Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso is heading back to Renault. The 26-year-old Spaniard announced his return to the French team Monday after a turbulent season at McLaren.
At Renault in 2005, Alonso became the youngest driver in F1 history to win the title. He repeated in 2006.
"I am delighted to be returning to Renault," Alonso said in a statement. "This is the team where I grew up as a driver in Formula One. Now it is time for us to begin a new chapter together."
Renault said that Alonso, who agreed to a two-year contract, would drive along with Nelson Piquet Jr. The duo will make their debut testing the new R28 car at Valencia from Jan. 22-24, the AP reports.
Alonso was the third-youngest driver ever to start a F1 race when he made his debut with Minardi at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix. The team was in its first season under the control of new owner Paul Stoddart and their new car, the PS01, was neither fast nor reliable. However Alonso's qualifying performance was good, at his first race he out-qualified team mate Tarso Marques by 2.6s. At the fourth round at Imola he outqualified both of the Benettons, a feat he repeated later in the season.
Notable performances over the 2001 season had earned him some attention from the faster teams. It was reported in September 2001 by some of the European press that Sauber were looking to replace outgoing Kimi Räikkönen with the Spaniard although he was facing competition for the seat from Felipe Massa and then Jaguar test driver Andre Lotterer. A month later it was confirmed that Massa was going to take the vacant Sauber seat for 2002.
In September, his manager Flavio Briatore had begun planning to place Alonso at Benetton. Briatore considered promoting Alonso for 2002, in place of his race driver Jenson Button, but instead chose to take Alonso on as a full-time test driver for 2002. At the final round of 2001 at Suzuka he finished eleventh — five places outside the points but ahead, on merit, of Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Prost (with a Ferrari engine), the BAR-Honda of Olivier Panis, the two Arrows and Alex Yoong (his new team mate). Four years later, his team boss from the Minardi days, Paul Stoddart, described his race as "53 laps of qualifying".
As Pravda.Ru previously reported McLaren was fined US$100 million (EUR 72 million) and kicked out of the constructors' championship in the F1 spy scandal - but its drivers escaped any punishment and can continue to chase the more prestigious Formula One drivers' title.
"The most important thing is that we will be going motor racing this weekend," team leader Ron Dennis said.
With Ferrari slowly fading, the most important question becomes whether it will be two-time champion Alonso or current leader Lewis Hamilton who will take the title over the last four races.
After winning the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday, Alonso is on a roll. The Spaniard trails Hamilton by a mere three points, 92-89, compared to a 14-point gap after the French Grand Prix on July 11.
Raikkonen is in third place with 74 points and needs to repeat his 2005 win to stand a chance of a belated surge toward the title.