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Rediff.com  » Sports » McLaren put Montoya's NASCAR debut on hold

McLaren put Montoya's NASCAR debut on hold

July 15, 2006 12:54 IST

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya could race again in Formula One this season and will not be allowed to compete in NASCAR until his McLaren contract ends, team boss Ron Dennis said on Friday.

"Juan Pablo is fully contracted through to the end of the year," he told a French Grand Prix news conference. "And if we so choose, he will test and race again. That is our option, nobody else's."

Dennis added that the chance of Montoya coming back is "more than possible".

Montoya announced last Sunday that he was moving to the US stock car series next year and has made clear in subsequent interviews that he considers his Formula One career to be finished.

McLaren have drafted in Spanish test driver Pedro de la Rosa to replace Montoya for Sunday's race, the 11th of the 18 round championship.

While Dennis said the hot-tempered driver would not be allowed to race or test in NASCAR this year, he hinted at a likely financial settlement.

"He's a contracted McLaren driver and will stay that way until the end of his contract, unless there is some other commercial arrangement between ourselves and the NASCAR team or Juan himself," he said.

"There's a conflict of sponsors, there's advertising campaigns, there is a whole raft of reasons why that [testing or racing in NASCAR this year] is not a practical proposition," added the team boss.

WORKING TOGETHER

"I think everything with McLaren is pretty settled," Montoya had told US reporters in a teleconference on Wednesday. "It's not a matter of releasing or not releasing. It's a matter of working together.

"I'm not racing the Formula One programme, but the reason I'm not driving the Formula One programme is because DaimlerChrysler's interest at the moment is for me to be here," he added.

DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes own 40 percent of McLaren while Montoya will be racing a Dodge, another DaimlerChrysler brand, for Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team.

Dennis said that, despite appearances to the contrary, McLaren remains 'supportive' of the Colombian. He revealed also that Montoya had told him only a few races ago that he wanted to stay in Formula One with the team.

Dennis could not say how long De la Rosa will be in the line-up.

The team also have Briton Gary Paffett as a second test driver and compatriot Lewis Hamilton, leader of the GP2 feeder series and a red hot prospect to break into Formula One next year, under contract.

Dennis has signed world champion Fernando Alonso from Renault for 2007 but the other seat remains open with Kimi Raikkonen likely to leave for Ferrari.

Although Dennis has said he expects Hamilton to be in Formula One next year, he played down speculation that either he or Paffett could race for him later in the season.

"Highly unlikely," he said. "Their programmes are well-mapped and their programmes didn't include racing a Grand Prix car this season...It is more likely that Pedro will continue in the car."

 

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