Renault F1 engineering director Pat Symonds has admitted that the team is doing all it can to convince Fernando Alonso to remain at Enstone for at least the remainder of his current contract.
The Spaniard has been at the centre of a number of 'silly season' rumours in 2008 - with talk of potential deals at Red Bull, Honda, BMW Sauber and Ferrari - but has not let much slip regarding his intentions for next year. Renault, too, is keen to keep hold of the man who brought its back-to-back world titles in 2005-06, but is understood to have built a get-out clause into his contract that would allow him to leave if certain performance criteria are not met this season.
Although he knew that returning to Renault - which had struggled to get to grips with the Bridgestone tyres after years with Michelin - would be tough after a frontrunning year with McLaren, Alonso is only now really warming to his task, expressing his desire to help the regie
claim fourth in the constructors' championship. Ironically, that may be enough to keep him at Enstone next year.
Of the various doors apparently open to Alonso in recent months, Red Bull's closed some time ago with the confirmation of Sebastian Vettel alongside Mark Webber for 2009, while a second, at Ferrari, shut only yesterday [12 September], when Kimi Raikkonen was revealed to have extended his deal through to the end of 2010.
That seemed to contradict suggestions that Alonso had signed a deal to join the Scuderia at the end of next season - as Felipe Massa also has an agreement through to the end of 2010 - but may now make the Spaniard a more attractive proposition to the likes of Honda and BMW Sauber, which were unlikely to accept him on a one-year stopover before having to release him to a major rival. Rumours in Belgium insisted that Alonso had signed a three
-year deal with BMW, but these have never been substantiated and the Spaniard remains a target for both the German marque and Honda, where Ross Brawn has made no secret of his desire to sign Alonso.
Renault, however, is not prepared to give up its favourite son without a fight.
"I think everyone at Renault would love Fernando to be part of our future, both next year and even further than that," Symonds admitted on the eve of Italian GP qualifying, "We are all competitive people, we all want the best and I think that we regard Fernando as being the best. Therefore, we want him and he, I think, wants the best car, so we have to marry those two together. We have to provide him with the best car and let's see what would happen then."
Alonso has insisted that he will not be making any announcement on his future plans at Monza, where the rumour mill expected the F1 world to hear from both the Spaniard and Ferrari. Despite making its own denial that any news was due on home soil, Ferrari confirmed Raikkonen's extension on the opening day of round 13.