Hungary 2007: the whole story

2007 F1 season

Strained smiles for Alonso and Hamilton after qualifying at Hungary in \'07

Strained smiles for Alonso and Hamilton after qualifying at Hungary in '07

The 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix was the turning point of last year’s season.

This was the moment when the fraught relations betwen Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton at McLaren went into meltdown. Harsh words between Alonso and Ron Dennis brought new evidence to the eyes of the FIA which would lead to McLaren’s expulsion from the constructors’ championship – and Alonso’s departure from the team.

Here’s a look back at how McLaren’s disaster unfolded with each original article from this site from that weekend and more information that has come to light since.

4th August 2007 (Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying)

Hungarian GP 2007 qualifying: Alonso’s tainted triumph – Immediately after qualifying little was known about what had happened at McLaren. But it was plain for all to see that Alonso had blocked his team mate in the pits, preventing him from completing his final run in qualifying.

Video: Alonso’s dirty trick on Hamilton – The video footage of what happened.

Alonso’s qualifying stunt: 21 opinions – While the stewards summoned McLaren and dwelled on the incident debates raged.

Dennis says Alonso not to blame – Finally solid details about what had happened began to emerge. Ron Dennis told the world the problem began with Hamilton failing to let Alonso past earlier in the session. He also said McLaren had held Alonso in the pits intentionally. But did that include the ten seconds where Alonso was stationary after the lollipop had been lifted?

Alonso & McLaren punished by stewards – The stewards didn’t believe McLaren’s explanation about the lollipop. Alonso got a five place grid penalty and McLaren were told they would not score constructors’ championship points that weekend.

5th August 2007 (Hungarian Grand Prix)

The stewards’ full verdict on McLaren and Alonso – Alonso’s claim he spent the final 10 seconds in conversation with his engineer were met with scepticism.

Another PR disaster for McLaren – Meanwhile two newspapers were claiming they had dialogue of a furious, expletive-ridden exchange between Hamilton and Dennis at the end of qualifying.

Hungarian Grand Prix 2007 review: Hamilton edges out Raikkonen – Hamilton won from pole position while Alonso could only managed fourth from sixth.

6th August 2007

Any sympathy for McLaren? – My thoughts on how McLaren’s efforts to treat their drivers equally had backfired.

British tabloids blame Alonso – Reportage from one section of the British press was predictably one-sided. As far as the tabloids were concerned, Hamilton had done nopthing wrong.

14th September 2007

Ron Dennis revealed evidence against McLaren to FIA – After the verdict against McLaren in the ‘spygate’ case was announced it became clear that the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend had played a significant role.

Alonso and de la Rosa’s emails led to McLaren’s punishment – According to Dennis, Alonso threatened to make the contents of several compromising emails in his possession available to the FIA. Alonso has denied this version of events but not yet offered his side of the story.

4th February 2008

Was Dennis to blame in McLaren’s Hungary row? – A long time after the events a report in The Times claimed to have the real details of what was actually said between Hamilton and Dennis on the radio. It quoted Dennis saying, “That’s what happens when you don’t [expletive] do what you’re told.”

Perhaps this weekend, one year on from the events of 2007, fresh details may come to light to explain this confusing, disputed, and highly controversial episode.

Fernando Alonso turned his back on McLaren after the Hungary controversy

Fernando Alonso turned his back on McLaren after the Hungary controversy

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22 comments on Hungary 2007: the whole story

  1. Tim said on 30th July 2008, 10:33

    A very difficult situation which none of the main players – Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso or McLaren – emerged with much to be proud of.

    Hungary was one of the tracks in 2007 where one driver (but not both) could have an extra lap in Q3 and, under the arrangements put in place by McLaren, this was Fernando’s turn for the extra lap.

    Hamilton appears to have sparked the situation by refusing to allow Alonso past him at the start of Q3. Lewis failed to honour his part of the deal. Various reasons have been offered for why Hamilton did this – intra-team gamesmanship, concern that Kimi Raikkonen was close enough to pass, concern that Alonso was deliberately going slowly to require Lewis to drop back and lose time, etc. My view is for the former, but I don’t think anyone other than Hamilton really knows.

    Either way, it is clear that there was an intra-team agreement and that, for whatever reason, Lewis broke it. Regardless of how dishonourable this may be, it isn’t against the sporting regulations.

    At the end of the session, Fernando’s car then held Lewis up in the pitlane, despite the lollypop having been lifted to release him, preventing Hamilton from getting in a final low fuel lap. Alonso said he was talking to the team about tyres. McLaren said something else. Neither version really stacked up and it appeared that Fernando’s car remained stationary in retaliation for Lewis’ conduct earlier in the session. Was it McLaren or Alonso who decided to retaliate or both? Ron Dennis was clearly furious with Hamilton, but I suspect it was Fernando who decided to act in the heat of the moment.

    Alonso’s anger appears to have been justified – but his reaction was immature and cost him the points that, at the end of the year, would have given him a third world championship. Moreover, Fernando clearly impeded another car and the sporting regulations provide for a grid place penalty in such situations. One was duly applied and the then reigning world champion has no one to blame for this but himself.

    My view is that the drivers were responsible for their actions in Q3, and that McLaren were taken completely by surprise by it all. To me, Ron Dennis’ comments to Lewis over the radio indicate frustration with Hamilton’s attitude and sympathy with Alonso’s position – but this is not a smoking gun that McLaren engineered the pitlane hold up to punish Hamilton.

    There were other ways that McLaren could have dealt with the situation to avoid punishment and possibly even the spygate affair – e.g. pulling Lewis out of the car before his final run, giving the “extra lap” or preferred strategy privileges to Alonso for the rest of the year, fined Hamilton or withdrawn him from the race, etc. Either way, Ron should have been experienced enough to cool Fernando’s temper during Q3 to ensure that the Spaniard didn’t feel he needed to take revenge on his team mate.

    For what it’s worth, Alonso’s threat to Ron to spill the beans on spygate unless Hamilton was put back in his box, was one made in anger rather than a pre-meditated, cold blooded attempt to sabotage his team. A driver of Fernando’s intelligence, on reflection, would surely have appreciated that he was at as much risk of punishment as McLaren. Had cooler heads prevailed on that day, spygate would probably not have happened. Had Ron managed to better manage Hamilton and/or calm Alonso down more effectively, he would have saved himself several million dollars.

  2. Rabi said on 30th July 2008, 11:25

    Completely agree with what you have said Tim, Ron should have stepped in and calmed things down when it was beginning to boil over. One would think that after having to handle Prost and Senna for those years that Ron would be better handling driver ego’s than he proved in Hungary last year.

  3. Nirupam said on 30th July 2008, 12:35

    I wish I could have arranged an open hall session with Ron, Alonso and Lewis!
    But anyway.. both the drivers behaved rather immaturely but still in that type of scenario, it has to be a manager’s call and surely Ron should have dealt better!

    May be we will all get to know what exactly hapened when Fernando/Lewis both will retire..

  4. Phil B said on 30th July 2008, 15:55

    I find it very difficult to beleive that Ron would instruct one of his drivers to hamper the qualification efforts of the other. Particularly not to the detriment of Hamilton. For my money it was probably entirely down to Alonso deciding to pay (with justification) Hamilton back over the extra lap issue.

    One interesting question arises though: If the extra lap issue was malicious on the part of Hamilton was this the first salvo in their battle or did something else spark it off earlier? I wonder if Hamilton would simply decide for no reason, one half way through the season, to stop co-operating with his team-mate….

  5. the limit said on 31st July 2008, 3:53

    Hungary 2007 is pretty much where Fernando Alonso’s relationship came to end in any realistic sense, but the real damage had been done at Monaco.
    Alonso, having won Monaco fair and square, had to deal with the suggestion that McLaren had told Hamilton to back off and hold second place. This does not excuse Alonso for what happened at Hungary, but the cracks were emerging following the episode at Monaco.
    Both the British and Spanish media had plenty to say about the alledged McLaren team orders, and for me, it is impossible not to think that this did not cause friction between the two drivers.
    There is alot that we still don’t know, and perhaps never will, about Alonso’s true relationship within McLaren. What we do know is that Alonso’s reputation was forever tarnished by his actions that day, which would cost him points that ‘may’ well have won him the championship.

  6. Samuel said on 1st August 2008, 16:19

    Team Radio would be the key here. I’ve seen a transcription of Fernando’s team radio published spanish media (see here). Unfortunately I don’t know if it’s the real one and even if it were, since it’s a translation could have been intentionally misinterpreted.

    Said that, if that transcription is true, there was no malice in what Alonso did. He argued with his engineer about his tyres after the lollipop is raised which coud have taken ten seconds easily. Also, I found hard to believe than a F1 racer can think on the go a plan which needs a such precise timing to succeed (a few seconds more and he was out).

    As an Alonso fan I’m tempted to accept this trascription as a true one, leaked to the press by someone at McLaren, but I have to accept that there are no proof about its authenticity. Anyway, if McLaren would disclose these conversations(Fernando’s and Lewis’s ones), everyone could have a more precise idea about what really happened.

  7. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th August 2008, 11:53

    According to Alan Henry McLaren considered firing Alonso for blocking Hamilton in the pits: more here

    It leads to the inevitable question, why didn’t they? Perhaps after Alonso threatened to make his emails public they thought firing him would send out the message he’d been fired for exposing the team.

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