World Champion Fernando Alonso will drive for Vodaphone McLaren Mercedes in 2007. This news comes as a surprise to most in the F1 community, and as a serious disappointment for Renault. Many had thought Alonso was committed to Renault for the long-term, expecting the team to replicate the success enjoyed by the Ferrari/Schumacher pairing.
This may raise some questions about the future of the Renault F1 squad, but the most intriguing aspect of the situation is that Renault Team Boss Flavio Briatore is also Fernando Alonso's manager, and as such must have had intimate knowledge of the McLaren deal. Exactly who's best interest Briatore was acting in is certainly a question Renault's upper management will be chewing on for quite some time.
According to an article on SpeedTV.com, Flavio Briatore had nothing to do with Fernando Alonso's defection. Reassured of the integrity of the Renault team boss, the questions will now focus on Alonso's motivations. Alonso has been involved with Renault and Briatore since his F3000 days in 2000, and his success with the team is obviously abundant. Perhaps a best-case scenario (in regards to Alonso's character) is that Renault's V8 development is not going smoothly, and Alonso simply thinks he has a better shot at another title with McLaren. Money is the other obvious possible motivator, although bouncing around to whichever team promises the biggest number does not tend to help a driver's stock.
Alonso cited a desire for challenge as his reason, and while the change will no doubt present him with new problems to tackle, I find it unrealistic that he would give up sure success with one team merely to see if he could be as successful elsewhere.