Championship leader Alonso close to new deal with Renault

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The Independent Online

Renault hope to secure the services of the current Formula One championship leader, Fernando Alonso, for years to come, according to his team principal, Flavio Briatore.

Renault hope to secure the services of the current Formula One championship leader, Fernando Alonso, for years to come, according to his team principal, Flavio Briatore.

"The negotiations with Renault for a contract extension have started," the Italian was quoted as saying in a German motorsport magazine. "If all sides are in agreement, it would be great to announce the new contract at the Monaco Grand Prix [in May]."

Renault won last year's Monaco Grand Prix, the glamour highlight of the calendar, with the Italian Jarno Trulli. Alonso has been contracted to Renault since 2001 and has won the last two grands prix.

The 23-year-old Spaniard has a 10-point lead in the championship over Trulli, now at Toyota. Ferrari's seven-times world champion, Michael Schumacher, has just two points after three races.

Briatore said other teams were also pursuing Alonso but that his driver would never join Ferrari while the German was there. Schumacher has a contract until the end of 2006 but has hinted that he could keep going well beyond that.

"As long as Michael is there, Alonso will never drive for Ferrari," Briatore said. "For Renault there is an easy way to secure the services of Alonso - one only has to provide him with the most competitive car."

Briatore said Alonso had the mental strength to become world champion.

"I can't see any weaknesses with him," he said.

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