Renault put their faith in Fisichella

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The Independent Online

Renault have added to the growing confusion in the Formula One driver market by confirming that they will retain Giancarlo Fisichella for next season. The 33-year-old Italian's future had been uncertain after his consistent failure to match outgoing champion Fernando Alonso, who heads to McLaren next year.

"[Giancarlo] has upped his game significantly for 2006, making the team even stronger," Flavio Briatore, the Renault managing director, said. "We believe he can do it again for 2007."

"It is important for Renault to maintain continuity as we move into next year, and Giancarlo's integration with the team is now perfect. What's more, his experience with the team over two championship campaigns will be an invaluable asset. We will have ambitious targets for next season, and Giancarlo is capable of achieving them."

Renault have already signed the Finnish test driver Heikki Kovalainen for a race seat, and the decision to re-sign Fisichella indicates that attempts have been unsuccessful to woo either Michael Schumacher from Ferrari, or even to deflect Kimi Raikkonen from his intended path from McLaren to Ferrari.

This is bad news for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian has been told that even at half the price he is not required at McLaren next season (where young Briton Lewis Hamilton may get the seat). With doors closing at Toyota and Renault, his chances of staying in F1 are slimmer by the race.