Alonso continues attacks on McLaren & Hamilton

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2007 | DaimlerFernando Alonso can still win the 2007 championship – but he’s preparing for defeat by seizing every opportunity to take swipes at Lewis Hamilton and McLaren.

So far this weekend he’s alleged that the stewards handed Hamilton the championship by not punishing him after the Japanese Grand Prix, angered McLaren boss Ron Dennis by refusing to deny that McLaren would purposefully hinder his title bid, and later launched into a scathing denunciation of how Dennis runs McLaren.

Here’s what he said:

In Thursday’s press conference Alonso was asked, “Do you think you have been treated in a fair way by the team or could maybe the team favour Lewis by making subtle changes to your car, like tyre pressures or wing settings?”

Alonso’s reply was:

Difficult question… I will not answer.

Nothing could be guaranteed to anger Ron Dennis more and his reaction was predictably furious:

There are numerous equality clauses in our contracts, they are reciprocal. We never have, never will and certainly are not favouring either driver at the moment.

This is a straight fight and I’m obviously disappointed that someone who really has all the knowledge should not be more direct and open with the response.”

It strikes a raw nerve with Dennis who remembers the acrimonious world championship of 1989, fought out between bitter rivals Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in McLaren. Prost, like Alonso today, fell out with the team and arranged to leave.

Dennis was furious when FIA President Jean-Marie Balestre (Prost’s fellow Frenchman) instructed Dennis in a public letter to ensure both drivers received fair treatment. Dennis insisted that his drivers would be treated equally.

Asked to defend his ‘no comment’ Alonso later responded:

It’s better to be silent than to lie, that’s for sure. And that’s something he [Dennis] should do more often and I think the team would do better. Many of the scandals McLaren have been involved in off the track this year have been created by his things.

Each one has his own philosophy, he has his, and we all understand it. I have spoken a lot with Coulthard, with Montoya, with Kimi, and they have all left the team and found a lot of happiness. There must be a reason.

Alonso’s remarks are confusing and even contradictory. Sometimes he appears to be insinuating that Hamilton gets preferential treatment from the team. Other times he seems annoyed that he is given exactly the same treatment as Hamilton, or unhappy that, in giving drivers fair treatment over the long term, it means certain drivers are compromised at different times:

[Dennis] didn’t promise me anything. You are always hearing about that so called equality in the team, but tell me what you brag about and I’ll tell you what you are lacking.

It’s impossible to have equality in a Formula One team, there’s always a better engine, a better lap to stop in, there’s always a better option.

I’m not saying it’s not equality, because sometimes it’s one driver’s turn and other times it’s the other’s, but you always hear him talk about that or promising things, and it’s not like that.

Alonso’s gripe appears to be that he assumed he would be given primacy in the team over Hamilton, which hasn’t happened, and he now feels that the team are given Hamilton more favourable treatment than he is.

But his endless sniping at the team, which has noticeably escalated since their very public fall-out at the Hungarian Grand Prix, comes across as though he is seizing every single stick to beat them with.

I don’t believe his claim McLaren are favouring Hamilton for one second – it just doesn’t add up. Why hire a double champion in the first place and then favour the rookie?

Before the season began many of McLaren’s race mechanics wanted to be on Alonso’s side of the garage because they expected the double world champion to lead the way. Does that sound like an team where one driver is given preference over another? Because it sounds like a meritocracy to me, which is exactly what an F1 team should be.

Alonso clearly has been used to a different kind of environment at Renault. Giancarlo Fisichella was never a threat to him and his predecessor, Jarno Trulli, was dumped from the team before the end of 2004 after giving Alonso a hard time all year. The Spaniard even crashed out at Monte-Carlo trying to beat his team mate.

If we’ve learned one thing about Alonso this year it’s that he cannot stand to be beaten by the guy in the same car as him. Further evidence of that also came this weekend.

After a difficult qualifying session today Alonso went on the attack once more, claiming that the stewards were wrong not to punish Hamilton over the incident behind the safety car at the Japanese Grand Prix:

I’m not thinking of this championship anymore, it’s been decided off the track.

The drivers’ briefing has no purpose. You go there to hear what Charlie Whiting and the other officials say. Twenty one drivers have an opinion, Charlie and the officials another, and so it’s like talking to a wall. It’s better not to waste time and try to have fun in the car.

Alonso’s words remind me of his anger after being punished in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix last year. Alonso was adjudged to have impeded Felipe Massa despite the Ferrari driver being 100m behind him at the time.

Afterwards he famously said, “I don’t consider F1 a sport anymore.”

Hearing him criticise Hamilton in the same way now, those words have a hollow ring.

Alonso had a lot of paddock sympathy on his side for his punishment at Monza last year. But complaining in this way about a stewards ruling on an incident he wasn’t involved in, and which is far less clear-cut than the Monza incident last year, makes him seem desperate and bitter.

He also said of McLaren:

I’m ready to do the best I can, to help the team, to have a good car and try to win races. But… things like what they say or do, or days like at Spa, or all the lies that they leak to the press, both British and German, to go against me. That, inside my own team… they have to do something to improve the situation.

But he did, at least, have one positive thing to say about Hamilton:

I think so, I think he deserves it if he wins it in the end. I think you have to know how to win and how to lose, and if I don’t win this year it’s because someone has scored more points than me, and if that’s the case it’s because he has done a better job.

“You have to know how to win and how to lose.” On the evidence of this, Alonso hasn’t yet mastered the art of being a graceful loser. Perhaps he hasn’t had much practice.

Twelve months ago I was glad to see him win his second title – he hadn’t made a mistake all year or employed the kind of cynical tactics that Michael Schumacher resorted to in Monte-Carlo.

But this year his inability to accept equal status with Hamilton and his string of attacks on a team that have given a car that allows him to fight for the championship, make him seem an entirely different person.

Photo: Daimler

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53 comments on “Alonso continues attacks on McLaren & Hamilton”

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  1. although being objective is nearly imposible I can help but thinking Lewis is getting Ron’s favours. These are Ron’s words after China:

    “The problem was rain and his (Hamilton’s) tyres were in the worst condition. But we weren’t at all fazed about Kimi. We weren’t racing Kimi, we were basically racing Fernando.
    “Kimi winning and Lewis coming second was adequate. It just didn’t quite work out that way.”
    Taken from British press…
    Who is still thinking they get equal treatment?

  2. Any good team, will always use the term “We”, in response to their drivers, and Ron always talks like that, especially when like in this case the team was basically responsible for his pit stop fiasco. Everything is not always black and white. It may surprise you to find, the team may just want him, Alonso, to win it so he can pack his things and go elsewhere.

    But then, I am still of the belief Alonso has insulted his race engineers and mechanics, for implying that he gets no support in the team.

  3. Oliver,
    I can not accept that the meaning of the words of Dennis may be just reduced to semantic terms.I try to understand your reasoning, but for me it does make non sense. I think simply all of them are exposing clearly their likes and dislikes, Dennis, Alonso, Hamilton, Ecclestone…
    About the mechanics, may be Alonso is not an easy going person, I am not his biggest fan, but I think he is not stupid. Nobody would accuse his own team, his own mechanics, if there is not a previous reasonably shadow of doubt about your team is doing.
    The mechanics did feel insulted…well, maybe Alonso did feel something like that.

  4. Hi Olover,
    As you said, lets judge on verifiable facts:
    -Barhein: Alonso’s car is damaged during the night.
    -Canada: Alonso complains about car behaviour, Lewis car was OK
    -France: Problems in Q3 for Alonso (gear box was damaged, not Lewis one)
    -Belgium: A lid from the oil tank was missing in Fernando’s car.
    -Japan: Tire pressure incorrect in Fernando’s car (just for Q3)
    -China: Alonso was the fastest during tests but slower again in Q3 plus Ron’s words
    -Bad pit strategy for Alonso in Australia and USA

    -Germany: Lewis car on track by the tow track
    -Hungary incident (changing rules??!?!?!?!)
    -Italy: Illegal start from Lewis, no punishment at all.

    Obviously these are facts that refer to Alonso, other drivers could complain for other reasons but I never heard something like that at any other sport.

  5. David:

    I assume you are directing this at me “As you said, lets judge on verifiable facts”

    -Barhein: Alonso’s car is damaged during the night.
    ->The team said a lighting pod fell on his car, perhaps they were working late into the night. There are enough spares to replace any faulty parts and if they wanted to impede him in anyway, it would have been much easier to give his car a misfire.

    -Canada: Alonso complains about car behaviour, Lewis car was OK
    ->Alonso has never really done well in Canada, even when he was at Renault. Lets not forget the Canadian circuit requires lower down force levels than most other track apart from Monza, and also they set up the car with very hard springs to promote fast response of the cars handling, he may not like the feel of the car based on that.

    -France: Problems in Q3 for Alonso (gear box was damaged, not Lewis one)
    -> Gearbox problems can affect anyone without warning, even though the cars are made to such high levels of precision, the occasional parts failure does occur, you can ask the RBR team about such matters and even BMW. It can happen to anyone, and besides it didnt affect him much, even Lewis has been beset by his own car issues.

    -Belgium: A lid from the oil tank was missing in Fernando’s car.
    ->Perhaps they needed to work on the car in a hurry and forgot to place it back properly, by the way you dont say if it was during practice, qualifying or race and it didnt affect him.

    -Japan: Tire pressure incorrect in Fernando’s car (just for Q3)
    -> How do u know the tire pressures where incorrect?, Bridgestone keeps all records of tire pressures and temperatures so its easily verifiable

    -China: Alonso was the fastest during tests but slower again in Q3 plus Ron’s words
    -> Rons words didnt affect Alonso’s qualifying. By the way, you also forgot to mention that Alonso carried 3 or 4 laps greater quantity of fuel in his car, that on its own should amount for some of the time difference. Also Kimi had being faster all weekend, But Lewis set a faster time than Kimi even. And I followed qualifying keenly and I noticed at the begining of Alonso’s qualifying run, after the first timed sector, his status was green, meaning he was faster than before in that sector, then he lost some time in the other sectors, perhaps he made a mistake. Even Massa was fueled lighter than Kimi and should have been on pole but he admitted he made a mistake on that run.

    -Bad pit strategy for Alonso in Australia and USA
    ->Alonso got the better pit strategy in Australia thats how he was able to jump Lewis after his second pits stop. You forgot to mention also, that Alonso got the better pit strategy in Barcelona and Monaco and several other tracks.

    -Germany: Lewis car on track by the tow track
    ->The regulations previously allowed for the cars to be retrievable, and if repairable, the ability to continue with the race. All other cars had stoped or too damaged, his car was still running. Blame the regulations and not the driver.

    -Hungary incident (changing rules??!?!?!?!)
    -> Lewis was somehow responsible, but Alonso should have waited for the team to punish Lewis, because Lewis’ actions were solely a team affair. Alonso blocking him in the pits, put it in the category of impeding another competitor during qualifying. The FIA mishandled it in my opinion, but they were left with very little options.

    -Italy: Illegal start from Lewis, no punishment at all.
    -> I must have missed somethng, please clarify

  6. David:

    I forgot to add also, the numerous occassions, the previos two seasons Alonso was at Renault, when Fisichella’s car was always the one coming up with problems.
    By the way, It may also interest you to note that the first complaint Alonso made about the his team, was that some of the engineers cheered more for Lewis’s qualifying than they dis his.

    Anyway, keith has thankfully provided the link to the article on the retrieving of vehicles from the track, i hope u read it very well it may better help you understand the crane incident.

  7. Oliver,

    You say in Hungary incident Alonso should have waited for the team to punish Lewis,well Lewis was not punished anyway. Before in Monaco, they had team instructions to slow down, Alonso did it, Hamilton did not it, the team did not punish Hamilton. This is a clear precedent about what Alonso could wait from his team to punish Hamilton in Hungary.
    Fia was not right applying an unknown rule to punish Alonso, while in Japan they do not apply a sanction to Hamilton for the irregularities behind a safety car. It is not easy to judge but I think there is inconsistency in the way that Fia determines to apply the rules. The conduct of Alonso was not worst than Hamilton’s.

  8. Bizkai:

    Thats so funny. If Hamilton didnt slow down, then surely he would have run out of room and straight into the back of Alonso. Why should the team then punish the driver for doing what he was asked to do, which was to finish second behind Alonso. Also, you are just assuming that he did not get a reprimand from the team. Perhaps your idea of punishment is for him to be tied and horsewhipped at the pit entry. Maybe that was done in Roman times but unlikely today.

    And by your own statement, you are confirming that Alonso was favoured by the team to win that race, irrespective of what fuel strategy each driver may have started the race with. If then Alonso had favours from the top of the team to win the race, how then does he then complain that he is alone in the team and gets no help.

    At the Fuji race, Hamilton was way to the right of the track when he slowed, if other drivers could not use their discretion when driving behind the safety car in such conditions, then they have themselves to blame. If he had slowed down in front of Webber, why didnt Webber hit him? Vettel by his own admission, has stated that he was not looking in front of him, but looking at Hamiltons car to his side, perhaps if he wasnt strapped to his car maybe he would have stood up to look behind aswell.

    I have supported Alonso all these years, but that doesnt necessarily mean he is always correct. As for the FIA, they dont always get it right. But at the same time, they dont always have to punish just to make some people happy.

  9. Oliver,

    You present the things as if a fact would be a well done thing. About Japan you blame webber and vettel,and being true I do find it is not all the truth, Webber did find hamilton going left right,accelerating and deccelerating, as if he had an wasp inside his car, Wettel did find the same thing. Many other drivers did talk about this and they ,being there, have a very different opinion than yours about who has the biggest blame of it.

    Respect to another subjects that you respond to David, the crane in Germany, you introduce this as a fact already solved correctly, but this is very far to be true. Still there is many doubts about how they did interpret the rules about the use of the crane. And we have seen previously that not all the drivers have enjoyed the same mild interpretation in similar circunstances.

  10. Bizkai

    To some extent we share a similar opinion, however, and like I’ve said repeatedly, those conditions where horrible, and I will be the last to say Hamiltons drive under the SC was superb, but in his defense, he did call his pit, to warn Webber not to get too close. Perhaps he had a wasp in the car afterall. And I will also draw your attention to the fact that most of the drivers who talked about Hamiltons drive under the safety car, could only make their comments after watching some recording, and not actually from directly viewing the car on the track. The first statement Vettel made was that he saw Hamilton’s car on the ride side of the track and was looking if he had a problem. At no point did he talk about Hamiltons driving, until perhaps, the Redbull team had brought that up at a point. So his accusation of Hamilton was probably in hindsight.

    About the crane incident, Its not often you see drivers getting embedded in the gravel trap, maintaing their engines running for a long time, and most of the regulations concerning the retrieval of cars are obscure and not often considered, mainly because on a dry track, the time involved in retrieving a stuck vehicle would be so long compared to the relative lap times of the cars and as such, a retrieved car would probably be a lap or 2 down. I might also want to add, that, until the change of the regulations, reducing the size of the engines, most engines ran very very hot, and if they stay too long in a static position, they soon overheat and stop running. If you now couple that with the supposed ability of the Mclaren Mercedes engine to run only on 4 cylingers and the associated lower operating tempertures, it is no surprise then, that he was able to keep his engine running for such a long time.

    Hamilton had the will to continue racing, one of his mantra’s is “I never give up” that may have come to his aid in the situation, and gave the team time to read through the regulations.

    Because of the uproar created by that incident, the regulations were then ammended to deny such possibilities, just like how the regulations were also changed to elliminate the possibility of some teams making use of flexible floors.

    Bizkai, please try read that link properly it will make things quite clear, or rather it would create a doubt in your mind, if you are right or wrong.

    Do not allow your desire to see a driver punished. to then create some level of equality, cloud your level of reasoning. And if you so desire that he be punished, what in your own estimation will be the right amount of punishment for his alleged transgressions.

  11. Oliver,

    Well, I am very ok about all you say, still not happy, but ok.

    You do manage a great quantity of information, thank you for share it, I do appreciate it very much.

    Right amount of punishment? Shylock said one pound, good for me.

    Still, good luck, Hamilton.

  12. Bizkai:

    After the tumult, that is this 2007 season, I can no longer take sides or make judgements. And honestly, I’ve been left somewhat numb by the whole affair, that come the last race, I would simply just watch without emotion, cheering for no driver, for all the drivers have driven well, and have shown great skill, that is what I want to consign to memory. I hope that in the end, in its own way, fate would contrive to produce a worthy champion.

  13. Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your site is very helpful. Many thanks for sharing!

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