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. David said on 6th August 2007, 18:45

    Hello guys

    Here in Spain the press is saying that LH has benefited from the fact that there’s a reigning champion, who knows how to properly set the car. Basically, that LH is using FA telemetry to his advantage. What do you think of that? And BTW, I’m not flaming, I just want to hear the other camp on this regard

  2. Hello David, indeed, I remember Niki Lauda saying it’s benefitcial for LH to have the champion as teammate. Also there are F1 fans who believe that FM improved/learn a lot from MS’s driving too in 06′.

    But if LH can use FA’s telemetry to improve and beat FA, but FA himself couldn’t do much out of his own data, then you can not blame FA’s failure sorely on the sharing of telemetry. Also in quali at Hungary, the fact that LH used super soft while FA stay with soft, may suggest LH also has his own ideas.

    BTW thanks for the explaination Keith, though I still don’t get it. I’ll try to forget about it, LOL.

  3. Johnny said on 6th August 2007, 19:16

    I am glad LH doesnt defer to Alonso. This is a sport after all and Lewis has been leading the championship for 7 races. Alonso is entitled to nothing. He won the last 2 years with the best car, now that he has an actual challenge he has done nothing but whine and make questionable and hotheaded decisions. I agree with Tyrel, please Alonso go back to Renault and lets see Gary Paffet get a seat at Mclaren. As for David’s point that Hamilton is stealing telemetry to set up the car. They are both knew to the car and Alonso had more trouble adapting to it and the new tires than Hamilton did early on. I think that is just hometown reporting just like they are doing in England for LH.

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