Fernando Alonso criticises McLaren again

2008 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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:


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?

More on Alonso and McLaren

57 comments on “Fernando Alonso criticises McLaren again”

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  1. Toby,

    I disagree with your premise. Raikkonen had only two non-points finishes all year (Spain, Nurburgring) going into Shanghai, and Alonso had only one (Fuji), the same as Hamilton (Nurb). Raikkonen’s non-points finish at Spain was due to suspension, and his nonpoints finish at Nurb was due to hydraulics. Hamilton had the wheel gun failure in qualifying and the tire puncture on the first lap at Nurb. Alonso just screwed up at Fuji. So in terms of problems and bad finishes, the three drivers were pretty much square. Given this, Hamilton plain outperformed the other two throughout the season heading into Shanghai.

  2. Honestly, I was a huge Alonso fan in his winning days. He was the one to de-throne Schumacher in his peak form, and showing much flair and skills on the track.

    But all my respect for Fernando was lost the moment he quit Renault looking for “a new challenge”. Is that how you repay your team after winning 2 titles? So much for building a winning team around you.

    Then at McLaren when he couldn’t cope with being beaten by a rookie, all hell broke loose. Instead of earning the respect from McLaren, he thinks respect is granted with his 2 titles, and that is just wrong. If I were Ron Dennis, having known countless talented drivers, I’d do the same because drivers don’t just drive the car fast, he needs to lead the team, or at least nurture a good working atmosphere.

    And my lost of respect for Fernando doesn’t end even now. Look at how he now publicly critisize Renault when they’re down, and looking for other drives in not-so-discretely manner.

    If he goes to Ferrari, it’s music to my ears. I’ll be looking forward to see Massa consistently beating him, then Fernando throws all his toys around to wreck the Red team. If I am boss of Ferrari, I’d much rather sign Kubica than Fernando.

  3. Comon guys, Hamilton is my fav driver now, but he has only beaten Alonso once, and that’s not the end of the world for Alonso.

    Do you rate Vilneuve better than Hill or Senna better than Prost just beacuse they beat their teammate once?

    Heidfield beat both Ferrari dirvers Raikkenon and Massa in the same team. I guess Ferrari is kinda dump to not sign Heidfield huh? On the other hand Webber had beaten Heidfield, so with the same equipment Webber could have beaten Raikkenon for the title in 07 right?

    Although Alonso has done nothing spectacular this season, he is still quite young and has a lot of chances to prove he is the better than Hamilton. Let’s wait til the ends of their careers and we will have a clearer picture.

  4. Is there a reason for Alonso to suddenly start taking pot-shots at Big Ron again? Maybe both Ferrari and Honda have refused to take him on in the future and yet again he is blaming McLaren for his ill fortune? Or is he just bored with nothing else to do? (Such as help make the Renault a better car or support his team-mate).
    Of course there are many reasons why certain members in a team get more support than others – you wouldn’t think it unnatural in soccer or cricket would you? So why all this baloney about what happens in a racing team?
    Pay attention to the current BTCC races – and especially the top teams SEAT and Vauxhall – they both have a definite team leader out of 3 cars each, but the other drivers have as much chance of winning races and winning the championship as the leader. Are you all saying that the same thing isn’t happening in GP2 and F1 as well? This isn’t team politics, this is the reality of racing….
    As for the comments about Ron’s style of leadership – I agree its about time we picked up on how the likes of Jean Todt, Flavio Briatore and Frank Williams have treated their drivers in the past (including World Champions).
    Also #42 Freeman – that is what I think about him too, he is in danger of losing it big time at Ferrari, and they will just drop him if he doesn’t say and do the right things.
    And I have to comment on #6 Milos ‘McLaren are great team, they build great cars almost every year, but when was the last time they won any title …’ – ahem! Please check your history books and you will find that there was a whole decade when Mclaren and Willims were thoroughly beating the red cars, with McLaren usually beating Williams! (Apart from the years when they dominated the Indy 500, Can-Am racing and
    Le Mans of course!)

  5. Samuel: “McLaren could enlighten this mess publishing team radio records.” I agree and I think it’s a good example why the teams should be forced to make all of their radio transmissions public.

    S Hughes: “I bet Nelson Piquet is treated this year as the DEFINITE non-favourite, I find it quite amusing that no-one is calling him for it.” Good point. I don’t thik Kovalainen’s given a single interview this year when he hasn’t been asked about his status at McLaren, yet no-one seems to bother asking Piquet.

    Architron (23) – Can we not resort to name-calling please I don’t want to have to start deleting comments.

    Comment from Marc moved here: Massa loses Hungary win to Kovalainen (2008 Hungarian Grand Prix review

    Pink Peril – “You people are never happy! You complain that Kimi is monosybillic and never says anything interesting, yet complain when Alonso or Webber or DC does!” – I’d always far rather have drivers like Alonso and Webber speaking their minds.

  6. As many have already said the journalist keep on asking the same questions once and once again and Fred is just answering. Of course he could keep his mouth shout but, he is just not the kind :-).

    RD saying that FA was the only MCL driver that ever complained about equal treatment is a huge short-memory exercise, so what MO, DC, Prost or Senna were doing??? He keeps on saying the same thing but is just not possible to offer perfect equal treatment as there is always a better moment to enter the pit, to go for a last shot in Q3…. Not to mention that different drivers may have different interests as they have different strong and weak points (this is valid for the race strategy but also for the development of the car).

  7. It seems the best racing is when u read about it. Another great article, Keith.

    *Alonso needs to quit this, and move on, he must stop sounding bitter every time he talks.

    *Alonso and Hamilton where fighting for 1st and 2nd position at the US GP so no one needed to give way to the other.

    *Heikki wasn’t asked to move over, he did it on his own. The team appreciated the unselfish gesture, and he knew his race was not compromised by having him queue behind Lewis.

    *If Heikki had held raced Lewis for too long, Lewis may have been forced to make the pass, which would have worn out his tyres, resulted in a collision, or maybe allow heildfield to exit the pits ahead of him, thus making it difficut for him to win that race.
    Thus, Mclaren won 14 points instead of maybe 7 or 11. And moved closer to Ferrari in the constructors champoinship.
    Thats working for the team, not yourself. If you win the drivers champoinship and your team comes 5th in constructors championship, you gain, but your team loses.

  8. Poor Kovi, I thought he was a real racer, surely no wining team will now want him as number 1 driver. He didn’t even hold Lewis for a single lap with the same car. Whether he received team orders or he is a no-wining guy.
    As for Ron when he keeps telling the same lie one and again he just tries to make it true, equal treatment? Don’t make me laugh! Equal equipment, yes, and that is different.
    For those who “lost respect” to FA I’d think they also lost respect to LH and RD as they all three talk to much (is not just FA)

  9. Totally agree with you Freeman, no. 41. I would hesitate to sign Alonso. He’s not the best driver out there, and any association with him would be mired in disloyalty, sulking, accusations and petulance. I think Briatore has a soft spot for him because he won twice in a Renault and I don’t think Flavio is a very nice man, hence he would flock together with other not nice men. No doubt Alonso will get a good seat in 2009 or 2010, but he sure as Hell doesn’t deserve it. Wherever he ends up, he’ll be scouting around for another drive whether he does well or not, which shows his nasty disloyal character.

  10. Some of you guys have a so distorted view on Fernando that is laughable. He seems so despicable as the devil himself. Probably is the result of reading some tabloids combined with the inhability of understand what Fernando has really said or been asked.

    Try to take with a grain of salt every translated excerpt of his interviews, please.

  11. I think Alonso is just bitter and jealous. Although I don’t like Hamilton as a person, but I do like his driving and skills that he has. Yes, Hamilton is lucky to be in one of the best team for this rookie year. But without his skills, he wouldn’t be able to do well. Just like Michael Andretti Vs. Senna. I don’t think Hamilton blew Alonso away, but being able to match his 2-Times World Champion teammate in points in his first year as a F1 driver, that is hugely impressive.

    Alonso got to stop talking and do more driving. He has problem with everyone. Even now being back to Renault, he is still criticizing his team for having a bad car for him. He can’t work as a team with his team. He can’t work with a second-rated car. What can he do in the future? Even if he does goes to Honda next year, do you think he will get along with Jenson Button very well? I think not. If Button do match or better him, he will call favoritism again, due to Button’s years in Honda. How about Ferrari and BMW? I don’t think they will be able to get along with Alonso either. As long as Alonso still be a baby and whine about this or that, he most likely will struggle for the rest of his career.

  12. LHisNotBadBut
    7th August 2008, 23:09

    The explanation is simple: Ron had invested too much money on Hamilton and Mr Dennis couldn’t allow Alonso to win. Even having team (and FIA) disadvantages, Alonso was better than Hamilton. Open your eyes.

  13. #51

    Open your mind….

  14. LHis – if Alonso was such a problem (a) Dennis wouldn’t have hired him, at multi-million-dollar expense, in the first place and (b) he would have jumped at the opportunity to fire him after the Hungaroring.

  15. Keith.

    You are quite right to suggest that Ron Dennis believed back in late 2005 that he had signed the best driver on the grid on current form, Fernando Alonso.
    The problems arose, as we now know, from what happened after Alonso went to McLaren. I am of the firm belief that Dennis would have fired Alonso at the Hungarian Grands Prix, had it not been for Alonso’s connection with the spy scandal, which McLaren were trying to keep a lid on.
    Dennis, for me, always appeared as a man desperately trying to keep an impossible situation together, but knew that Alonso was just too dangerous a man to let loose. Alonso would surely have spilled the beans on McLaren to the FIA, had Dennis fired him.
    Alonso knew this, as did Dennis, which made Alonso behave in the manner that he did. He had an advantage on them, in that he was in a position to drop them in it if things went pearshaped.
    As it turned out, as we know, Dennis chose to beat Alonso to it, costing himself and McLaren $100 million.
    You are quite right though, before all of this happened, Alonso looked to be the number one man to replace Kimi Raikkonen, without question!

  16. a lot of what FA says gets lost in translation. i’ve seen some of his interviews in spanish and compared them to the translation in the english press and the difference is pretty stunning. the guy gets taken out of context all the time. i think the media need to leave the drivers to racing and when they interview them they should leave out the team politics.

  17. Jake – what have they got wrong in this translation?

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