Renault's Formula One team has quashed speculation that it has agreed terms for Fernando Alonso to return to its line-up for 2008 and beyond, insisting that it has yet to make any decision on its pairing for next season.

Team boss Flavio Briatore has repeatedly delayed making an announcement regarding his drivers for 2008, despite having Giancarlo Fisichella, Heikki Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet Jr on the books, and has made no secret of his ambition to tempt Alonso back into the fold after an unhappy year at McLaren. However, the Spaniard's involvement in the 2007 title battle - and the fact that he has two years left to run on his contract with the Woking team - are causing the matter to become protracted.

German newspaper Bild claimed on Thursday that a three-year deal had been agreed between Renault and Alonso with the added attraction that, after the acrimony with Lewis Hamilton this year, the Spaniard would be able to name his own team-mate, but the team has since moved to deny the stories. Alonso, Briatore and Pat Symonds met at the Japanese Grand Prix, where, it is alleged, Alonso was shown plans for the team's 2008 car, but everything else has remained increasingly fevered speculation.

"The team will not comment on the speculation that has appeared in the media," Renault insisted in a brief statement, "We will announce our drivers for next season when we are ready to do so."

Bild's speculation claimed that the deal had been struck during the half-hour meeting at Fuji, and all that remained to be sorted out was how much compensation McLaren would demand for releasing the Spaniard from the remaining two years of his contract. Although team boss Ron Dennis has said that there would be no talks with either of his drivers regarding the details of their contracts for next season until after the Brazilian finale next weekend, he has also said that he would not stand in the way of anyone wanting to leave the team should he not fit in. However, losing a two-time world champion to a rival team is certain to attract heavy financial recompense.

The German title also claimed that Renault's only rival for Alonso's signature was Toyota, which was prepared to offer a deal that would see the Spaniard paid more than the out-going Ralf Schumacher. However, the world champion - who claimed in Shanghai that there were probably ten teams with deals for him - sees the Enstone operation as the more favourable of the two. Toyota is now tipped to turn its attentions to GP2 champion Timo Glock.

 

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