Fernando Alonso's McLaren future in doubt
McLaren chief Ron Dennis admits that speculation is inevitable as Alonso and teammate Lewis Hamilton appear to have had a complete breakdown in their relationship.other Updated: Aug 07, 2007 14:09 IST
A big question mark hung over Fernando Alonso's McLaren future as tensions rose within the British team following a controversial Hungarian Grand Prix.
McLaren chief Ron Dennis admitted that speculation is inevitable as Alonso and teammate Lewis Hamilton appear to have had a complete breakdown in their relationship.
Hamilton won in Budapest after replacing Alonso on pole position following a steward's enquiry.
Alonso was penalised five grid positions for blocking Hamilton and preventing him completing a final qualifying lap.
McLaren said the delay at the pit-stops in qualifying was Hamilton's fault, for causing confusion in the team by disobeying an order to let Alonso pass him ahead of the pit stops.
But the FIA, Formula One's governing body, did not agree, and imposed a penalty on Alonso, as well as docking McLaren the 15 constructors' points they earned from the race.
Speaking after Sunday's race Hamilton revealed that Alonso is not speaking to him and this has seemingly alerted rival teams looking to complete their driver line-up for next year.
Alonso would surely be welcomed with open arms at BMW, who are yet to contract German Nick Heidfeld for 2008, or Renault, the team where he won the world championship in each of the past two seasons.
Renault Boss Flavio Briatore does not plan to make a decision on his driver line-up for next season until the Italian Grand Prix in early September.
It would be easy to suggest that Briatore is giving himself time to see if he can lure Alonso back to Renault, but the flamboyant Italian has denied any knowledge of such a plan.
"I know nothing about that. We have never had any discussions about that," he said. "This is a McLaren problem, not mine."
Dennis for his part was keen to go on record as saying he wants Hamilton and Alonso, who is contracted until the end of 2008, to stay with his team.
"There is an inevitability that these things are rumoured and discussed in other teams," Dennis said before leaving Budapest.
"We have two drivers who are contracted for several years into the future. We will respect our part of that bargain and that part of the situation - we hope that the drivers respect theirs, because that's what a contract is about."
But it might be impossible for Dennis to keep both his drivers happy as their world championship battle intensifies, Hamilton currently leads Alonso by seven points.
The Spaniard has said that he feels there is a bias towards Hamilton in the team while the rookie Brit has also expressed his displeasure with McLaren, most famously after the Monaco Grand Prix where he was denied the chance to fight Alonso for the win.
Dennis has promised that the team will continue to treat both drivers equally; a pledge that has proved difficult to deliver on recently.
"That is our position," Dennis affirmed. "It is a challenging situation to manage, and I fully recognise that. But that goes with my job."
"I have to take any decisions that are in the interests of the team. But at the moment, we are most definitely going to maintain a very firm commitment to our principle of equality. "
"We appreciate the pressure and the difficulties and the level of competitiveness that the drivers have to each other. We understand that there are always moments of indecision and a feeling of trust being stretched to the limit."
"But our team principles were not compromised; we make every effort as a team to generate equality."
"We will continue to function as a Grand Prix team with specific values, and if anybody does not want to be part of those values - irrespective of where they sit in the organisation - ultimately they all have a choice. But we will not deviate away from our values."
Dennis is planning to take some time off over the next few days. When he returns he will have some serious work to do to prevent the McLaren in-fighting turning into all out warfare.