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Minardi: Renault keen to re-sign Alonso from McLaren

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Former Formula 1 team owner Gian Carlo Minardi believes that Renault is already working to re-sign Fernando Alonso following its decision to return to the series as a constructor for 2016.

Renault confirmed earlier this month that it had gone ahead with its planned takeover of Lotus F1 Team, marking the revival of its works operation that last raced back in 2010.

Alonso enjoyed his greatest successes in F1 with Renault, taking his first pole position and first race win with the team in 2003 before winning the world championship in 2005 and 2006.

After a tenuous season with McLaren in 2007, Alonso returned to Renault for two seasons before moving to Ferrari at the end of 2009.

Still stranded on two world titles, Alonso endured his worst season in F1 since 2001 with McLaren in 2015 as the team encountered a myriad of problems with its new Honda power unit.

Writing on his website, minardi.it, Minardi said that he believes Renault boss Carlos Ghosn is already working to bring Alonso back for a third stint with the French manufacturer.

“With the purchase of Lotus and their return as a constructor, [Renault] have all the interest to reinforce each of their departments,” Minardi said.

“They are looking for human resources, technicians, and drivers. President Carlos Ghosn is working to tear Fernando Alonso away from Honda.”

Alonso remains locked into a McLaren contract until the end of 2018 that team CEO Ron Dennis has stressed includes no exit clauses that would allow him to leave early.

In a wide-ranging end of year post, Minardi also hit out at the spiralling costs in F1, believing that the high engine tariffs only hurt smaller teams such as the one he ran between 1985 and 2001.

“Spending over €400 million and having a team of 1,000 people to build two cars is absurd,” Minardi said.

“Like it is crazy paying €25 million for the power unit. Only a few years ago, engines price was €5-6 million. Today, €20 million is the difference and it is difficult to find in this market.”

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.