Alonso is not the victim of a McLaren conspiracy

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes, Interlagos, 2007 | DaimlerA petition claiming that Fernando Alonso is the victim of ‘irregularities’ has garnered almost 130,000 signatures. Can that many people be wrong? Yes.

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.

Italian Grand Prix 2007, start | Ferrari MediaSome 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.”

Chinese Grand Prix 2007, Shanghai International Circuit, start | DaimlerSimilarly 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?

Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes, Melbourne, 2007 | DaimlerThe 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.


Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2006 | Ferrari MediaI’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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39 comments on “Alonso is not the victim of a McLaren conspiracy”

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  1. Good piece, though this part seems a bit odd:

    “Hamilton broke a rule and Alonso didn’t, which is why Alonso got punished.”

    And, not that I think there’s a conspiracy but it’s fun to argue:

    “I realised tyre pressures were too high and this can happen in qualifying. It was coincidence and a bit of bad luck.”

    Alonso said that during thursday’s press conference, where he and Lewis suddenly were best friends again after all the fighting this season, so I would take that with a pinch of salt.

    “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.”

    Perhaps they did just that. They knew (thought) Lewis was fast enough but you’re not gonna sign big sponsors with an untested rookie. ;)

  2. OK the first part is typo which I’ve now corrected!

  3. I wont argue the contents of the petition coz its mostly bull.

    But about why Mc Laren want to sabotage one driver?
    Thats where you have got it wrong… That is not the question.
    The question is “Would Mc Laren prefer one driver over the other?”
    The answer is big resounding yes.

    Lot of the ex-Mc Laren drivers have quoted that Lewis has been a home boy for Mc Laren, its an added advantage that he is British. The point is if you ask every mechanic whome they would prefer of the two (possibly even before the incidents of the season) to be champ, provided they earned it… They would probably say “Lewis”

    Again this is not a bad thing. Back in Renault if they were asked the same question in 2005,2006 the answer would have been “Alonso”. But back then Alonso was the only one capable of winning the championship in that car!

    In the end of the day every Mc Laren mechanic/engineer would want to win the championship, when that is the goal its better to be two steps ahead of your closest competitor. Fortunately for them they have Lewis and Alonso.

    Is there a clear cut no. 1 in the team. I think so. Alonso said in a recent interview “There cant be equality in F1, there is always a better lap to pit, or a better strategy to choose” Dont you think he has a point. Let say we have to sit down and decide who gets the better lap to stop or better fuel load in qualification? How bout the advantage of the extra lap in quali?
    After that Hungary incident Alonso for a few weeks headed out after the entire group of cars had left the garage.

    Its a hard thing when you cant trust your teammate to do what he promised! Sabotage need not be physical.

    I think the major attempt sabotage has been psychologically this season. Some of the things said against Alonso after the hearings have been extremely distasteful, but they have come mostly from Ron and Lewis. Fortunately that sort of situation is what Alonso thrives on…

    Dont worry about the petition it wont break a straw… The champion will be crowned in a day or so, and he would be the deserving one.

  4. “Hamilton placed his car diagonally when positioning himself on the starting grid,”

    I remember James Allen saying,.. “Hamilton takes aim at Massa”…
    Its possible sometimes, false or misleading statements by the commentators can influence some of these suggestions. James Allen has a way of speaking like he was intepreting the minds of the driver, whereas he is just talking for himself. I’m also surprised people continue to bring that up. Massa, I belive at the very next race, when asked about the incident, said, Hamilton drove normally. If the driver said it was fair, because he gave him the allowed cars width, why should we be complaining that its not fair.

    I remember saying sometime back, that the moment, Alonso realises his accussations of extremely high pressures in his tyres were wrong, that he will stop making noise, he no longer complains about it, cause he has seen the data. Ron Dennis’ statement on the issue even further clarified it all.

  5. In my opinion there is not a Mc Laren nor a FIA conspiracy against Alonso in particular, but I do think there are enough evidences of a favoured attitude to Hamilton from both of them, just see what has happened in this season, just real facts.
    ¿Why Ralf got punished two years ago for similar confussion in tyre use in Montecarlo?

  6. Haas, I think you and I disagree on a fundamental point. Whatever Alonso’s said about the team, the mechanics that work on his car want him to win because he’s driving their car.

    There is absolutely not a clear cut number one in the team. Where you’ve quoted Alonso, you’ve not mentioned that he went on to acknowledge that although there is always a preferential lap to pit on etc…, at McLaren that right is shared between the drivers from race to race. Alonso himself even said, “I’m not saying it’s not equality.”

    I honestly don’t think that McLaren want one of their drivers doing the winning all the time. They want it to be 1988 forever – McLaren producing the best car, running the two best drivers in the world, who battle each other and win all the races (almost…).

    Uk I think your point is answered well by this comment.

  7. Similar tyre confusion my foot.

  8. Yes, Alonso is not getting equal treatment as he is getting better than equal. Why would McLaren not change Lewis tyres in China? Why would McLaren give Lewis the wrong tyres? Sounds like someone at McLaren is trying hard to screw Lewis.

    How can Alonso say he is not be given equal treatment???

  9. AmericanTifosi
    20th October 2007, 15:15

    I don’t think there is a conspiracy, but of course McLaren are favoring Lewis, who in their right mind would place the whiny driver over the championship leader? There is favoritism in every team. There is always a better lap to pit, always a better fuel strategy. You can’t treat two drivers compltetly even because it’s impossible. Fernando is damaging his image this season by complaining so much. If he just got on and raced and concentrated on beating Lewis rather than making excuses, I’d have more respect for him. When Massa was beating Raikkonen early in the season did you hear Kimi complaining? No.

  10. Alonso Follower
    20th October 2007, 18:10

    Sorry, can we be razor sharp clear on the Hungary incident. The team made an error, that’s true, but out of the two drivers of the team, one got punished.

    There is audio evidence of this, as Alonso sat on the pit and was at all times obeying team orders.

  11. No that isn’t true. As the stewards’ full verdict showed Alonso failed to give a satisfactory account of why he sat and waited in the pits after the team had released him to go, delaying Hamilton for the extra few seconds that prevented him setting a final lap.

    Alonso impeded Hamilton, so Alonso got punished for impeding. Hamilton disobeyed an instruction for his team, but there’s no punishment for that. Hamilton hadn’t broken any rules.

    The team were punished because stewards did not believe that they’d held Alonso in the pits to give him better track position. If you read the stewards’ full verdict it explains it all.

  12. All that should not have happened. There is a person who has the biggest blame about it, cause his undiscipline. But yes, Hamilton did not break the rules and Alonso was punished.

    But we are seeing when Hamilton does break the rules, the treatment is very different. There is not a conspiracy anti-Alonso, but a conspiracy pro-Hamilton in detriment of the rest of the drivers.

    Is fair play old fashioned?

  13. Can you give an example of when Hamilton has broken the rules and the punishment has been inconsistent with what has gone before?

  14. What is the point of the petition? They usually have a raison d’etre, right? I’m obviously missing it. Who would start such a nonsensical document and who could they possibly hope to give it to who would either care or be able to act even if it weren’t absolute bollocks, which I agree, it is.

  15. In japan, he did break the rules, he drove erratically behind a safety car and he was less than 5 car lenghts.

    Fia has to be following hamilton to change the rules that he breaks.

  16. AmericanTifosi
    20th October 2007, 22:17

    What about Hamilton (along with Sato and Button) using two sets of extreme wets in P1 and P2? The standard punishment is a five spot grid penalty. Instead, the FIA fined the teams.

  17. Rule breaking aside, I’m not sure where the argument lies. McLaren don’t have to treat their drivers equally unless it’s a part of their pre-ageed contracts.

    No-one’s had an issue with Schumacher’s team-mates playing a number 2 role for the last couple of decades.

    What’s changed all of a sudden??

  18. Regarding comment 15:

    Here’s what the relevant parts of the rule book says:

    40.7 Any car being driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or which is deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers at any time whilst the safety car is deployed will be reported to the stewards. This will apply whether any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the pit lane.
    40.10 The safety car shall be used at least until the leader is behind it and all remaining cars are lined up behind him.
    Once behind the safety car, the race leader must keep within 5 car lengths of it (except under 40.13 below) and all remaining cars must keep the formation as tight as possible.
    40.13 When the clerk of the course calls in the safety car, it must extinguish its orange lights, this will be the signal to the drivers that it will be entering the pit lane at the end of that lap.
    At this point the first car in line behind the safety car may dictate the pace and, if necessary, fall more than five car lengths behind it.

    Note that article 40.7 says ‘will be referred to the stewards’, presumably for them to decide if the driver has done anything wrong, not necessarily meaning that the driver has done something wrong.

    I can’t recall a driver in F1 ever being punished for driving ‘erratically’ behind the safety car so I can’t cite a precedent for comparison. It is a fairly recent addition to the rule book.

    There is dispute over what the other drivers thought of Hamilton’s actions behind the safety car. Mark Webber criticised Hamilton publicly. Alonso said that all the drivers had been critical of Hamilton in the drivers briefing. But Jarno Trulli denied Alonso’s claim, saying of the meeting that they were, “not attacking Lewis at all.”

    I don’t think there is sufficient context to say that on this occasion the FIA definitely treated Hamilton different to how they have treated other drivers. It will be interesting to see whether anyone in future gets punished for driving ‘erratically’ behind the safety car, and what exactly a driver has to do to earn that punishment.

    It appears from the amateur video that Hamilton fell more than five car lengths behind the safety car at the time of Vettel and Webber’s collision.

    Following the race the FIA relaxed the rules for wet conditions, saying they will: “consider cars travelling no more than 10 car lengths apart both advisable and acceptable.”

    They obviously didn’t consider it worth punishing and, again, I don’t think it’s something anyone else has been punished for before. Although I think someone was once warned about following the safety car too closely…

    Regarding comment 16:

    Why do you say a five place grid penalty is the standard punishment for using two sets of wet tyres in first practice? The rule was only introduced this year and this is the first time it’s been broken.

    Five place grid penalties are used to penalise drivers who impede other driver during qualifying. I think that a worse crime than using an extra set of tyres in an untimed session. Simply handing back the extra set of tyres and paying a fine (the punishment that was dished out) seems a lot more reasonable.

  19. tony trackside
    20th October 2007, 23:16

    sorry Alonso is not good enough there is always a new kid on the block who might beat you thats life

    Hamilton is going to be one of the greats in the history of F1 over the fifty years I have followed and competed in the sport he wil be of the few remembered

  20. Hamilton had been warned in Monza about his driving in similar circunstances, he was not punished, so he did think the rules are just for others, and he was true because in Japan he was unpunished too.

    Inmediately, Fia did change the regulations conveniently. The regulations should be fixed since the season starts until it does finish. It is indecent that Fia changes his own regulations in the middle of the season just for the convenience of one driver.

    “I don’t think there is sufficient context to say that on this occasion the FIA definitely treated Hamilton different to how they have treated other drivers.” Really funny.

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