Despite having had a relatively quiet season by its championship-winning standards of years past, Renault continues to feature heavily in some of the major talking points of late 2007 - not that team boss Flavio Briatore is prepared to comment on them.

Speaking in the build-up to this weekend's world championship showdown ay Interlagos, Briatore refused to be drawn on rumours continually linking double champion Fernando Alonso with a return to Enstone, and also quickly jumped on speculation that Renault may be prepared to step into the breach should rumours of a breakdown in the expected Prodrive-McLaren partnership prove to be true.

"There is no rush to make an announcement at this stage," the Italian repeated when asked about his driver line-up for 2008, "When we are ready and we have made our decision, we will announce it. But we are in a strong position with good options.

"There has been a lot of talk, but Fernando has a contract with another team for 2008. At the moment, he is focused on the championship battle, trying to win a third consecutive title. I have said before that, if he was free, we would be happy to have him back at Renault.

"Giancarlo Fisichella has done a very solid, very good, job for us this year. His asset is his experience, and that was very important to us in the early races when the car was not performing well. Look at races like Monaco: he took everything from the package there. He knows what a title-winning car is like to drive, and he helped guide our development. I am very pleased with him. As for Heikki Kovalainen, it was a difficult start but, since the middle of the year, people have seen the talent we knew was there all along. As a rookie, it is difficult to shine if you are not in a top car but, for me, he has been one of the revelations of the season. He is getting better with every race."

With regard to Prodrive, Briatore had even less to say.

"I don't know where this has come from," he shrugged, "We have had zero contact with Prodrive, and we are not in a position to supply another team at this point."

Indeed, the regie's priority for 2008 will be on reinstating itself as a championship contender after a campaign which Briatore himself admits has not lived up to expectations.

"It has been a disappointment, but it has been a lesson for next season, when we will come back even stronger," he insisted, "In many ways, our lack of performance was the result of the year we had in 2006. We had to push even harder in 2006 when the mass damper was banned, so we started late with our 2007 car and we had trouble adjusting to the Bridgestone tyres. That left us on the back foot, and we haven't caught up during the season."

As a result, the Italian has effectively settled for third in the constructors' championship following McLaren's expulsion, but is happy to confirm that those that hold the purse strings have understood the situation.

"From early on, we knew it would be a big challenge to catch BMW in the championship," he confessed, "We had to take time and understand our problems before moving forward. In the meantime, they were doing an excellent job, improving the car at every race and taking steps forward each week. We should congratulate them on their season.

"Once we knew the championship position was gone, we put all our resources into 2008. That has been our focus for two months now. [Renault president Carlos] Ghosn understands F1, he understands that you cannot win every year and the team has his total support. He wants to see Renault fighting at the front again, like all of us, and we are working to achieve that."

Despite holding the sort of optimism that floods most teams during the off-season, Briatore refused to say whether he thought Renault could be a racewinner in 2008.

"There is no point making big claims at this stage, five months before the first race - but I see no logical reason why not," he said, "We know how to make a car for these tyres now, which we didn't a year ago. The wind tunnel results for the R28 look very promising. And the team is the same one, they haven't forgotten how to make a quick car. I have a good feeling that we can climb back to our normal position next year."

 

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