Thursday November 15th, 2001
Spanish driver Fernando Alonso is important to Renault's Formula One future and is being groomed for 2003, team boss Flavio Briatore has said.
"With Alonso, we are preparing the future," the Italian told the French daily L'Equipe. "He is very young and has a great talent. We chose not to waste him by letting him drive for another team.
"It is an investment for us and for him. It is important to save him, to allow him the time to prepare for 2003 in the right conditions," Briatore added.
Alonso, 20, drove for Minardi in 2001 but had a long-term Renault contract which the team exercised this month.
"We will have only him as test driver since Mark Webber is thinking of going to race in the United States," said Briatore, referring to the team's 2001 Australian tester.
Renault, formerly Benetton, have Jenson Button and Italian Jarno Trulli signed for next season although the young Briton's deal is only for 2002. Trulli replaced compatriot Giancarlo Fisichella, who has joined Jordan, and Briatore said he would have liked to retain the highly-rated driver.
"Personally, I would have liked to keep Fisichella, but we have to honour our contract with Button to the end. He has acquired experience, he should blossom next year."
Briatore said he would be seriously disappointed if Renault failed to finish in the top four in the Championship at the end of next season.
"Our aim is to fight for the Championship from 2003," he said. "It will be difficult to go and upset Ferrari and Williams in the short term but why not McLaren?"
Benetton, owned by Renault, finished seventh in 2001 with just 10 points, Fisichella scoring eight of them.
Published at 13:06:22 GMT