McLaren’s Headache And Mistakes In Ferrari

I can’t recall Ferrari team making such a mistake as they did on Saturday. It happens to all the teams that sometime the fuel hose malfunctions and the driver receives less fuel than planned. But apparently what happened to Massa was simply a mistake by the team. How on Earth can they forget to give the guy the fuel… I do not want to look for any conspiracy here, it simply looks like a genuine **** up by the team. But Jean Todt should probably check whether all the attention they are focusing on the spy scandal is not affecting the team performance…

It is much much worse for McLaren. Looking at the championship standings one gets the impression that McLaren must be having the best time in years. They are within a reach of both titles. Last time that happened was in the last century of the previous millennium. Now the reality.

They face real danger of penalty for their involvement in the spy saga. So far they had the benefit of the doubt. FIA seemed to be satisfied with the “rogue employee” explanation. Then Briatore came up with his remarks. I do not take that seriously his alleged calls for McLaren’s exclusion. But 3 things struck me there:

a) Briatore siding with Ferrari – quite unusual
b) His remark on Dennis not being as saintly as he and the media portray him.
c) His planned presence at the appeal hearing.

As I mentioned at some discussion forums, I do not think that Briatore would know something we don’t about the actual spy saga. But I believe he knows more about Ron Dennis than we do and therefore these opinions…

Then the Hungarian GP qualifying came and what followed. At the beginning there was lots of Alonso bashing. As it become clear over the course of the weekend, Hamilton had his part to play. But is this the sporting way how to respond to that:

Qualifying Alonso vs Hamilton

Qualifying Alonso vs Hamilton another view

It is quite natural that this or similar exchange then (as alleged by both The Times and The Daily Mail) happened on the radio between Dennis and Hamilton:

Hamilton: “Don’t ever f****** do that to me again!”
Dennis replied: “Don’t ever f****** speak to me like that again!”
Then Hamilton’s closure: “Go f****** swivel!”

Ron Dennis coming out and saying that Hamilton caused his own delay it just says something about the character – this guy or this team is not afraid to play dirty. And if he is not afraid to pull a dirty trick on his own protégé who messed up, he probably would not think twice if he had chance to do the same to let’s say Ferrari … Here Briatore’s saintly remarks come back to mind … If I were one of the members of the appeal panel, my new decision making would sure be affected by this.

Now, back to Hamilton and Alonso. We have this funny TV commercial with 2 of them having fun. Well in the light of recent events it looks like well crafted PR stunt. Ad is great, Mercedes guys sure must love the exposure they gained and the rest of us get impression that these 2 guys are best of buddies.

Are they? Does not look like that. Alonso makes it no secret that he does not feel home in McLaren. He did not like the fact that Hamilton benefited for his car set up data. Rumours soon followed about Alonso deliberately deceiving Hamilton during practice sessions ahead of some recent races. Hamilton had to work on his own data and results were not that great.

Now Hamilton disobeyed team orders during qualifying. I am not sure what are the regulations about team orders during qualifying. In any case, for the sake of team harmony, he should not do that. But he did. The question is why? He probably still has some hard feelings about Monaco. He knew how important it is to start from P1 here. He knows Alonso would show him no favours, so he decided to make it more difficult for him and secure the P1. Was that the case? Or was it some irrational split second decision that he went to regret soon after. That we do not know. But it looks like harmony between him and Alonso is no longer Hamilton’s priority.

There are some hints on the web that the stewards only decided to investigate this incident after Hamilton testified or complained. Well, it does not seem likely to me. The stewards called up on McLaren to provide all the information after they decided to investigate. I am not sure what exactly made steward to take action, but I believe that the general outrage about the McLaren pitlane stunt was one of the triggers. If however Hamilton did indeed had something to do with that, he would be in big trouble with his team… They lost 15 points, at the end of the season this may be the difference between constructors’ title and 2nd place. If any further penalty comes down McLaren’s way from the spy saga, these points may cost them dearly. The difference between 1st and 2nd in constructors table is USD6 million… Employee who causes company to loose USD6 million due to a deliberate action is in big trouble… Look at Stepney…

Now Hamilton says “Alonso is not talking to me”. No matter how I dislike what Alonso and his crew pulled on Hamilton on Saturday, Hamilton can’t be surprised with what he gets from Alonso now. Alonso on the other hand is trying to create impression of being calm and cool, compares the grid demotion to unfair football penalty kick that he has to live on. But then this came up on autosport.com:

Q. The celebrations have changed a lot today. Hamilton was applauding himself and the team seemed to ignore him a bit.
FA: Well, what happened yesterday was something new for the team. Hamilton not listening, disobeying them, was something they hadn’t experienced and I guess they wanted to make him see that. But anyway, in the next race I guess everything will be back to normal and we will both try to win the race.
Q. Could what happened here change the attitude of the team towards you and Hamilton?
FA: No.
Q. Do you think it’s possible to go on like this for three years?
FA: I don’t know.
Q. Do you plan to think it over?
FA: I don’t know.

This does not look like words of a guy who wishes to spend next 3 years with his current team mate.

How a dream season can take into a major headache. The driver market may be up for some major earthquake very soon. I would not bet on the McLaren line up to remain unchanged for too long. Hamilton or Alonso will be their way sooner or later. Who is more likely to stay? Well it is British team …

In the meantime Dennis is trying to do some positive PR. I am sure that his remarks about possibility of not appealing against the points penalty from Hungary may be an attempt to appease the FIA before the spy scandal appeal hearing. He does not want that hearing to go the way the last weekend did …

4 Comments Post a Comment
  1. steverobbo says:

    Reports today state that Hamilton has had a conversation with Ron and ‘cleared the air’.

    Hamilton has also said he’s not spoken to Alonso recently.

    Let’s hope the break will give us a good clean qualifying and race in Turkey.

  2. F1 Wolf says:

    he cleared the air with Dennis and with everybody else in the team, except Alonos – that is according to Hamilton

    Dennis on the other hand probably for the first time admitted openly the tensions between the 2 drivers …

  3. Clive says:

    I think this incident may reveal just how good a team manager Ron Dennis is. We have seen how angry with each other two very equally-matched drivers can get – now let us watch Ron Dennis as he pulls them back into the team and gets them working together again. My bet is that he’ll do it – I have enormous respect for the man.

  4. F1 Wolf says:

    I always respected this guy, definitelly more than the management from Maranello :-) Just that the last few months raised some doubts … And well perhaps he is really doing the right job, only with lousy PR … I am starting to give in, you and Keith at the F1 fanatic are so convincing in the respect towards Ron Dennis :-)

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