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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