Alonso departs to end marriage of inconvenience

The confirmation yesterday that Fernando Alonso has left McLaren, brings to a close one of the most disappointing and acrimonious driver-team relationships in history.

When, almost two years ago, it was announced that the Spaniard, then world champion for the first time with Renault, would move to McLaren for 2007, it took the Formula One world by complete surprise.

A chance conversation between Alonso and the McLaren chief, Ron Dennis, at the trophy presentation for the 2005 Brazilian GP – in which third place for the Spaniard behind the conquering McLarens of Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen had been sufficient to cement his title – led quickly to an agreement that December.

Having dropped the ball in 2006 after challenging for the 2005 championship with Raikkonen, McLaren regrouped over the winter and came up with a much better car, the MP4-22 which, contrary to popular opinion, owed nothing to Ferrari's F2007.

Alonso's sole concern, which he expressed to some members of the team when Lewis Hamilton was first confirmed as his team-mate for 2007, was whether the rookie would help him to score enough points for McLaren to win the world constructors' title.

However, from their first race together, the Australian GP in Melbourne, it was clear that the young Englishman would be a title contender. Alonso became increasingly unsettled, especially since Hamilton held the lead in the drivers' world championship from the Spanish GP in May onwards. Only months earlier, Alonso had universally been regarded as the best driver in Formula One, one who did not make mistakes and had the strongest head.

At Monaco the team brought Hamilton in for a refuelling stop three laps earlier than he had expected, thus ensuring that Alonso won the race, following complaints from him that the 22-year-old had been favoured up until that point.

No matter what steps Dennis, one of the fairest-minded individuals in the sport, did to assuage his doubts, Alonso continued to express his belief to the Spanish media that he was an outsider. When he had encountered stress at Renault, he had said much the same thing.

Things reached a head in Hungary when, allegedly, Alonso attempted to blackmail Dennis into favouring him for the remainder of the season – or else he would inform the sport's governing body, the FIA, that the disgraced chief designer, Mike Coughlan, was not the only man who knew the secrets of Ferrari's F2007; both he and test driver Pedro de la Rosa were privy, too.

A shocked Dennis called Alonso's bluff by reporting his own team to the FIA, which set in train the events which led to McLaren's exclusion from the 2007 constructors' race (which they were leading) and a $100m (£50m) fine. Dennis and Alonso have not spoken since then.

A split was inevitable even though Alonso was contracted until 2009, but it was not discussed until after the final race of the season, since it was felt that any such discussion could seriously have disrupted the team's and Alonso's championship challenge.

"Since I was a boy I had always wanted to drive for McLaren," Alonso said, in an ironic echo of Hamilton, "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. I know there have been suggestions of favouritism within the team and people say a lot of things in the heat of battle, but in the end I was always provided with an equal opportunity to win. Today's decision allows all of us to focus on 2008, and I wish the team the best for the future."

In a prepared statement, Dennis said: "He is a great driver but for some reason the combination of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and Fernando has not really worked out. We all believe that our joint decision to part company is for the best."

Alonso's freedom throws the 2008 driver market wide open. Negotiations between the Renault chief, Flavio Briatore, and Telefonica have yet to bear fruit that might enable Alonso to return there. Laudatory comments by the Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemolo, about Alonso after the Brazilian race gave credence to suggestions that he will partner Raikkonen at Ferrari from 2009.

Alonso's name has also been linked with Red Bull Racing and Toyota for a one-year interim deal.

If the Finn Heikki Kovalainen moves to McLaren, Nelson Piquet Jnr would then partner whoever Renault choose as their No 1.

Sulking Spaniard The wit and wisdom of Fernando Alonso

* 'From the first moment, I wasn't completely comfortable. We knew all the support and help would go [Hamilton's] way' - 12 June

* 'I'd be delighted if I didn't carry on with Hamilton' - 1 October

* 'This isn't the treatment a two-time champion deserves' - 6 October

* 'David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen. They have all left the team and found a lot of happiness. There must be a reason' - 9 October

* 'When you hear your boss [saying] he feels a paternal sentiment for one of your team-mates, you know you can never have much trust in that person' - On Ron Dennis

* 'If he wins the title because of this I'd be embarrassed for this sport' - On Hamilton's title appeal

* 'I have sensed it a little, but I understand it. It's an English team' - Asked if McLaren mechanics favour Hamilton

* 'Since I was a boy I had always wanted to drive for McLaren, but sometimes in life things do not work out' - Yesterday

Life in the fast lane: Alonso's career so far

* 2001 (Minardi) Became 3rd youngest driver in F1 history, finishing 23rd.

* 2002 (Renault) Joins French team as test driver.

* 2003 Aged 22 becomes youngest-ever driver to win a race. Finishes 6th overall.

* 2004 Established as No 1 at Renault. Finishes 4th.

* 2005 With 7 victories becomes Formula One's youngest-ever champion.

* 2006 Skilfully fights off Schumacher to retain title.

* 2007 (McLaren) Joins McLaren. Is quickly usurped by rookie Hamilton, starting a bitter rivalry.

voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements