Alonso and McLaren punished by stewards

2007 Hungarian Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes, Hungary, 2007, practice, 2 | Daimler ChryslerFernando Alonso will start the Hungarian Grand Prix from sixth instead of pole position and his McLaren team will not be eligible to score points.

The stewards found Alonso guilty of deliberately blocking team mate Lewis Hamilton and said McLaren’s actions were:

The actions of the team in the final minutes of qualifying are considered prejudicial to the interests of the competition and to the interests of motor sport generally

Hamilton will start from pole position alongside Nick Heidfeld. Championship rival Kimi Raikkonen is third, Alonso sixth and Felipe Massa 14th.

Although Hamilton and Alonso will be able to score points for the drivers’ championship, they will not count towards McLaren’s tally in the constructors’ championship.

The verdict comes after more confusion over what the two McLaren drivers did and what their team order them to do.

McLaren held a media briefing in which Hamilton accepted Alonso’ complaint that he had not waved him past at the beginning of the qualifying session.

However the two disagreed on whether it was normal for the team to keep one car stationary in front of the other for such a long time, as happened when Alonso waited in front of Hamilton at the end of today’s qualifying session.

McLaren operate a rotation system between their two drivers as to who gets the ‘extra’ lap in the third session of qualifying. It was Hamilton’s turn at the Nurburgring two weeks ago. But as he crashed out of that session due to a component failure perhaps he forgot (intentionally or otherwise) that it was Alonso’s turn this weekend?

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Hungary, 2007 | Daimler ChryslerIf McLaren did choose to delay Hamilton at the end of the third session so he wouldn’t get an extra lap, they chose the worst possible way of doing it. By queueing Hamilton behind his team mate, who was clearly not having any more work done to his car and who was apparently free to leave the pit lane as his lollipop had been raised, it created the distinct impression that this was Alonso personally delaying Hamilton.

It would have made more sense for the team simply to hold Hamilton longer at his pit stop. Perhaps that was what they were going to do – but Alonso chose to make doubly sure that Hamilton didn’t get another lap in? It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the stewards say of McLaren’s radio communications, when their full decision is published.

I’ll reserve judgement on whether my earlier remarks about Alonso were too harsh when I’ve read the full verdict on him and the team.

McLaren have announced that they will appeal the decision, which means that team boss Ron Dennis will soon have two dates in his diary to visit the International Court of Appeal, the other of course being the McLaren-Ferrari espionage hearing.

In the meantime, here’s one of the conspiracy theorists – what if McLaren just rigged the whole thing to stop people talking about the espionage scandal?

The verdict from the stewards:

The actions of the team in the final minutes of qualifying are considered prejudicial to the interests of the competition and to the interests of motor sport generally.

The penalty to be applied is that such points (if any) in the 2007 Formula One constructors championship as accrue to the team as a result of their participation in the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix will be withdrawn.

Because of the delay caused by Alonso, Hamilton was unable to complete his pit stop in time sufficient to enable him also to complete a flying lap.

The stewards find that he unnecessarily impeded another driver, Hamilton, and as a result he will be penalised by a loss of five grid positions.

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