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Hamilton win puts focus on Alonso's future
Alan Baldwin | August 06, 2007 12:30 IST
As if they did not already have enough to worry about, Formula One leaders McLaren could face the real risk of Fernando Alonso [Images] walking out at the end of the season.
"One thing's for sure, Alonso won't be at McLaren next year," a senior figure at another team told Reuters at the Hungaroring.
While nothing is certain in Formula One, other than that there will always be intrigue and speculation, the sentiment was strong enough for team boss Ron Dennis to face questions about the Spaniard's future.
"There is an inevitability that these things are rumoured and discussed in other teams," he told reporters after a race that saw Alonso stripped of pole position and demoted five places on the starting grid.
Hamilton, elevated to pole, led every lap and celebrated his third win in 11 races to go seven points clear of his disgruntled team mate.
He said afterwards that Alonso, who finished fourth, had not spoken to him since Saturday.
"We have two drivers who are contracted for several years into the future," said Dennis, who pulled off a coup in signing Alonso from Renault at the end of 2005, with the Spaniard joining a year later.
"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."
Hamilton's astonishing debut has unsettled the champion, who had hoped to arrive at McLaren as the saviour after a 2006 season without any wins for the Mercedes-powered team.
If he had hoped for number one status, he was sadly deceived. McLaren are big on parity between their drivers with no exceptions.
"It is a challenging situation to manage and I fully recognise that," said Dennis, who has been fighting fires within and without after a spying controversy over leaked Ferrari [Images] information broke out last month.
"But that goes with my job. I have to take any decisions that are in the interests of the team.
"We are most definitely going to maintain a very firm commitment to our principle of equality."
Alonso complained early in the season that he had yet to feel fully comfortable within the team and reports since then have suggested that the situation has deteriorated.
A Spanish flag in the crowd on Sunday summed up the feelings of many Spanish fans about their hero's position -- "McLaren=Traidor (Traitor)".
If Alonso were to leave, the rumour-mill suggests that a return to struggling champions Renault would be the most likely option, although a sabbatical could be another.
Renault have yet to confirm their 2008 line-up and team boss Flavio Briatore made clear at the weekend that he was in no hurry to do so.
"I know nothing about that. We have never had any discussions about that," Briatore said on Sunday when asked about the rumours.
"This is a McLaren problem, not mine."
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