Fernando Alonso's surprise victory in Singapore has put Renault in pole position to retain the double world champion's services next season.
Alonso says Renault his first pick for 2009
SINGAPORE // Fernando Alonso's surprise victory in Singapore has put Renault in pole position to retain the double world champion's services next season, even if he said afterwards that it had changed nothing. "I didn't say that," the Spaniard replied when asked whether it could now be assumed he would be staying with the French manufacturer. "This victory is also thanks to the massive effort they are making with this year's car and next year's but it's not changing the decision for next year.
"Renault will be my first priority because I feel I'm at home in this team," added the 27-year-old, who had said before yesterday's race that he needed a miracle to win after qualifying in 15th place. Alonso rejoined Renault this season after an ill-fated year with McLaren, where he won four races but fell out with management and teammate Lewis Hamilton. Sunday's victory in Formula One's inaugural night race, with Alonso gaining a big advantage through pitting before a safety car stint, was his first in more than a year and Renault's first since the Spaniard won his second title with them in 2006.
The manufacturer struggled last year and, languishing in fifth place overall before Sunday's astonishing turnaround, had not looked like returning to the top step of the podium this season either. Alonso's future has been the talk of the paddock and the key to the driver market, with both Honda and BMW-Sauber waiting for him to decide before announcing their own 2009 line-ups. Ferrari would have been his first choice but the Italian team closed the door by announcing earlier this month that the 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen would be staying with the Brazilian driver Felipe Massa through to the end of 2010.
The Spaniard said Singapore, with Ferrari failing to score a point and McLaren's championship leader Hamilton finishing only third, had been a big boost for Renault who moved up to fourth place in the constructors' standings. "We started the season quite far away from pole position and from the top teams and now we are much closer," he said after the race. "So we are definitely one of the teams who have most improved their car but maybe it was not difficult because at the beginning of the season we were not at the right level."