Looks like Juan Pablo Montoya will be able to start preparing for his NASCAR debut sooner rather than later - Team McLaren Mercedes announced Tuesday that they have released Montoya for the rest of the 2006 F1 season, replacing him with test driver Pedro de la Rosa (shown above with JPM) for the French Grand Prix this weekend.

With current McLaren number one driver Kimi Raikkonen widely assumed to be going to Ferrari next year, de la Rosa will be hoping to turn his substitute drive into a full-time drive for 2007 alongside fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso. McLaren is also likely to use the opportunity created by Montoya's early departure from the team to try out their other test driver, Gary Paffett. Another front-runner for either the #2 seat or a test driver spot at McLaren is young Lewis Hamilton, a Ron Dennis protege who is currently having an outstanding year in the GP2 championship series.

[Source: GrandPrix.com]

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