Alonso returns to the wheel

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Renault sees return of prodigal son Fernando Alonso takes his first test laps for his old colours at Jerez.

16 January 2008

MADRID - Director Flavio Briatore's dream of seeing his prodigal son return to grip the wheel of a Renault F1 race car became reality on Tuesday. Some 548 days after he last dressed for Briatore's team, Fernando Alonso has returned to race test laps for Renault at Spain's Jerez de la Frontera circuit "with a great feeling, good memories, and a lot of optimism," according to the driver.

While Alonso was ready on Tuesday to start anew at Renault, his new car, the R28, was not. Driving in a modified version (without traction control) of the R27, the car he last drove at Renault before leaving for McLaren in 2006, Alonso admitted that "the only thing missing, was the new car," which he is awaiting with high expectations.

"I've seen some figures of what we hope the R28 will yield, but nothing else at the moment. When we unveil the new car, expectations are always high, as you put a lot of hope and hard work into it. As always, we will have to wait until the car is on the track for the first time."

Having spent six years at McLaren, Alonso also couldn't help but draw parallels to the Renault he left as reigning double world champion.

"The team is completely different from the one I left in 2006. There have been big changes. The team has improved many things and has gotten stronger in many areas... It will be a new adventure with a new team, although at the same time, it's impossible to forget the six years I spent as a Renault driver."

One of the most visible changes will be alongside the Asturian driver in the Renault paddock where the Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr., son of driving legend Nelson Piquet, will be Renault's second driver.

After the high-profile feud at McLaren with teammate Lewis Hamilton, which marked the Spaniard's tumultuous last season, Alonso went out of his way to predict a good relationship with his teammate on Tuesday.

"I still don't really know 'Nelsinho,' but he seems to be a normal and pleasant guy who wants to enjoy being a Formula 1 driver."

Alonso also noted that Renault owner "Flavio [Briatore] has showed he can deal with these situations," a jab at McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who Alonso butted heads with for what he interpreted as the boss's preference for the British rookie.

Alonso finished the 2007 season in third place, with Hamilton in second, both behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / KELLY RAMUNDO 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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