Whether or not he was planning to leave McLaren at the end of the year, Fernando Alonso's position at the team must have been called into question after conversations with test driver Pedro de la Rosa played a central role in the World Motor Sport Council hearing in Paris on Thursday.

E-mails and text messages between the pair were presented as 'new evidence' in the second WMSC hearing into the 'spygate' affair, with de la Rosa telling Alonso that information gleaned from Ferrari's Nigel Stepney, via suspended McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, was 'reliable'. That information is understood to include details of the F2007's weight distribution - critical to getting the best from the Bridgestone tyres - amongst other things.

"Mr de la Rosa, in the performance of his functions at McLaren, requested and received secret Ferrari information from a source which he knew to be illegitimate and expressly stated that the purpose of his request was to run
tests in the simulator," claimed the official WMSC report, "The secret information in question was shared with Mr Alonso; there was a clear intention on the part of a number of McLaren personnel to use some of the Ferrari confidential information in its own testing. If this was
not in fact carried into effect it was only because there were technical reasons not to do so."

Although the team has always stressed that it did not use any information from the data dossier acquired by Coughlan, the fact that the contents were also known by at least two of its drivers tends contradicts the claim that the information was only in the hands of 'one rogue employee'. The fact that that content was being discussed also suggests that elements of it could have been applied to the way the McLaren was set up, if not in the way it and its constituent parts were designed.

Whether or not the outcome of the hearing affects his future beyond the end of 2007, it could certainly call into question Alonso's preferred status as 'number one' and, with Hamilton already leading the championship, his bid for three-in-a-row could be under threat despite McLaren's belief in equality.

Alonso refused to answer questions about the hearing - which he chose not to attend while team-mates de la Rosa and Lewis Hamilton did - preferring instead to focus on the weekend ahead.

"I'm not thinking about anything outside here in the paddock," he said during Thursday's FIA press conference, "I have a meeting with my engineers now, preparing the strategy for tomorrow, which tyres we are using in P1 and which in P2. I was checking the forecast for all weekend, the set-up, comparing the test we did in July, the updates that are on the car... So any more than this I am not ready to think. My 100 per cent concentration will be in this paddock, in this track and on winning this race. Other than that, I will not have even two seconds of thinking. I don't think what can happen and what cannot happen in Paris. I am not in that matter today."

With speculation surrounding Alonso's future in the McLaren team already rife following his falling out with the management at Woking, the Spanish press appears divided as to where he may end up next season.

According to marca.com, the world champion is almost certainly on his way back to Renault, using a clause in his current contract relevant to his name being besmirched to escape from Woking. The report suggests that Alonso has already agreed a verbal agreement with Flavio Briatore and will be backed by Telefonica should he return to Enstone.

Rival publication as.com, however, suggests that Alonso could be on his way to arch-rival Ferrari, where he would replace Felipe Massa in an all-star line-up alongside Kimi Raikkonen. The report again quotes the use of a clause in Alonso's contract as a possible escape route, citing Michael Schumacher's departure from a disgraced Benetton team in 1996 as a precedent.

Ironically, the rumour mill had suggested that Renault could be dragged into the spying row, having apparently used information taken by a former McLaren employee to Enstone between seasons. Briatore was due to make a statement at the WMSC hearing in Paris on Thursday, but mischievous elements in the paddock have already suggested that he has had a hand in stirring up the initial scandal in an attempt to wrest Alonso back from McLaren.

Interestingly, despite the future of the two Spanish drivers being called into question, major McLaren sponsor Santander insists that it will stand by the team.

"We are totally convinced of the personal integrity of Ron Dennis and that of the McLaren team which has, over the years, shown a high level of professionalism and corporate ethics," Santander director general Juan Manuel Cendoya told Reuters.

Santander has a five-year deal with McLaren, worth roughly ?9 million a year.

 

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