Renault open to Fernando Alonso return - but go for youth in 2016
Palmer & Magnussen set to form most inexperienced line-up on grid
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 04/02/16 5:07pm
Renault have admitted they would be interested in re-signing Fernando Alonso in the future - but are committed to putting their faith in youth in 2016.
Alonso was Renault's star driver for most of their previous stint in charge of the Enstone team, winning both of his world championships in the French manufacturer's colours in 2005 and 2006.
The car maker launched their comeback as a team owner in Paris on Wednesday and unveiled one of the grid's most youthful driver line-ups in Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer.
Alonso has since returned to McLaren and is contracted until the end of 2017, but Ghosn told Spanish newspaper AS: "Would I like to sign Alonso? Sure."
But Ghosn admitted any decision to entice the former champion back at some point would have to be made by the race team's managing director Cyril Abiteboul and racing director Frederic Vasseur.
"Of course I would like [to sign him] but it is not my responsibility, it is the Formula 1 team who has that responsibility and support their decisions," he said.
"During these years in Formula 1 we have made many friends, we have met many talented young drivers and Fernando is one of the most talented. He is definitely one of the best drivers of the current Formula 1."
Renault go for youth
The decision to jettison Pastor Maldonado in favour of former McLaren driver Magnussen means Renault enter the season with the least experienced driver pairing currently on the grid. Britain's Palmer is a rookie while Magnussen made just 19 starts for McLaren.
Palmer, like Maldonado, signed his race deal with Lotus before the Renault takeover had gone through - but the new owners have stuck by the 25-year-old former GP2 champion.
"It is very interesting that Palmer has kept his position although he was appointed by the previous owners, whereas Magnussen has been brought in to replace Pastor Maldonado," noted Sky Sports News HQ's Craig Slater.
"It is a big year for Palmer, they have shown faith in him by retaining him, but this could be a very coveted seat in a few years' time."
During Renault's protracted takeover of the Lotus team, it was thought the French firm would want a local driver in place for 2016 - with Jean-Eric Vergne and, before his departure to Haas, Romain Grosjean two possible options. Asked if they will revisit the subject again in the years ahead, Ghosn told SSNHQ: "First we want drivers who help us win - that's the most important thing.
"The selection of the citizenship of the driver will be left with the person in charge of the team because it is part of the levels he has - choosing the driver, the car, the technology, the engine - in order to get the results."
Magnussen's career 'saved'
While Palmer has received an instant vote of confidence, Magnussen admitted at the launch that his F1 career would likely have already been over at the age of 23 had Renault not signed him.
"Two years out would have been the end," he said. "If you are world champion or something, you might be able to [come back] but in my position, being out for two years would have been the end of my Formula 1 career."
The Dane was appointed by McLaren as Jenson Button's team-mate for the 2014 season but was then demoted to reserve driver following Alonso's arrival and was dropped altogether by the team at the end of last season.
Could Alonso return one day?
Provided Alonso sees out his McLaren contract, the two-time champion will be 36 years old by the end of 2017 and a veteran of 16 seasons in F1.
Although speculation lingers that the Spaniard could yet take a sabbatical this year if McLaren-Honda do not deliver a breakthrough in pre-season testing, Alonso has stressed his commitment to the cause and tweeted earlier this week: "Preseason tests are coming in few weeks! Finally! I had one month training as hard as ever, working to really enjoy this season!"
McLaren face a long road back to the front after slumping to ninth in the Constructors' Championship last year, but Renault are also aware their ultimate race and title-winning ambitions are unlikely to be realised in the short term as they grapple with their own hybrid engine deficiencies.
Ghosn has set the target of claiming regular podium finishes within three years, but Abiteboul vowed "we have no intention to make up the numbers".
Renault's commitment to winning in F1 means plenty of drivers with similar ambitions will be closely monitoring their progress over the next season or two.
"I think we have learned that Renault are back as serious players and aim to compete for wins and championships in the medium term," concluded Slater.
The first Barcelona test starts on Monday February 22 and the Sky Sports F1 Digital team will be providing live commentary from dawn until dusk on all four days of both Barcelona tests while Sky Sports News HQ will also deliver live updates from trackside.
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