Fernando Alonso criticises McLaren again

2008 F1 season

Fernando Alonso has continued his criticism of former team McLaren

Fernando Alonso has continued his criticism of former team McLaren

Fernando Alonso has sparked fresh debate about his controversial season with McLaren last year by making several critical remarks about the team in recent interviews.

I think he’s starting to sound a bit like Niki Lauda and David Coulthard…

Alonso on McLaren

Before the Hungarian Grand Prix Alonso told the press:

Last year again it is true that I had a possibility to fight for the championship and it was okay. I knew that this year it was not possible any more. But if I was racing for McLaren now at this moment maybe I would be in the same position as I am now without the possibility to win.

Alonso seems to be saying that although he was allowed to race Hamilton for the championship last year, he does not believe Heikki Kovalainen is allowed to this year. This is something McLaren have denied since Kovalainen joined the team.

Dennis on equality

When asked about Alonso’s latest remarks, McLaren boss Ron Dennis said:

You can’t see any strings leading to Heikki’s shoulders and he’s an honest guy. He will more than convince anyone who talks to him that this is a team absolutely committed to equality. It always has been, and it always will be.

People will point to the [2008 German] Grand Prix and say it’s absolutely obvious there were team orders in that event because it was clear that Heikki moved over and let Lewis past. The essential fact was that throughout that race Lewis was nearly seven-tenths of a second faster than Heikki and he knew that, he was told that. He was not told to let Lewis past.

But when you are in a team and you know that your teammate has the opportunity of winning the race and you don’t, if you have the right values and values that are not lodged solely and exclusively in your own motives, your own objectives and your own selfishness, then you take a decision. Which is allow the driver past to have a chance of winning the race – which he did.

The exchange of positions between Kovalainen and Hamilton was no different to BMW’s switch between Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica in Canada. And it differed only in execution to how Ferrari got Kimi Raikkonen ahead of Felipe Massa in Brazil last year.

Non-disclosure agreement

Dennis also pointed out there was a non-disclosure clause involved when Alonso’s contract was terminated:

When the contract with Fernando was terminated there were pre-conditions which determined the behaviour of both parties post-termination. We have no intention of breaching that agreement. His opinion is his opinion – I’m not going to voice my opinion about anything that Fernando has done or said.

Personality clash

Both Dennis and Alonso presumably have more to reveal about the events of the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix (discussed at length here last week). But Dennis also had this to say:

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. You could go back through the entire history of McLaren, you could talk to any driver that has driven for McLaren and you will not find anyone – save for one – who will not verify that this team always runs on the basis of equality and always will.

Mechanical equality is one thing but what is different – and what I think Alonso has been trying to explain, not always successfully – is personal preference. And past McLaren drivers other than Alonso have said that Ron Dennis has preferred other drivers over them – such as David Coulthard in his autobiography: “It is what it is”:

Over the forthcoming seasons [after he joined in 1996] I gradually started to sense the tinge of favouritism was actually becoming far more tangible, untl it was clear – to me – that Ron blatantly favoured Mika. That’s not a subjective favouritism, as in he preferred Mika socialism; I am talking about professionally, on the track, in testing, at the headquarters.

Dennis had a clear affection for Hakkinen rooted in the Finnish driver’s near-fatal crash at Adelaide in 1995. And it doesn’t take a great stretch of imagination to see how Dennis would have a particular affection towards Hamilton – his pet project – rather than Alonso.

Nor were Alonso or Coulthard the first drivers to fall out with Ron Dennis. This is Niki Lauda in his autobiography “To hell and back”, on being injured in a crash during practice at Belgium in 1985:

Ron Dennis reacts just the way I would expect him to. As if I had been daydreaming and simply let the car go. There is one consolation – I won’t have to put up with Ron all that much longer.

Firing Alonso

Although Alonso and Dennis have had little of substance to say some new details about what happened at Hungary last year have slipped out. In a recent article for Autocar Alan Henry claimed:

McLaren sources have since revealed that the Spanish driver was almost fired on the spot after deliberately blocking Hamilton during qualifying for the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix.

So why didn’t they fire him? Perhaps there was pressure from the sponsors. Perhaps after Alonso threatened to reveal what he knew about the espionage scandal McLaren thought firing him would look like he’d been dismissed for ratting on them.

Fourths and fifths

The problem is the longer someone waits between something happening and then telling everyone about it, the less reliable their account is likely to be. It seems to be happening already. Asked during a radio interview for Cadena Ser whether he would rather be fourth with Renault or second with McLaren, Alonso said:

Yeah, yeah. I don’t think I would have been second with McLaren. I’m [saying that] based on the last few races of the past season, when I was finishing fourth and fifth.

Which leads to an obvious question: when did all these fourth and fifth place finishes with McLaren happen? Here is his complete finishing record for 2007:

2-1-5-3-1-7-2-7-2-1-4-3-1-3-Crash-2-3

Alonso will presumably continue to take pot-shots at McLaren until his non-disclosure agreement runs out (whenever that may be).

But I still don’t believe he had inferior equipment to Hamilton last year. More likely, just as Dennis preferred Prost to Lauda, and Hakkinen to Coulthard, Alonso probably found Dennis was more interested in his protege Hamilton. That, combined with how close Hamilton was running him on the track, instilled a certain level of paranoia in him.

What do you make of Alonso’s latest remarks?

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57 comments on Fernando Alonso criticises McLaren again

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  1. Scott Joslin said on 6th August 2008, 11:51

    Great analysis here Keith, and a well rounded article! I think Alonso’s autobiography will be an interesting one when he gets round to it. Time certainly blurs reality. I do think there is an underlying point that comes from this quotes, being that some people just don’t get on with Ron Dennis, and when they don’t they seem to get along they get the the cold shoulder treatment from him – whether in reality Ron’s personality effect Mclaren’s poilcy of complete equality remains to be seen.

  2. ajokay said on 6th August 2008, 12:11

    Jealous and bitter, by the sounds of it. He’ll move on eventually though, maybe.

  3. It’s easier to complain about unfairness than accepting he couldn’t beat a rookie. If you have a look at Lewis pass Heikki it certainly looks like he let him pass, but if you look at Massa’s overtake, it looks really easy too.

    You can’t complain on letting pass your team mate which is 1s faster than you when his rival Ferrari couldn’t even hold Lewis for a lap. He just had a superior pace during all the weekend.

    I suppose Fisichella never let pass mister 6 tenths.

  4. Hi:
    Here we have the new upside down, i don’t know were they got the information, but the headline is:
    Hamilton sobre Alonso: “Este año no hay un lastre en el equipo”
    Hamilton about Alonso: ” this year we don’t have a burden in the team” more or less…
    http://www.20minutos.es/noticia/404483/0/hamilton/laste/alonso/

  5. Yeah, yeah. I don’t think I would have been second with McLaren. I’m [saying that] based on the last few qualifications…and the races aswell…. of the past season, when I was finishing fourth and fifth.

    That´s exactly what he said, with the pauses aswell. I just heard the interview in http://www.cadenaser.com/el-larguero/fonoteca/. I think he wanted to say that he had a bad performance because of poor qualis with a worse car (dont forget the controversy of mistakes with the tyres presure, tyres warmth) although he follows the sentence giving the impresion that he really finished 4th and 5th in those races.

    For sure (this is pretty of him) he has not been capable of being accurate, not to forget he was for a short time world champion during the last race, and to be honest (he sounds during the interview very comfortable and relaxed), I`m not sure if this “slip of the tongue” has been done in purpouse or not.

    It sounded to me like a prematch declaration Barça-Madrid, which always finishes like a media misunderstood.

    That is to me either to sound like NL and DC or to feed the press whith a break without any news, wich is almost the same.

  6. perhaps the 4ths and ths he meant were in qualifying … (I haven’t checked yet)

    although Alonso for sure has his share of blame on how the things shaped up in McLaren, I do believe that the main reason behind all the troubles is McLaren’s mismanagement of their drivers … why so many drivers who leave McLaren feel so liberated – besides those you named here add Montoya, Raikkonen (and they do not complain about not having equal equipment)…

    can’t the problem be that the only person in the team who believes that the drivers are treated equally is Dennis himself ? Dennis also believed that no one in McLaren knows anything about the 780 page Ferrari file …

    McLaren are great team, they build great cars almost every year, but when was the last time they won any title …

  7. Paul Sainsbury said on 6th August 2008, 13:02

    It is a shame to hear the repeated comments of Fernando, but not surprising. He is a proud man and used to compehensively beating his team-mates. It was unthinkable he would be out-driven by a rookie and he just couldn’t take it, and it seems he still can’t.

  8. What sounds strange to me is that the Fourths and fifths part of this good article ( may I call it like that) is based in the Autosports article

    Alonso expects no big leap from Renault
    By Pablo Elizalde

    and this Pablo sounds spanish speaking to me, so having a good opinion of that web page, I do not understand how this chap “forgot” the qualis part of the answer, because the translation to English is pretty good, supousing he wanted to translate the whole sentences as they always does. The rest of the sentences are literaly like the interview, with pauses aswell. Also he put in brakets what Alonso wanted to say, showing a good understanding of the Spanish.

    Maybe he wanted to reflect what his impresion was about the Fourths and fifths….. not leaving anything to speculation , because this is the only part that can be call “objective” of the whole interview.

  9. Samuel said on 6th August 2008, 13:17

    Well I am not sure that Fernando is talking about Heikki’s situation as much as himself’s one on an hipothetycal second year at McLaren.

    Anyway, I think Ron shouldn’t boast about equality when Hamilton was given 8 flying laps last year, when Fernando was given 2. Or after saying “we were racing Fernando” when they should have been racing Kimi.

    About the Hungaroing thing. I repeat what I said: McLaren could enlighten this mess publishing team radio records. Anything but that are just interested opinions, and it’s hard not to give more credibility to one of the parts based on personal preference.

  10. Phil B said on 6th August 2008, 14:30

    Team bosses are not generally (ever?) nice people. Does anyone remember a bloke called Enzo? Finding ex-drivers who dislike a given manager is not difficult and is not proof of that driver having been given inferior machinery. Not even close.

    Isn’t it strange that so many of the drivers quoted as being anti-Ron are also the drivers that got beat by their team-mate? Coincidence, yeah right.

    This is getting tiring though, how long will Alonso keep whining about excuses for how Hamilton beat him? His only chance of recovering his reputation is to beg/borrow/steal a drive at Ferrari, hope they make a better car than Mclaren and then challenge Lewis. After all he’s proven that he needs more than equal machinery to beat him.

    Poor Fernando. In the coming years we will realise just what he was up against in 2007 by having to drive against Hamilton in equal machinery. Maybe one day he will as well.

  11. For me he’s starting to sound a bit like Villeneuve or Montoya…

  12. Lynn said on 6th August 2008, 15:02

    It’s about time Fernando move on, it’s doing him no good going over 2007. No one can turn back the clock, even if we wanted too. He is two time world champion, no one can take that away from him. He should act with class and dignity. Many say he is a complete driver, but I have my doubts. In my mind you should be complete on and off the track. Off the track Fernando is left wanting. Do your self a favour Fernando and keep quiet.

  13. George said on 6th August 2008, 15:09

    A large bag of sour grapes, from a brilliant driver, who remains blind to his own shortcomings.

  14. Samuel said on 6th August 2008, 15:16

    Sorry Phil, but giving the same machinery it’s not the same that proclaiming perfect equality. I don’t buy the conspiranoic theory about Fernando’s car being doctored at the end of last season, but I don’t also think they were given equal opportunities.

    Also, reading you it seems that Lewis blew off Fernando on the track. Sorry guy, but that didn’t happen. There was a draw and lot of things happened to say that Lewis beat Fernando fair and square. A draw was still impressive being Lewis a rookie(not a very young one must be said), but a draw after all.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Lewis Hamilton is the best that could happen to this sport(I don’t like the guy, though). His ups are spectacular(and also his lows), but he still has to show that he is the best driver, specially better than Fernando. He has more room for improvement, but he still hasn’t improved a lot.

  15. Dave said on 6th August 2008, 15:22

    Sad to hear Fernando complain yet again. No doubt he’s a genious behind the wheel but it seems to me like he’s still making excuses for being matched and sometimes even beaten by a rookie team mate.

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