Flavio Briatore, manager of world champion Fernando Alonso and managing director of the Renault F1 team, claims that he was not involved in Alonso's decision to leave Renault for McLaren in 2007. Many believed Briatore must have played a role in the discussions, as a manager presumably would, but the Italian said Alonso acted on his own.
"I was at no time directly or indirectly involved in the conduct of these negotiations," Briatore said in a statement. "Fernando made a personal decision that his future lies outside the Renault team when his current contract expires at the end of 2006. He contacted, and negotiated with McLaren at his own instigation."
Alonso's move to McLaren has once again raised questions about Renault's commitment to F1 and also focused speculation on Briatore's position now that the team's star driver has made clear his intention to leave only a couple of months after winning the title. Whether Briatore was involved or not, either way it's not exactly a vote of confidence in Renault.
The French outfit was on a high after claiming both the drivers' and constructors' championships in 2005 for the first time as a team in its own right. With that success under its belt, now is the time for Renault to be making deals for the future and some have questioned the timing of Alonso and McLaren's announcement.
It's not unknown for McLaren to make early decisions; Juan Pablo Montoya was confirmed as a race driver for 2005 as early as November 2003. Now Montoya's future is uncertain, as is current teammate Kimi Raikkonen's. Obviously one of them will have to make way for Alonso but which will it be?
The most popular current speculation believes Raikkonen will sign for Ferrari in 2007. The Finn has been strongly linked with Maranello for some time and even if Michael Schumacher doesn't retire, as some predict, Felipe Massa only has a one-year contract. No doubt the speculation will run and run until someone makes the next move.