Fernando Alonso has played down rumours that he is considering sitting out the 2008 Formula One campaign if he cannot find a front-running team to move to from McLaren.

Insisting that he wants to be on the grid next season, the double world champion has admitted that he would even countenance remaining at Woking if it was the only option that presented a chance of winning races - even if it meant reforming the difficult partnership with 2007 champion-elect Lewis Hamilton.

"I am thinking about it, I have contract with them," he said in the build-up to the Japanese Grand Prix, "Of course, I would also be delighted not be his team-mate If we are not together in 2008, and I have a competitive car...... But if we have to continue together, I know that we will have another pretty tough battle."

Alonso has two years still to run on his McLaren contract and, given the alleged state of his relationship with team boss Ron Dennis, it is not inconceivable that the Spaniard could be sidelined rather than allowed to go to another team, but he insists that he will be on track in 2008, especially with a new-look F1 on the horizon.

"Taking a year out is not in my plans," he told Spain's as.com, "I want to race, of that I am one hundred per cent certain. I enjoy driving and that is what I want to do. Besides, next year there is an important change in the rules. All the electronic aids are prohibited and it will be a season in which one must compete. Not only is traction control being removed, also the braking aids. Without them, we will see more errors and a race with a lot of rain, such as Fuji, will need a driver to be a lot more delicate in handling the 800 horsepower that we have."

The Japanese weekend appeared to dampen some of the speculation surrounding Alonso's destiny for 2008, with the Spaniard's claims that he is not looking to leave McLaren backed up by both Felipe Massa and Jean Todt insisting that the Ferrari line-up would remain unchanged.

Every soundbite could merely be adding to a smokescreen, however, with paddock rumours anticipating a reshuffle at Ferrari to accommodate Alonso alongside Kimi Raikkonen, with Felipe Massa possibly on his way to Toyota, where Ralf Schumacher yesterday created an opening.

"I have not heard anything from them," Alonso said of the Ferrari rumours, "They have two drivers with contracts, so for the time being there is not any possibility for me next year."

Renault boss Flavio Briatore has also made no secret of the fact that he has offered the world champion a chance to return to Enstone, but Alonso's desire for 'a front-running car' may mitigate against the regie. It is also likely that Briatore would want to tie the Spaniard up to a long-term deal - something that Alonso may not swish to be bound by if Ferrari is to come calling.



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