scoring some unlikely race win this year. Renault does not look that much worse than their maiden win seeking BMW Sauber. And with no offense intended towards Heidfeld and Kubica, none of these 2 guys is Alonso. Alonso will also likely be able to count on support from Renault’s nuber 2 – Nelson Piquet.
Nelson Piquet Jr. – Brazil
Born: 25 July 1985
Rookie, F1 experience in testing only – 2004 Williams, 2005 BAR Honda, 2006-2007 Renault
Career highlight: 2nd in GP2 Championship 2006
Nelson Piquet Jr. is kind of unknown quality. He did win couple of A1 races for Brazil, he was runner up to Lewis Hamilton in GP2 in 2006, but I think that the fact that he is now in F1 has more to do with his name than with his qualities. I am not saying he is not a good driver or that he does not deserve his drive in F1. I am just saying that being Piquet helped him to get where he is now. Now it is on him to prove himself. He for sure does not lack the confidence. A year ago he set his sights on Fisichella’s seat and was open about that, he has got it. But for him to last in Renault beyond 2008 season he would have to find the right balance between his desire to race to win and not causing 2007 McLaren like situation. The sooner he and his father accept that in 2008 Renault is all about Alonso, the better for them. The best opportunities for Piquet to display his skill will be in qualifying. In races he will have to follow what the team says …
F1Wolf’s prediction for Renault drivers in 2008:
No. 1 – Fernando Alonso, with a shot at some lucky win during the season
No. 2 – Nelson Piquet Jr. – one of the few obvious number twos this year