Sat, Nov 03, 2007 - Page 18 News List

F1: Former champion Alonso quits McLaren

AFP, LONDON

AFP, LONDON

Fernando Alonso's stormy year with McLaren came to a shuddering halt yesterday with the announcement that the Spaniard was leaving the team just one year into a three-year contract.

The deposed world champion will quit the British team immediately even though his current contract had two years to run until the end of the 2009 season.

The McLaren team announced the news saying in a statement on its official Web site that it had been "in the best interests of both parties."

"The mutual parting of ways has not been discussed until now, since it was felt that any such discussion could have seriously disrupted the team's and Fernando's 2007 Formula 1 World Championship challenge. Both parties believe that this was the right decision," the McLaren statement said.

The two-time Formula One king has been involved in intense contract negotiations with the team in England over the last two days, but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement for next season.

The 26-year-old Spaniard has had a controversial year with McLaren after joining them from Renault, the French team with whom he won his two world titles.

He has been consistently at loggerheads with team chief Ron Dennis and with his rival McLaren driver, English rookie Lewis Hamilton, over his role and position in the team for much of the season and it had been widely expected he would move on.

Matters came to a head at the final Grand Prix of the year in Brazil last month when Alonso and Hamilton were sensationally pipped to the world drivers title by Finn Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari.

Alonso said in a statement: "Since I was a boy I had always wanted to drive for McLaren, but sometimes in life things do not work out. I continue to believe that McLaren is a great team. Yes, we have had our ups and downs during the season, which has made it extra-challenging for all of us and it is not a secret that I never really felt at home."

It remains to be seen which team Alonso will join for next season.

Alonso spokesman Luis Garcia-Abad said that the driver was free to choose which team he would join, but there were suggestions that part of the deal to allow him to leave was that he not join one of McLaren's main rivals.

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