Reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso has kickstarted potentially the craziest silly season of all time by switching from Renault to McLaren for the 2007 Formula One campaign. The Spaniard will defend his crown this year with Renault, but his switch to the Mercedes-powered McLaren squad for next year was announced in the run-up to Christmas. The news came as a shock, especially bearing in mind that Renault F1 team principal Flavio Briatore doubles up as Alonso’s manager. “I was at no time directly or indirectly involved in the conduct of these negotiations,” said the Italian. “Fernando made a personal decision that his future lies outside Renault when his current contract expires at the end of 2006. He contacted and negotiated with McLaren at his own instigation.”
Alonso’s move has been the catalyst for all sorts of speculation for 2007 Foremost among these is that Renault chief executive Carlos Ghosn could quash the team’s future in F1 beyond 06 and relegate the company to the role of engine supplier. That would leave Alonso’s current team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella with severe difficulties in finding a competitive ride.
At the same time, speculation heightens that Kimi Raikkanen has an agreement in place to leave McLaren and join Ferrari for ’07 in place of seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher. Although that would make it easy to assume that the German would finally be bowing out of the sport, he has been linked with a move to Ferrari-powered Red Bull, where he would finally join up with star designer Adrian Newey.