Alonso to make shock switch from Renault to McLaren

Fernando Alonso and McLaren surprised Formula One yesterday by announcing that the Spanish world champion will leave Renault to join forces with Ron Dennis's team in 2007.

The 24-year-old Spaniard became the sport's youngest champion in September, winning seven grands prix to beat McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen by 21 points, and last April extended his contract with Renault to the end of 2006. Alonso also helped the Oxfordshire-based team to the constructors' title ahead of McLaren.

Alonso's arrival would appear to clear the way for Raikkonen to leave for Ferrari. Raikkonen is out of contract at the end of 2006 and has long been coveted by Ferrari as a replacement for the seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, who is expected to retire at the end of 2007.

There will also be the question of who replaces Alonso at Renault. The Australian Mark Webber will be out of contract with Williams by 2007, while Renault also have the promising Finn Heikki Kovalainen waiting in the wings.

The decision of Alonso, who wants to deliver another world championship to Renault as a parting gift after sealing his "dream" move to McLaren, raises questions over Renault's long-term commitment to Formula One.

Despite his attachment to Renault, Alonso revealed he had little hesitation in accepting McLaren's offer.

"I achieved my lifetime ambition with Renault this year and I felt that it was time for a new challenge," he said. "To become part of a team with such a desire to succeed and passion for performance is a dream come true for any driver. It will be a new beginning for me.

"I'm pleased that we are able to make this announcement now as it will allow my team and I to focus 100 per cent on defending the world championship next year."

Alonso continued: "I am concentrating on 2006. Renault brought me into Formula One, brought me my first title, and I will be working to repeat that success next year.

"I will be sad to leave Renault, but sometimes possibilities come along which are just too good to miss."

Alonso's manager, Flavio Briatore, also runs the Renault team, so the defection of their leading driver is unlikely to have come as a shock to him.

Renault's president, Patrick Faure, said: "I was disappointed to learn of Fernando's decision but by the end of 2006 he will have spent five seasons with us. Fresh challenges are essential for any sportsman, and he has taken the decision to pursue a new direction. That is part of Formula One, and part of life."

However, the driver's departure will raise further questions about Renault's long-term commitment to Formula One. They have stated that they will stay in the sport for as long as there are clear benefits.

For McLaren, the capture of Alonso comes on the back of a sponsorship deal with Vodafone and signals their desire to win a world title for the first time since Mika Hakkinen in 1999.

Team principal Ron Dennis said: "We always make it clear that we want to be the best and the only way of achieving this objective is by attracting the best people, the best drivers and the best sponsors."

He added: "Both Juan Pablo [Montoya] and Kimi [Raikkonen] are extremely talented, professional and competitive Formula One drivers and they have and will continue to concentrate on our joint challenge for the championships.

"Our aim for next year remains absolutely clear to everybody within the team ­ we want to win races and be in a position where we might have two Formula One world champions driving for McLaren in 2007."

McLaren's kings of speed

* AYRTON SENNA 1988-1993

Arguably the greatest driver of all. In Ron Dennis he found a boss who shared his insatiable appetite for victory. Won three championships in four seasons.

* ALAIN PROST 1980, 1984-89

Like Alonso, Prost made his name at Renault before his move to McLaren. Won three consecutive championships before Senna's arrival heralded bitter battle for driver supremacy.

* EMERSON FITTIPALDI 1974-75

Won second world title as part or the McLaren super-team of the mid-1970s. Was Brazil's first Formula One success story.

News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

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
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn