Fernando Alonso's much-muted return to Renault took a step closer to actually happening this week, after Mercedes gave McLaren permission to drop the Spaniard from their 2008 driver line-up.

Although nothing official has yet been put out, reports in Spanish newspaper, Marca, maintain that Mercedes, who have a 40 per cent stake in McLaren, believe that it would be best for all concerned if the two-time world champion was to leave at the end of this season.

"Fernando Alonso will not have any problem in leaving McLaren at the end of this season," read the report. "Mercedes have reached the conclusion that it is in the best interest of the company and the team to allow the Spaniard to leave at the end of this year - and presumably for free.

"The future of Fernando Alonso means that he will now more than likely go to Renault."

The relationship between McLaren-Mercedes and Alonso has deteriorated badly as the year has progressed, in part due to his role in the spy row and also because he feels he hasn't been treated fairly, with his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton getting preferential treatment.

McLaren have always maintained this has definitely not been the case and re-iterated recently, in the countdown to this weekend's Brazilian GP - where Alonso, Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen will be battling it out to secure the 2007 drivers' title - that both drivers' will be treated 'with complete equality and fairness' and 'will enjoy the same opportunity to win' as they have throughout the year.



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