Renault let-off may see Alonso return
Governing body finds team guilty of infraction but decides not to impose fine.
7 December 2007
MADRID - The agonising wait to find out with which Formula 1 team Fernando Alonso will be driving next year appeared to take a step closer to conclusion on Thursday, after Renault escaped a fine despite being found in breach of the sport's regulations regarding spying.
A hearing held in Monaco yesterday by the F1's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), examined the case, which revolved around a number of old-style floppy disks containing technical information that engineer Phil Mackareth took with him to Renault when he left McLaren in 2006. The hearing was convened in order to determine to what extent the information was disseminated within Renault, and if it achieved any competitive advantage.
In a statement released yesterday evening, an FIA spokesman said: "The World Council found Renault F1 to be in breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code but imposed no penalty." The statement went on to say that "detailed reasons" behind the ruling would be released today.
The fact that Renault has escaped a fine - and perhaps even more importantly, will not be docked constructors' points during the upcoming season - removes what many see as the last obstacle for former world champion Fernando Alonso to return to the team.
The Asturian driver won his two world titles at Renault - in 2005 and 2006 - but left the team for McLaren last December. However, after a tumultuous year, in which his relationship with McLaren boss Ron Dennis gradually deteriorated to the point where the two no longer spoke, he was let out of his three-year contract by mutual agreement in November.
Rumour and speculation
Since then, there has been a whirlwind of rumour and speculation as to the 26-year-old's next drive. But as the weeks have worn on since he left McLaren, his options have steadily dwindled, as nearly all the teams have signed their drivers for next year.
According to press reports, his most likely option all along has been a return to Renault, with team boss Flavio Briatore making no secret of the fact he would welcome the Spaniard back. But Alonso is said to be insisting on a one-year contract - something Renault opposes - on the basis he will be offered a drive with a better team (most likely Ferrari) come 2009.
The fact that McLaren was also engulfed in a spying scandal this year, which saw it fined USD 100 million and docked all of its constructors' points, is also likely to have encouraged Alonso to wait for yesterday's ruling before deciding to sign on Renault's dotted line.
[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL./ SIMON HUNTER 2007]
Subject: Spanish news