Alonso & de la Rosa’s emails led to McLaren’s punishment

2007 F1 season

Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes, Monza, 2007, 3 | Daimler ChryslerThe FIA has released the reasons for the verdict against McLaren in the espionage hearing.

It includes a series of damning e-mails involving Fernando Alonso, Pedro de la Rosa and Mike Coughlan (but, notably, not Lewis Hamilton) that undermined McLaren’s defence that only Coughlan saw the Ferrari information.

Alonso and de la Rosa discussed information that de la Rosa noted had come from a trusted Ferrari source – Nigel Stepney. Here’s what the e-mails said:

21st March 2007 09.57
From: Pedro de la Rosa
To: Mike Coughlan

Hi Mike,

Do you know the Red Car’s Weight Distribution? It would be important for us to know so that we could try it in the simulator.

Thanks in advance,

Pedro.

p.s. I will be in the simulator tomorrow.?é?Ř

Coughlan sent a text message containing the details to de la Rosa. Four days later, de la Rosa emailled Alonso passing on the details.

At 1.43am on March 25th (one week after the Australian Grand Prix) de la Rosa sent an email to Alonso describing a gas Ferrari were using to reduce blistering in their tyres, adding: “we’ll have to try it, it’s easy!” He late reassured Alonso about the source of the information.

25 March 2007 13.02*
From: Pedro de la Rosa
To: Fernando Alonso

All the information from Ferrari is very reliable. It comes from Nigel Stepney, their former chief mechanic – I don’t know what post he holds now. He’s the same person who told us in Australia that Kimi was stopping in lap 18.

He’s very friendly with Mike Coughlan, our Chief Designer, and he told him that.

I agree 100% that we must test the [tyre gas] thing very soon.

De la Rosa also referred to a new rear wing assembly which he described as being, “a copy of the system we think Ferrari uses.” Raikkonen actually pitted on lap 19 of that race, but as the FIA noted de la Rosa mentioned the transfer of information as a means of underlining Stepney’s reliability.

In another e-mail Alonso said:

25 March 2007 12.31*
From: Fernando Alonso
To: Pedro de la Rosa

They have something different from the rest. Not only this year. there is something else and this may be the key; let’s hope we can test it during this test, and that we can make it a priority!

Its weight distribution surprises me; I don’t know either if it’s 100% reliable, but at least it draws attention.

On April 12th, the Thursday before the Bahrain Grand Prix, de la Rosa contacted Coughlan asking for further details:

12 April 2007 at 12.25
From: Pedro de la Rosa
To: Mike Coughlan

Can you explain me as much as you can, Ferrari’s braking system with the [censored]? Are they adjusting from inside the cockpit?**

Two days later Coughlan replied with an explanation of the system adding, “we are looking at something similar”.

The FIA asked de la Rosa, Alonso and Hamilton to hand over any relevant e-mails on the understanding that they would not be punished if they did.

Hamilton did not supply any emails, de la Rosa and Alonso did. What is also interesting is that Alonso did not appear at the hearing yesterday, but Hamilton and de la Rosa did.

The exchange between Alonso and de la Rosa played a large role in incriminating the team. The pair will face no sanctions as things stand.

Will they be able to keep their places in the team after this? Particularly Alonso, who has been at loggerheads with the team.

And it must be said that not only is it shocking and deeply disappointing that two drivers could cheerfully discuss using a rival’s confidential information in this way, I’m equally astonished that they chose to communicate via e-mail, leaving a trail of evidence behind. Or does that lend credence to the claim that this sort of thing goes on all the time?

*On 25th March the two drivers were in different time zones, hence the apparent discrepancies in times.

**References to specific confidential components were deleted by the FIA.

Photo: Daimler Chrysler

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11 comments on Alonso & de la Rosa’s emails led to McLaren’s punishment

  1. Why can Alonso text with better grammar then he can speak?

    Do these guys not talk in person? Maybe they should use Myspace.com to transfer vital info.

    How does this not affect the Drivers Championship if this being fueled BY the drivers?!

    This just further proves how incompetent that Fia is at making decisions. Common sense would tell you that if you cheated in setting the car up, then you cheated in the races.

    It doesn’t surprise me that The Ham didn’t have anything to do with this. As has been stated, he gets his setup info from Alonso, thus Alonso would be the one to testing different setups.

  2. one other point of note:

    “9.5 McLaren is reminded of its right of appeal. In the event that an appeal is lodged with the FIA International Court of Appeal, the effect of this Decision will not be suspended pending the outcome of that appeal.”

    those points are going boys, and they ain’t coming back :)

  3. Michael K said on 14th September 2007, 16:45

    What a joke! Excluding Alonso from punishment is like letting someone off the hook just for incriminating himself: “if you tell us you killed the guy, you’ll get immunity, is that ok with you mate?”
    FIA is just toothless, if this would’ve been Spyker they would’ve been banned, and this should’ve happened to McLaren this season too…
    This season means nothing now.

  4. Michael, don’t quite, no one would have noticed Spyker cheating. No one sees that far down the grid, except the twin Bulls of course.

    This is bigger than we all think. The release of Alonso will be very difficult, Dennis does not seem pleased at all… And the championship, do you seriously think Dennis is going to let Alonso walk away with it? I bet there will be a problem with the fuel hose or something like that in the following races…

  5. Andy

    That happened after Hungary. There was a sit down and that was how Dennis managed to appease Alonso. All this information was exchanged when The Ham was using his setup…… Now we know why his setup was so much better!

  6. Dan M the Masshole said on 14th September 2007, 18:07

    Andy, Just noticed you were Canadian….. Shouldn’t you refer to Hamilton as “Canadian Bacon” instead of “The Ham”? ;-)

  7. The drivers got a promise, that they would be immune. They kept that promise!
    But I do think such things are normal in F1 … only in this case they actually had a very very good source.
    I don’t believe anyone would say no to this information.
    When a guy from any team tells you, “hey, did you know we have this and that”… you listen and use that information.
    It’s still the fault of the ferrari guy at first and then the rest involved, and not the organisation that is McLaren!

  8. I am sure Ferrari must have a spy in the McLaren camp – Alonso! They made sure he sent those emails so McLaren would get in trouble. Pedro and Alonso are in ferrari’s pay. Coughlan too. And what if that entire white power was dumped there by Alonso? Wait for a couple of years and then you can see him driving a Ferrari! I have a sneaking suspicion that Martin Whitmarsh too might be involved in the whole scam.

    Just kidding.

    >>>> And it must be said that not only is it shocking and deeply disappointing that two drivers could cheerfully discuss using a rivals confidential information in this way…

    Of course, this is nothing new I am sure. Though because its not new, we cant just forgive it. This is a huge business, and spying has been part of it forever.

  9. Michael K said on 14th September 2007, 18:57

    Well, it isn’t even in Ferrari’s interest to get McLaren banned, because if they did get banned that would start an avalanche that might bury them as well.
    If they got banned I’m sure the sponsors could withdraw and even claim their money back which would most probably be the end of McLaren as we know it. Without McLaren F1 wouldn’t be as interesting anymore, but still this ruling is a farce trying to keep F1 on track somehow. Offering the drivers immunity for incriminating themselves is wrong and probably just arranged so that they could keep the Championship exciting. I’m sure the evidence from the Italian police alone would’ve been enough to come to the conclusion that McLaren knew more than Ron has been saying…

  10. Christi said on 14th September 2007, 21:15

    It is disgusting to me that a 2 time World Champion is involved in this debacle and will not be penalized for it. How dare he???

    Anyone else think Golden Child Hamilton is being protected, big time? I find it hard to believe he had NO idea about any of this while both the other drivers were knee deep in the muck. (My personal belief is that this information was part of the reason that they don’t/didn’t get along.)

    I can’t wait to see the fan reaction at the race this weekend. I bet his fan base has been halved overnight.

  11. Just on the Alonso grammar thing, one has to imagine that these are translations of Spanish e-mails.

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