Another PR disaster for McLaren

McLaren Mercedes logoMcLaren’s PR problems have multiplied as the British press slammed them for their handling of the pit lane incident between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton yesterday.

Both The Times and The Daily Mail claim that Hamilton and Dennis were involved in a furious argument. This is from The Times:

Hamilton… exchanged angry words with his team boss Ron Dennis as he returned to the pits, reportedly saying: “Don’t ever f****** do that to me again!”?? Dennis replied: “Don’t ever f****** speak to me like that again!”?? Hamilton delivered a final riposte: “Go f****** swivel!”??

The team may not like it, but the public perception of them will now be that they are not giving Hamilton a fair crack at the drivers’ championship.

Ron Dennis can protest to the contrary all he likes, but the fact is they will be viewed this way because they handled the Monaco and Hungary controversies so badly.

At Monaco the team brought Hamilton into the pits earlier than he needed to so that he wouldn’t be compromised by the safety car period. The stewards later upheld that decision and it was vindicated at Montreal two weeks later when Alonso’s race was ruined by a safety car period at an inconvenient time.

But as the content of McLaren’s radio communications and team policy was not made clear during or immediately after the race, the British papers went to press with ‘Hamilton told to lose’ headlines splashed all over them.

This weekend McLaren have shot themselves in the foot even more comprehensively.

Hamilton disobeyed a direct order by refusing to yield position to Alonso in qualifying. I still suspect that there was confusion over the matter because Hamilton lost his chance to have the privileged qualifying run at the Nurburgring because of his crash.

But nevertheless what Hamilton did was wrong. McLaren and Alonso’s reaction to it, however, made everything much worse.

There are several ways McLaren could have re-balanced the strategies between their two drivers to prevent Hamilton getting an unfair advantage over Alonso. They could have simply arranged to pit him earlier in today’s race, for example.

Instead they chose to do it by holding Hamilton up behind Alonso in the pits. On top of which Alonso then took it upon himself to delay Hamilton by a further ten seconds. And then the team tried to hid what they had done from the stewards.

It was an amateurish catalogue of errors that has turned what should have been an easy one-two for the team in qualifying into an ugly farce.

Far from appealing the stewards’ decision, McLaren should come clean about the whole thing, apologise to both their drivers, and pledge to make their radio communications open for television viewers to listen in to.

But I don’t think much of the chances of that happening.

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18 comments on Another PR disaster for McLaren

  1. Hello, I don’t agree with the solution you suggest that “they could have simply arranged to pit him earlier in today’s race”, IMO you can’t balance qualify situation later in the race, because the grid position has impact on the race start, FA could be overtaken starting from 2nd and get stuck and never be able to challenge LH, to pit LH earlier would then make no sense. IMO they did the right thing, what should be corrected in quali must be corrected in quali. But FA shouldn’t have acted on his own.

  2. BTW LH sould put off his mask of smiling face, what’s with “I’m not angry just curious”? The way he talked to his boss RD is just not acceptable, regardlsss what the team has done to him.

    BTW great site you have.

  3. There is surely a case for all team radio to be made open and public – even if it’s not actually broadcast on TV, if the TV people have access then they can pick out the bits they want to relay to the viewing public.

    I doubt it would ever happen though!

    As for McLaren’s PR, Ron Dennis’s inability to speak in plain English is surely what holds them back most – and Lewis Hamilton seems to be picking this up too. They are a bit like politicians, they speak a lot without actually telling you anything – and their explanations often make you more confused than you were before!

  4. Ben Goldberg said on 5th August 2007, 12:53

    Ade, do you think Lewis really said that? That conversation seems made for selling papers.

  5. Yes, since 2 papers, The Times and The Daily Mail, claimed exactly the same thing. Even though I’d rather be disapointed by the press intead of by LH and his filthy mouth.(BTW I’m not a FA fan, I just don’t like LH’s reaction to team’s decisions at both Monaco and yesterday)

    IMO whatever RD told LH to do, he must follow. Yes LH has huge talent, but where would he be if it wasn’t RD who supported him, paid for his earlier motosport career, and put him in a McLaren? LH should have showed a lot more appreciation toward RD/McLaren.

  6. Number 38 said on 5th August 2007, 16:54

    My opinion is Hamilton sees the championship in sight and thinks the team ought to kiss up to him. His conduct in a couple of recent events indicates he’s just a pansy like so many others. He’s the media darling but he’s also starting to wilt like a weed without water. Many ask, “both McLarens were on the front row, what’s the flap?”
    Well 9 of 11 races this year have been WON from pole, F1 races are typically mere high speed parades and with those odds the pole counts! The race is often won on Saturday.

  7. gary said on 5th August 2007, 23:00

    Disobeying a direct team order is unprofessional and it just goes to show how inexperienced Lewis Hamilton is. It’s a two lane road to success in F1 – the team and the driver. Never a smart idea to do what LH did. And if that was what came out of his mouth after qualifying, shame on him. If it wasn’t for Mclaren or Ron Dennis, he would still be racing in a go kart. What an unappreciative and arrogant guy! Somehow, I DO NOT want LH to win the championship simply because he’s forgetting he’s only a ROOKIE. He should start acting like one and know his place in the team.

  8. Disobeying a direct team order when it is to your detriment is, if anything a sign of supreme confidence. A message that says “I’m too important for you to tell me what to do”. From someone of lesser talent, its merely a sign of arrogance and foolhardiness.

    From an Alonso or a Hamilton, its a sign of a driver that knows their team can’t afford to punish them. Senna would have done it (and arguably in Imola in 1989 he kind of did.) Lauda would have done it. Such a fiercely competitive environment is no place for an “after you Claude” attitude.

    Sadly, nice guys do come second. This weekend Hamilton showed he’s not a nice guy. And in terms of what he might go on to achieve, that might just be a very important signal.

  9. Ade said on 6th August 2007, 1:08

    That’s the problem of a super team, RD has two best drivers, one thinks “I’m too important for you to tell me what to do”, an other thinks “I have two championships, tell him to move away”.

    When AP and AS took each other out at first corner, I sure many people were thinking what an disaster for McLaren too.

    BTW sorry I have a question to ask, what do you guys think LH meant on the PC:
    “In terms of speaking to the team, I spoke to everyone, I have told everyone the situation, apologised if they feel I have done something against them but this is the way it is. It is higher than them if you know what I mean.”

    Higher than them,I’m struggling to understand it, LH think he’s higher/bigger than the team??? Wow, I’m afraid LH maybe the first McLaren driver ever that I don’t like/won’t support, no matter what LH may achieve.

  10. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 6th August 2007, 7:33

    I think he’s talking about his mechanics, and ‘higher than them’ means Ron Dennis & co.

  11. Yeah Ade I’m sure Keith’s right on this, he’s talking about Ron.

  12. Melvyn Chambers said on 6th August 2007, 10:31

    If it has been deemed that the McLaren Team are responsible for the actions of an individual team member. Should Ferrari not also be responsible of its own team members?

  13. Dan M said on 6th August 2007, 14:41

    It has been said that Lewis immediately called the team on the radio when he slipped off the track in Germany. So its funny that he shows such “supreme confidence” when the previous race he needed so much help from the team. Mind you he was also praised for thinking his way through such a situation, which he didn’t.

    If he was upset that he didn’t get his extra lap in Germany due to the car failing, this is not going to help things at all. McLaren have two very capable drives and either could win the Championship, if I were Ron I would put all my support in Alonso. Lewis is just a rookie and needs to be put in his place. Hes getting a little cocky for my liking.

    Alonso has also preformed under pressure and shown he is capable of winning when things don’t go his way. Lewis may be fast but it is in a car that is fairly easy to drive and he has had some great luck. I think he will always be a great diver but I would take Alonso in a heart beat.

  14. Nesa said on 6th August 2007, 15:19

    Am I the only one who thinks that McLaren is ruining the best championship in years?

  15. Tyrel said on 6th August 2007, 16:54

    Alonso just likes when he wins every race easily, i still remembered the way he celebrated when MS car stopped just some laps before the finish line and he knew that he will be champion…as if he overtake MS car during the race in the final lap. To my knowledge its him who started all these earful…and all started when LH began to win, i am a big fan of McLaren and i really hope he join Renault next year!

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