Paffett, Hamilton, could debut in 2006

Wed, 12 July 2006, 09:25

McLaren would not elaborate on Monday after issuing a press release to confirm Juan Pablo Montoya’s immediate departure from the team.

Asked by the Daily Telegraph whether the Colombian’s nightmare tour of North America – featuring two first-lap crashes – had contributed to the decision, a team spokesperson said ‘no comment’.

”If someone wants to blame me, then blame me,” Montoya told Speed TV, ”(but the crashes) didn’t have anything to do with my future.”

McLaren also refused to comment on whether 30-year-old Montoya’s announcement of his NASCAR switch was in breach of contract, or the terms of a reportedly $3.5m price-tag on his early team split.

The Woking based team’s press release also divulged such details as the expected date of arrival of Montoya’s second child, but tellingly did not outline whether Pedro de la Rosa would remain in the car for the last eight grands prix of 2006.

Speculation is, therefore, rife that Gary Paffett or Lewis Hamilton – or both – might get their chance to debut in the silver car between now and the season finale in October.

Britain’s tabloid ‘Sun’ confidently proclaimed that ‘the duo will be handed their chance to impress’, although Spaniard de la Rosa is expected to stay at the wheel for the time being.

McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh, however, insisted that Hamilton is ‘concentrating on GP2’ at present, but the junior category is scheduled to wind up in September, leaving the Briton free for the last few races of the year.

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