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

2007 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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.

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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