Alonso under attack over leak threat

Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes, Istanbul, 2007 | DaimlerChryslerFernando Alonso has emerged as the villain in the McLaren-Ferrari espionage story as it is being reported by this morning’s papers.

Most of today’s reports centre on Alonso’s threat to Ron Dennis that he would expose what he knew about the espionage scandal to the FIA if Dennis did not agree to give him undisputed number one status in the team.

The Alonso story is the latest outrageous twist in the spy scandal – but it should not be a distraction from the wider picture, which has revealed actions within McLaren that are utterly incompatible with the ethics of fair competition.

The Times is pushing the Alonso angle strongly and Ed Gorman is questioning whether the Spanish racer can even remain at the team for the remainder of 2007:

The disclosures increase the likelihood that the Spaniard will not drive for the Woking-based team next season and will possibly join Renault or even take a year’s sabbatical.

There were even suggestions that he may not survive the remainder of this season, which would effectively present the world championship to Lewis Hamilton, his rookie team-mate.

But even more interesting is what Gorman has to say in his log about Dennis’s reaction to the story:

To my knowledge Ron was told exactly what we were going to write but he made no effort on Friday either to deny the story or tell us about Fernando’s apology which would have made it quite a bit better for Fernando. As it is Fernando’s reputation as a man and as a sportsman has taken a huge knock and McLaren did nothing to stop it.

Was this incompetence, a desire to deflect attention away from coverage of Ron and the judgement or was it a deliberate decision to throw Fernando to the wolves?

But in focussing on how the espionage scandal might affect the team at the heart of it we run the risk of overlooking the damage it could do to the sport. In The Independent James Lawton spells out the reality very plainly:

There has been a strong sense that somehow Lewis Hamilton has been rescued from unwarranted threats to extraordinary drive into the sun. Here is the ultimate mistake. Hamilton is not apart from the scandal. Whether he is free of any blame or not, he is at its centre… and may yet be the supreme winner in a race which has lost all moral footing.

Photo: Daimler Chrysler

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7 comments on Alonso under attack over leak threat

  1. Ferrari – isn’t that an Italian word for “cheapshots”? That is what Ferrari have done – taken a cheap shot at a team that has wiped the floor with them since the departure of the German robodriver! I have a longer memory than this. Historically Ferrari are not squeaky clean – there have been suggestions a few times that they have done underhand things to gain advantage. It is not that long ago that Ferraris fell apart during races – they never were that reliable. My opinion is that Ferrari are upset about a bit of possible double dealing amongst disgruntled staff and drivers. It has NOTHING to do directly with McLaren and therefore the punishment is TOTALLY UNWARRANTED. Max Mosely needs removing at once from the FIA as he is still apparently talking out of the side of his head at the merest suggestion that Ron Dennis would even contemplate ANY form of industrial espionage. McLaren have the best record – that’s what Ferrari are worried about!

  2. Ben Goldberg said on 15th September 2007, 17:34

    Cheapshots? I don’t see how you can just sit back and not do anything when your main rival has a 780 page file on your car and is using it to help develop their own car. It has to do with McLaren because their own drivers were using the information! Who is McLaren exactly? Did everyone on the team need to be aware of what was happening for them to be guilty? That’s crazy.

  3. Ferrari did lots of dirty things before and probably will do again, but one should not forget, that in this particular case McLaren is the culprit and Ferrari the victim…

    These are words of Ron Dennis by the way:

    “Everything in this document that the FIA says is true,” he said. “True in their content. It happened. But there is only one thing that I feel is not appropriate. This is a fine so disproportionate to the reality of the situation. So the decision I have is not whether to appeal their findings. It is: do I appeal the fine? Does McLaren take a financial hit in the interests of the sport? Once I have reached a decision I will make a recommendation to my shareholders, and it is they who will decide.”

    McLaren should clean up their house, and begin with the drivers … I can’t understand why after all the c*** he had to take from Alonso since Hungary, Dennis still keeps him there. Employee who is so obviously implicated in a case that costs the company $100mil simply can’t stay, unless he did it with the consent of the company and company backs him …

  4. I hate it when fans of the sport are uncapable or telling the difference between extending the rules to the braking point (all teams do it), quietly researching the other teams technology to a point (photographs, analysis and such) and blatant espionage. There’s a huge difference.

    I’m a McLaren fan, as much as a Ferrari and Williams one, and BMW, Super Aguri et al, but clearly this is unheard of, McLaren are guilty and in my eyes the fine is very short of what should be. Tell me this, what team would not pay 100mill gladly to obtain those Ferrari documents? 100mill is what sepparates McLaren budget from other teams, it really is not that much.

    The email thing… someone is not going to win the WDC and will not be driving AT ALL next year.

  5. Atleast now we know what Alonso ment when he said he gave McLaren 5/6tenth of a second :)

  6. verasaki said on 15th September 2007, 23:33

    Is it possible that people actually believe this is all down to a driver or drivers? Read the FIA decision, it is 14 pages long but the print is big and thank goodness it isn’t written in legalese.

    It sounds like people actually think it is probable that Coughlin gave information to De La Rosa who passed it on to Alonso and the three of them were the only ones in a team of how many people ? who would have known about any of this. Talented as any driver may be I doubt they would be able to sneak into a simulator in the dead of night to set everything up and do the testing all by themselves…as the FIA is smart enough to point out. OK, maybe only a few people knew where the data came from or from whom but, I am having a great deal of difficulty believing that everyone kept it a secret from Dennis. People who work that closely together day after day aren’t great secret keepers to start with.

    Maybe Alonso did tell Dennis he’d tout to the FIA, not nice, not kind, but so what. What Dennis said was that when he discovered there was documentation that could be provided to the FIA he let them know of it. Again, I have my doubts to the veracity of that statement as regards the timeliness of his action, I’ll give him the benefit, he may not have realized anyone was keeping emails that so specifically referred to all this…though if someone was careless enough to outsource the copying to a commercial firm I’d think a kontrolmeister like Dennis would have at least asked them about emails or any other communication. Perhaps he never thought that McLaren would get caught up in all of this. I think things like this are pretty common in the sport and when you’re in the middle of it it may very well be difficult to see the difference between inter team gossiping and something like this. I have to admit I’ve been wondering how seriously I take the whole core issue. But neither Alonso or De La Rosa were responsible for McLaren being involved to start with so, as far as I’m concerned they’re just the actors, not the writers or directors of this little drama.

    I think the FIA took the easiest path available to them to put the issue on the books before the end of the season and that’s why they gave the driver’s immunity and only focused on those emails…which may also explain why it was Dennis who took it to the FIA. If they chose to do so, it is probably within the FIA’s scope to demand all McLaren internal/external communications and question any personnel they cared to. Who knows what that would dig up. I doubt they wanted to go there and they wanted to end this now. Don’t mistake me, I don’t think the FIA are a nice bunch of impartial guys just trying to do the right thing for the good of the sport…I just happen to think this was as good a way to end it as any and better than some of the other prospects.

    So, how serious do I think this is? Not much, actually. Yeah, scandal…baaaadddd for sport but it’s full of it and all sports seem to survive. Disrepute? At the end of the day this is a Ferrari internal issue that managed to overflow and plaster everyone else’s bathroom floor. Unless of course someone could find a money trail from another team to a disgruntled employee. That would make it worth all the posturing it’s been. That would turn it into something else.

  7. Verasaki, good analysis. I personally think that Dennis is feeling a bit foolish. After all, Alonso threatened him in the heat of Hungary – and he may not have followed up on that. Dennis made the mistake of trying to one up him with disclosing it to FIA first. See there, you ^%$& spaniard! If he had not, probably all would have calmed down and things would be fine.

    May be not – Mosley says Dennis told him it was an empty threat – and it was the 328 SMSs which told him there was definitely more to it than Dennis’ version.

    I feel bad for Dennis. Alonso was just being the loudmouth he is, and Dennis too it too seriously and is now feeling silly. Two – it is quite likely that many within the team knew about it, what with the testing and Kimi’s pitstop plans and confirmations, but Dennis probably did not.

    Sad. But stuff happens. Given the involvement of McLaren personnel, they got away lightly here. Now get on with it and show us some racing today.

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