Alonso in shock move to McLaren 19 Dec 2005
McLaren have taken the world of Formula One by surprise by announcing that World Champion Fernando Alonso will be driving for the team from the start of the 2007 season.
Alonso's decision to sign for the Woking-based team means that either Kimi Raikkonen or Juan Pablo Montoya will be moving aside to make way for the Spanish star - which is likely to have a considerable knock-on effect throughout the rest of the drivers' market.
It will also be interesting to see what effect the announcement has on Alonso's motivation during the 2006 season - when he will still be driving for the Renault team. Juan-Pablo Montoya suffered from a relatively disappointing season in 2004 after it was announced that he would be leaving Williams for McLaren.
"It's great that our strong belief in the strength and competitiveness of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes package has been further endorsed by the World Champion," said Ron Dennis, team principal of McLaren. "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. To be able to announce Vodafone as only McLaren's third title partner in more than 30 years and Fernando's employment within only a few days is fantastic news for the team, our partners, Formula One and the fans.
"We are in discussions with our current drivers' Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya regarding the 2007 season", continued Dennis - confirming that one of them is likely to be forced out by the decision. "Both Juan Pablo and Kimi are extremely talented, professional and competitive Formula One drivers and they have and will continue to concentrate on our joint challenge for the Championships.
"Fernando and McLaren Mercedes wanted to make the announcement as soon as possible in a controlled and professional manner to allow McLaren Mercedes, Fernando, Kimi and Juan Pablo to focus on the preparations for the 2006 season. 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 Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in 2007."
"We are pleased to welcome Fernando to the team and look forward to working both with him and our new title sponsor in 2007," said Norbert Haug, Vice-President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. "To have a World Champion joining the team is a great endorsement and will create a tremendous amount of excitement. However for now our focus must remain on the 2006 season where we want to go one better than we did in 2005."
Speaking about the move, Alonso commented: "To become part of a team with such a desire to succeed and passion for performance is a dream come true for any Formula One driver. I am very excited about 2007 and the fantastic opportunity to drive for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. It will be a new beginning for me and a tremendous challenge and from what I have heard about this exciting new Partnership there is something to look forward to. Obviously I will be sad to leave Renault but sometimes possibilities come along which are just too good to miss. I'm pleased that we are able to make this announcement already now as it will allow my current team and I to focus 100 per cent on defending the World Championships next year."