The FIA have even gone so far as to appoint a special steward to ensure Alonso and Lewis Hamilton receive equal treatment at McLaren this weekend as both fight for the world championship, following complaints by Alonso and Spanish motor sport federation head Carlos Gracia.
Is there really a plot against Alonso? No. What we have here is a conspiracy theory with not a shred of evidence to back it up.
The petition lists a series of grievances ranging from well-known incidents like the furore at the Hungaroring during qualifying, to some less obvious complaints.
Apparently when a lighting pod fell on Alonso’s car on Saturday night at the Bahrain Grand Prix, causing minor damage to the front wing, that was no accident. No, it was the sinister hand of McLaren trying to twist events in Hamilton’s favour.
Some of the other complaints betray a total unfamiliarity with the F1 rule book. Regarding the Italian Grand Prix, “Hamilton placed his car diagonally when positioning himself on the starting grid,” which is not illegal, drivers have been doing it for years. Nor is it illegal to move back towards the racing line having moved once to defend your position. It’s not as if there have been widespread complaints about Hamilton’s driving from other racers.
There are several well-worn controversies that are worth noting. Of course the ‘injustice’ of the Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying is trotted out, where Alonso was punished for delaying Hamilton in the pits, but Hamilton received no sanction for refusing to let Alonso past at the start of qualifying. As has been noted here before, Alonso broke a rule and Hamilton didn’t, which is why Alonso got punished. Simple as that.
Some of petition’s points about more recent races have since been dismissed by Alonso himself. Regarding Shanghai he recently said: “I realised tyre pressures were too high and this can happen in qualifying. It was coincidence and a bit of bad luck.”
Similarly regarding Ron Dennis’s remark “we were racing Fernando” when referring to Hamilton’s strategy in the Chinese race Alonso said: “I was surprised, but I think it is difficult to see what is true, what is just normal words that you say after the race and if you take in a different way you can make some problems. I don’t see anything strange, I was surprised but not really worried.”
Things have also gone wrong for Hamilton this year: the wheel failure in qualifying at the Nurburgring, the bad tyre strategy calls at the Nurburgring and Shanghai, and the tyre failure at Istanbul. If these had happened to Alonso, no doubt they would form part of this roster of woe. As it is, they’re ignored.
Three teams broke the tyre rules yesterday. One of them was McLaren – but it wasn’t Alonso whose weekend was put in jeopardy was it?
But the strongest argument against the flimsy ‘evidence’ presented is this: there is not a shred of proof. It complains about controversies like the collision between Webber and Vettel under the safety car at Shanghai while Hamilton was leading, but it doesn’t say why Hamilton should be held responsible and what rule he is supposed to have broken.
There are plenty of obvious arguments against the conspiracy theory, Here’s two:
Why would McLaren want to sabotage their own driver?
The petition assumes that Alonso has been nobbled since the beginning of the season, which is just preposterous. The suggestion that a team would sign a double world champion, ink numerous high-value contracts with sponsors on the back of the deal, and then sabotage his efforts from day one, deserves only contempt.
If the team wanted Hamilton to win and no-one else, they’d have paired him with a less competitive driver. Signing two top drivers and letting them fight among themselves is the McLaren way, regardless of what headaches it may have given them. It was thus for Prost and Lauda, Prost and Senna, Senna and Berger, Hakkinen and Coulthard, Raikkonen and Coulthard, Raikkonen and Montoya, and so on.
Alonso and Hamilton are both brilliant drivers who McLaren have given equal equipment to. And if either of them is champion tomorrow they will deserve it because they have beaten a strong team mate in equal machinery.
If there is a conspiracy, why has it failed?
If McLaren really wanted Alonso to lose the title to Hamilton, do you really think he’s be only four points behind him at the final race?
No, he’d have had a blown engine here and a hydraulic failure there. McLaren had plenty of retirements last year, it’s not as if it would have looked unusual.
I’m certainly not saying that the FIA gets everything right – far from it. At the Hungarian Grand Prix last year Michael Schumacher went off the track to keep position over another driver, and went unpunished. At the Monaco Grand Prix this year several drivers cut the track at the first corner to overtake another driver, and went unpunished.
Drivers, teams, governing bodies, they’re all run by humans and they all make mistakes.
But to suggest a team would conspire against its driver with the implicit approval of the governing body makes no sense, has no justification, and has no proof to back it up. It’s a classic conspiracy theory.
Princess Diana was not killed by the British Secret Service at the behest of the Duke of Edinburgh. Neil Armstrong did walk on the surface of the moon. And Fernando Alonso is not receiving unequal treatment at McLaren.
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