ING Renault F1 team made their 2009 drivers line up announcement today. As widely expected Fernando Alonso will stay on after agreeing 2 year extension to his deal with the Enstone team. In Alonso’s case it was more about the driver wanting to stay than the team wanting to retain him. But with all the other potentially competitive seats occupied and Renault steadily progressing towards the front of the grid there was very little doubt about Alonso staying on.
The F1 future of Nelson Piquet however was far from secure following his performances this year. But his late season performance surge seems to have convinced the team bosses that keeping Piquet is better option than risking another rookie and so Nelsinho Piquet got himself one year extension to his contract with Renault. But well, if McLaren can be happy with Heikki Kovalainen (3 podiums, 7th overall while his team mate won the championship) why would Renault want to replace Piquet .
Here is what the drivers had to say:
Fernando Alonso (confirming that it was his decision the team was waiting for):
“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. It’s a very close-knit team with a competitive and winning mentality, and also a relaxed and warm attitude, which suits me perfectly.”
“Obviously I am delighted to have the opportunity to race for the ING Renault F1 Team for a second year. 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.”
This announcement dashes any Alonso hopes Honda might have had. It also means that at least 7 teams out 10 will keep unchanged drivers line up for next season. Add Webber, Button and Vettel and we can be assured of at 17 out of 20 F1 drivers who ended the 2008 season returning next year.
The only question marks that remain are Barrichello and his seat in Honda and two places at Toro Rosso.