Newly-announced Renault driver Fernando Alonso has insisted he was never concerned he would be left without a seat in Formula 1 in 2008, though he refused to confirm how many offers he had received for next year.

The Spaniard will return to the outfit with whom he won his two drivers' world titles next season, and he is confident the team will be more than capable of recapturing its former glory days in 2008.

"I am delighted to be returning to Renault," Alonso enthused. "This is the team where I grew up as a driver in Formula 1. Everybody knows what a great team Renault is and what they have accomplished. You can't forget that together we won the championships back-to-back in 2005 and 2006; I had the chance to be part of this success. It is one of the greatest teams, supported by important companies - a team that knows what it takes to win.

"Now it is time for us to begin a new chapter together. I am very excited about working with this great team once more, and confident that together we can move back to the front of the field. Renault had a difficult year in 2007, but I know the team has real strength in-depth. I am confident they can produce a fast and competitive car and be back at the top in 2008."

There has been intense speculation since it was finally confirmed Alonso and McLaren-Mercedes would be parting ways two years early back at the beginning of last month, following a fractious campaign punctuated by very public fall-outs with both team boss Ron Dennis and team-mate Lewis Hamilton. The 26-year-old stressed he was unaware of much of the media frenzy until he returned from his post-season holiday, and was keen to praise his former squad for allowing him to fight for the title for the third year in a row.

"What is certain is that 2007 has been a very good year for me in spite of what people think," he underlined. "I don't like that people forget that 20 laps before the end of the race in Brazil I could still have won the world championship. Then Kimi [Raikkonen] overtook [Felipe] Massa and, with this victory, scored the number of points he needed to be world champion. At the start of the year I would have been more than happy to put my signature for being able to fight till the last laps of the season for a new world title.

"To be honest, during the first three weeks of November I was on a much-needed vacation during which I disconnected from Formula 1. As soon as we started to look at our options we realised all the newspapers and almost every website had reported that we had already been in contact with all the teams. They were talking about a one-year contract or a three-year contract, even saying I had been visiting factories, some suggesting I was taking a year off. That's when I realised what was going on and it was fun to read the papers every morning!

"Options... Well, to tell you the truth, we know that's not easy. I'm one of the 22 privileged people who get to drive a Formula 1 car each year, and I'm even more privileged to be one of those who can afford to leave one great team and end up in another great team, while there are a lot of drivers who never get the chance to drive a Formula 1 car.

"It would have never come to me not having a drive for next season. Sure, it was not like I had to choose between a grey pair of trousers and a black one; we are talking about a very important decision, and since I could not get back at the wheel of a car until January or February there was no rush.

"I understand why people were so eager though. The fans have always been the ones to support me - I still remember how much people have been there for me this year and how much it touched me. Maybe I never saw what they were really told, because there was some sort of competition between the newspapers as to which one of them would print the news first. Too much has been invented.

"The decision hasn't been an easy one to make, and I would like to thank all the other teams for their interest to have me working with them. [In the end] the decision did not take more than a week, as me and the people close to me were clear about what we wanted. I chose Renault considering their commitment to the sport and because of their strong track record."

Having now turned his attentions firmly towards next year and avenging his world championship defeat, Alonso is adamant Renault must first focus on regaining the podium - something it succeeded in doing on only one occasion in 2007, courtesy of Heikki Kovalainen's second place at Fuji - before it attempts to take on McLaren and Ferrari once again.

"You know that teams like Ferrari will always be favourites," he asserted. "Also, the teams who have had problems adjusting to the Bridgestone tyres will hopefully have solved their problems and be back at the top. Maybe Renault can be part of the top teams again next season. Today's challenge is for Renault to go back to the top of the timesheets already in January or February, and then come closer to the podiums next season. They have suffered more than enough this year.

"We shouldn't put the cart before the horse. The first thing to do is to put the R28 on-track in January, and then start working thoroughly in order to get to the first grand prix of the season with the best car possible. I had to rise to the same challenge last year during the winter season, and I am confident this can happen again. After that, I will have to have a perfect season and hope for the others not to be too quick."

 

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