Alonso contract talks can wait, says McLaren boss

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FUJI, Japan, Sep 29 (Reuters) McLaren will not talk to world champion Fernando Alonso about his future with the team until the Formula One season is over, Ron Dennis said today.

''Both of our drivers have contracts that are valid for several years and we are focused on the next three races,'' the team boss told reporters at the Japanese Grand Prix.

''If there are any changes in those contractual relationships, they will only be discussed after the last grand prix,'' he added.

''There is at this stage nobody engaged in any dialogue whatsoever. What you are looking at is speculation and people who want to contribute to any process that destabilises the team or de-focuses the drivers.'' Several teams have held off announcing their 2008 driver lineups in the hope or expectation that Spaniard Alonso would be leaving McLaren after a turbulent year with the Mercedes-powered team.

Alonso has fallen out with rookie team mate Lewis Hamilton, the championship leader and a McLaren protege, while Dennis recognised only this month that his own relationship with the champion was 'very cold.' Media speculation has suggested that Alonso, disappointed at being refused number one status over Hamilton at McLaren, now wants to escape his contract and either return to Renault or move to Ferrari.

If Alonso were to leave, it would trigger a general driver merry-go-round with Renault, Williams and Toyota among those waiting to see what happens.

Dennis refused to get sucked into talk about his relationship with Alonso or Hamilton's assertion on Friday that Alonso needed to show more loyalty to the team.

''I've got a clear objective at the moment and nothing will deviate away from that, which is to focus on the balance of this year's season and races and then turn our attention to next year,'' he said.

''All the issues of relationships and who said what and did what is immaterial...I'm not going to waste any of my energy on it and nor is any other member of the team.

''We've got a competitive tension within the team and what would you expect? But that's where it ends.'' Hamilton leads Alonso by two points in the championship, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen a further 11 behind. Ferrari have already won the constructors' title after McLaren were stripped of their points and fined 0 million in a spying controversy.

REUTERS SSC BD1803

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