Alonso’s tainted triumph

2007 Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying review

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Hungary, 2007 | Daimler ChryslerAs if McLaren didn’t have enough problems off the track – now one of their drivers has employed some extraordinarily unsavoury tactics against the other.

Fernando Alonso deliberately delayed Lewis Hamilton in the pit box to prevent his team mate from setting his final lap.

The Spaniard then took pole position off his team mate. But will there be repercussions?

The weather at the Hungaroring was predictably hot, but strong winds threatened to blow drivers off-course.

Part one

The main interest in the first part of qualifying was how the new rivals would fare against their team mates.

Adrian Sutil continued to impress with a 1’22.986 on his first lap, while new team mate Sakon Yamamoto managed only a 1’24.537.

Over at Toro Rosso, Vitantonio Liuzzi’s first effort was a 1’23.576, and when Sebastian Vettel ran wide at turn 11, it looked like Liuzzi had the advantage. But Vettel still beat Liuzzi by three-tenths – 1’23.218. What would Scott Speed have made of that?

The fastest drivers were in a different league. Lewis Hamilton’s fastest lap was the best of the weekend so far – 1’19.570.

Sakon Yamamoto, Spyker-Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2007 | Peter J Fox / Crash Media GroupYamamoto improved on his final lap to 1’23.774 – but was clearly delayed by Giancarlo Fisichella’s Renault for most of the lap.

A late flurry of laps saw a fierce battle for survival. Jenson Button took 16th with a 1’21.737 but was knocked out by Liuzzi, who improved to 1’21.730.

That was bad news for Vettel too, who ran wide at turn 11 again and despite improving to 1’22.177 was out of qualifying.

Interestingly, Heikki Kovalainen ended the session second fastest – but he was a full seven tenths of a second slower than Hamilton, most of which came in the middle sector.

Bottom six drivers’ times for part one

17. Jenson Button 1’21.737
18. Rubens Barrichello 1’21.877
19. Takuma Sato 1’22.143
20. Sebastian Vettel 1’22.177
21. Adrian Sutil 1’22.737
22. Sakon Yamamoto 1’23.774

Part two

Both Williams made it through to the second part of qualifying – Alexander Wurz having struggled with it earlier in the year – and so did Anthony Davidson at the circuit where he made his F1 d?âăĆ?é?®but five years ago.

The track looked much quicker in the second session – Jarno Trulli’s first lap was four tenths slower than Hamilton’s in the first session. When Hamilton came out he went quickest again – 1’19.301.

Mark Webber, Red Bull-Renault, Hungaroring, 2007 | GEPA / Red BullFerrari seemed to be struggling, however. Kimi Raikkonen’s first lap was eight tenths off Hamilton’s, and Felipe Massa oversteered wide in turn three and set a 1’21.021 that left him 11th.

He would need to do another lap to get into the vital top ten. But he suffered some kind of mechanical problem in the pits and had to be dragged back into his garage briefly.

But when he returned to the track he failed to improve on his time and failed to make the top ten. He wasn’t the only driver who failed to improve. Davidson, 15th was a tenth off his earlier time. And Liuzzi, 16th, set a 1’21.9 that would have left him 18th in the first session.

Robert Kubica escaped being knocked out with the last lap of the session, beating David Coulthard by 0.015s.

Bottom six drivers’ times for part two

11. David Coulthard 1’20.718
12. Heikki Kovalainen 1’20.779
13. Alexander Wurz 1’20.865
14. Felipe Massa 1’21.021
15. Anthony Davidson 1’21.127
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi 1’21.993

Part three

As ever the McLarens led the survivors out for the final part of qualifying – Hamilton and Fernando Alonso ahead of the sole Ferrari of Raikkonen. They were joined by the Toyotas and BMWs, plus Fisichella, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg.

The McLaren shot off but Alonso had a brief off at turn ten and after that seemed content to drive to slow down Raikkonen. The Finn had a look at passing the McLaren at turn 11 but failed, locking a wheel briefly, though he did later get past.

Alonso sat in his pit box for a long time before setting out on his lap. Despite the long hold as he set off the team noticed a tyre warmer cover caught around the front right wheel – the same corner that caused Hamilton problems at the Nurburgring.

Jarno Trulli set a 1’21.796 to go fastest on harder tyres. Raikkonen on the softer rubber posted a 1’20.930. But that was beaten by Nick Heidfeld by eight thousandths of a second.

But the McLarens were flying. Alonso went quickest on the harder tyres with a 1’20.133 but Hamilton, on the softer compound, cut four tenths of a second from that with a 1’19.781. Alonso was fastest in the final sector, Hamilton in the other two.

The battle now was all about the McLarens – and it looked as though Alonso was using some dubious tactics to delay his team mate. He seemed to wait in his pit box for an unusually long time while Hamilton waited behind him.

Nico Rosberg, Williams-Toyota, Hungaroring, 2007 | Lorenzo Bellanca / LAT PhotographicThe Briton did not manage to get out on track to set another lap but Alonso did – and his 1’19.674 took pole position.

But just when McLaren didn’t need it their world champion driver has put the team in disrepute once again.

Almost unseen, Heidfeld kept his advantage over Raikkonen, and Rosberg qualified an excellent fifth.

Top ten drivers’ times for part three

1. Fernando Alonso 1’19.674
2. Lewis Hamilton 1’19.781
3. Nick Heidfeld 1’20.259
4. Kimi Raikkonen 1’20.410
5. Nico Rosberg 1’20.632
6. Ralf Schumacher 1’20.714
7. Robert Kubica 1’20.876
8. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’20.079
9. Jarno Trulli 1’21.206
10. Mark Webber 1’21.256

Photos: Daimler Chrysler, Peter J Fox / Crash Media Group, GEPA / Red Bull, Lorenzo Bellanca / LAT Photographic

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27 comments on Alonso’s tainted triumph

  1. I’ve got it! Someone tapped into McLaren’s radio system and told Alonso to wait… :D

  2. I must admit to feeling somewhat conflicted about the move. It was clever, you can’t deny that. As a competitive sportsman who had the opportunity at an advantage was he really all that wrong for taking it?

    On the other hand I can’t help feeling that he only reason he got pole because he had lost a few more laps of fuel from the lap before and that given the chance there is every likelihood that Hamilton would have done the same

    It certainly adds to the drama of one of the better seasons we have had for a long time and cements a rivalry that could be talked about for long after both are retired and honestly, who here was expecting a dull race this weekend?

  3. @Clive: Lol, thats the best explanation ever!

    @Captain: I absolutely agree, its possibly extremely hard to time the exit of the pits, the outlap and possible traffic to let Alonso thru and keep Lewis behind from inside a cock pit!

    The Schumacher incident was more straight forward to execute… Frankly Alonso must be a math genius to time it inch perfect(there was like a 5-10s gap once both came out of the pits) to do it alone!

  4. Ben Goldberg said on 4th August 2007, 15:48

    Hamilton definitely wouldn’t have done the same, no no no. Even if he wanted to, he’s a rookie and he would never do that.

    Also, I don’t think it’s that clever. I could come up with 10 different ways to unfairly get an advantage if I was Alonso. It was probably also premeditated.

  5. Alonso is saying it was the team – Hamilton is apparently mystified but faintly amused. Guess who has suddenly gone up several hundred miles in my estimation. ;)

  6. The reaction of Dennis right after the end of quali was self explanatory… Both his guys on front row and the first thing he does is to go and grab Alonso’s trainer with that angry look on his face …

    Macaluso, Max, Briatore, now Alonso camp – bad days for Ron …

  7. Sorry, when I said Hamilton would have done the same I meant get pole, not hamper Alonso.

  8. Roger said on 4th August 2007, 16:58

    This is what I think.

    First of all a lot or controversial about extra lap in qualifying has taken place between both drivers, as I’ve read in lots of blogs. Alonso feels he hasn’t been on equal conditions since Silverstone, when he had to use the extra lap and McLaren said that because of the gear failure in France it was again for Hamilton.
    Next, what about the long minute and a half he has been stopped by the team in Alonso’s first stop? And next came the reaction of undoubtely stopping Hamilton.
    This is my theory: Alonso had the extra lap turn but with soft tyres he was beeing slower than Hamilton. So the team thinks ok, let’s play Hamilton’s card, so they stop Alonso in his first pitstop so the extra lap of Alonso wouldn’t be useful. Alonso is in pit near 1:30 minute, and traffic is no excuse as in TV you can see BMW pilot entering the pits, changing tyres and returning to track while Alonso is stopped. Then Alonso comes out, makes his lap and enter again for new tyres, and surprise, Hamilton is behind. So he feels it’s time for vengeance. And the rest was seen for us all.
    Alonso wasn’t too much legal, but what about his team? Finally he did his fast lap in equal conditions as Hamilton….. and he was faster….

  9. can we wait for a final judgment before throwing Alonso to the wolves? I suspect a lot of this Alonso-bashing is because of the popularity of Lewis Hamilton.

  10. Respect to Clive, then, for being the only one to have faith in Alonso!!

  11. Dan M said on 5th August 2007, 2:36

    Ive finally got my girlfriend interested in F1. She loves soap operas.

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