Alonso is not the victim of a McLaren conspiracy

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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

  1. AmericanTifosi said on 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.

  2. Cooperman said on 20th October 2007, 22:29

    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??

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 20th October 2007, 23:01

    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.

  4. tony trackside said on 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

  5. carlos said on 20th October 2007, 23:41

    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.

  6. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 20th October 2007, 23:53

    Carlos, can you give me a link to who warned Hamilton after Monza and what they said because I can’t see anything on that? I’m a bit confused about the reference because the safety car wasn’t deployed at Monza.

    In an ideal world I agree with you that the rules should be fixed and unchanged from the start of the season. But like I said in the piece, people are human and they make mistakes – it does not mean there is a conspiracy. If a rule can be reasonably considered to be wrong then surely you agree it’s better to change the rules than force drives to adhere to a bad rule that may even be dangerous?

    I don’t know whether ordering drivers to keep within five car lengths of the safety car in pouring rain, when they have other safety matters to attend to such as keeping their brakes from glazing over, is reasonable or not. I’ve not been in that position, and unless you’re actually an F1 driver writing under a false name, neither do you.

    Regarding the last point, I know of no context from which to say the FIA definitely treated Hamilton different to how they have treated other drivers because I don’t think any other driver has ever been punished for driving erratically behind the safety car. Do you know of any?

  7. carlos said on 21st October 2007, 0:25

    Keith,

    “people are human and they make mistakes”, ok about it, but we have seen too much mistakes in benefit of only one driver. And precisely this is about we are talking.

    Well, I think about this point we are not going to agree, we have different views(and maybe this is a good thing). Thank you for your comments.

    So, good luck to all of them for tomorrow(today).

  8. Hi Guys, I think it’s difficult to see things when you dont want to, thats human, we ALL do it, but what i see is:

    Hamilton was the responsable (with his driving) or Vettels and Webber’s accident in Japan, In that accident Vettel was punished for being responsable, until was proved that they both were victims of Hamilton’s way of driving, so no one is punished then. FIA says never again. (same as when he was rtescued from the gravel in Germany)

    Alonso got punished in Hungary for a team discoordination asumed by the team as said Ron and Mr Haugh (even when no writen rule was broken) and Alonso got punished. But in Barsil, a writen rule was broken again by bad gestion from the team, and Hamilton was not punished. Similar rule involving tyre use was broken by Ralf only two years ago in Monaco, and he got punished.

    Alonso got punished in Monza when he was in his fast lap 80 metres in front of Massa and “disturbed” him, now Hamilton ruins last attemp from Raikkonen when he was getting into the track from boxes, even HE wasn’t in his fast lap, and again Hamilton is not punished.

    Isn’t thsi enough to see that Hamilton receives different treatment than the rest of drivers??? for me is enough

  9. Surely asking about whether the FIA have deviated from precedent regarding Lewis Hamilton is like asking if a bear s**** in the woods. Their punishments are notoriously inconsistent, so you cannot possibly rely on past instances to determine whether a “fair” punishment was handed out.

    What we can say is that Lewis Hamilton has broken the rules several times this season and has never been punished for it.

  10. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st October 2007, 13:20

    Regarding comment 23, note that after Alonso was punished for impeding Massa last year the FIA said that in the future only drivers who deliberately impeded other drivers would be punished.

    Alonso was punished in Hungary because he deliberately impeded Hamilton.

    Also remember what happened in qualifying yesterday occurred after I wrote the article above. But nevertheless I don’t think you can blame Hamilton for Raikkonen’s mistake.

    The incident was clearly different to what happened at the Hungary because Hamilton didn’t prevent Raikkonen from doing a lap.

    Nor did Hamilton ‘impede’ Raikkonen in the same way Alonso impeded Massa in the first example – both times Raikkonen approached him Hamilton stayed off the racing line and let him pass.

    I would have thought that the fact neither Raikkonen nor Ferrari appealed against Hamilton’s driving would be a pretty clear sign that what he did was within the rules. Especially as Ferrari would have known that, were Hamilton punished, he would have been moved back five places on the grid, which would help Raikkonen’s championship bid no end.

    Regarding comment 24, I think the only rule Hamilton has broken this year is the one about driving within five metres of the safety car. This happened in extraordinarily adverse safety conditions and the FIA have now changed the rule.

    I think it’s also worth noting that in the course of these comment the terms of the debate appear to have changed from ‘is there a McLaren conspiracy against Alonso’ to ‘is there an FIA conspiracy in favour of Hamilton’? Just an observation.

  11. It is also worth noting that the cause of all this debate is our lack of encyclopaedic knowledge of the rules (Keith and Alianora excepted, of course) and this is to be expected when the rulebook has become as extensive and complex as it is. Whilst accepting that F1 is a sport that requires precise definitions and clear distinctions, I have to say that the complications generated by years of fiddling with the rules have made things worse, not better. The FIA should give Alianora the job of completely re-writing the book in clear and simple terms that do not leave room for personal interpretation.

    As I said before, punish the rule!

  12. “Why would McLaren want to sabotage their own driver?” Agreed.

    And why would the McLaren boss say that they were against their own driver instead of Ferrari’s?

    McLaren is a falling kingdom ruled by a decrepit old man, that’s why. Wait for a surprise from ze Germans, they have payed most of the disaster.

  13. Jaime said on 23rd October 2007, 17:26

    (About Hungaroring Q3)
    So, since that problem between Massa and Alonso, there is a established punishment… And he (Alonso) was obeying radio team orders, coz drivers can not know the time left… Did they know about that punishment(the team)? Did they do it in purpose?

  14. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd October 2007, 17:35

    I think that’s pretty well covered in the stewards’ verdict.

  15. Jaime said on 23rd October 2007, 17:55

    That means alonso lied!! At least to spanish media… (I can post the link to a spanish web site… but i think is useless!)

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