World champion Fernando Alonso's personal intervention with Flavio Briatore was the key factor that persuaded Renault to allow him a one-day test with McLaren last week, but autosport.com understands the Spaniard is still under contract with the French team.
Sources close to Alonso said discussions between Briatore and McLaren boss Ron Dennis were at a deadlock in the middle of last week before Alonso decided to step in and try and find a solution himself.
Alonso pleaded with Briatore to agree to a compromise deal that would allow him to get a single day of running with McLaren. It is not clear whether a financial payment was made, but Alonso was given the green light to run with a white helmet and overalls in a sponsor-less McLaren.
Autosport.com has learned, however, that although Alonso was allowed to test for McLaren, he has not been released from his Renault contract. That still runs until December 31st.
Renault's sponsors are understood to have been keen to hold on to the means of exploiting Alonso's world champion status until the end of the year, with several Christmas ad campaigns set to incorporate Alonso's image. That was why it was so important for Alonso to run completely unbranded last week.
Alonso impressed McLaren with both his speed and his working ethic during the day - leaving engineers encouraged for the future.
One said: "He was very methodical, very calm and very sensible. It was only a one day test and you know you cannot do everything in one day, so it was well executed for a single day."
Ferrari test driver Marc Gene said Alonso's speed on his first day was very promising, especially considering it was his first experience of 2007 Bridgestone rubber.
"I am not quite sure how much fuel he was carrying and what tyres he was on, but he seemed okay," Gene told autosport.com.
"He did a pretty solid job; I thought he did a good time, did he not? These tyres are not easy to deal with, especially the first time you drive them. So he looked quite OK."