F1: McLaren drivers kept on short leash in Istanbul

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarThursday, August 23rd, 2007

 
 

No-one can accuse McLaren of making the same mistake twice.

With the pre-race publicity well under way in Turkey the drivers are almost invisible, their public appearances strictly rationed, and the opportunities for the press to question are very limited – presumably to ensure that prospective stories of feuds are shut right down before they can even get going.

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have reportedly met in Istanbul today for the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix to have a ‘clear the air’ discussion with each other and the team’s senior management.

Relentless ‘business as usual’ messages have been coming from everyone at the top of the team. Martin Whitmarsh, team CEO, was particularly forceful in handing out the company line, as we reported a few days ago.

But Mercedes-Benz Motorsport’s VP Norbert Haug deviated off message a bit today when he admitted the two drivers were not best of friends – something he saw as inevitable, given that both are still in with a real chance of winning the drivers’ championship.

“Those who contend for places five and ten have an easier task to be good friends,” he said, “but our opponents are outside, and not inside, the team.”

However, he remained tight-lipped about the meeting between drivers and management. The pair, whose rivalry cost McLaren the chance to win constructors’ points in Hungary, were excused from official duties, including media interviews, for the meeting at a downtown hotel.

Officially, the team said the drivers’ normal Thursday routine at the track had been cancelled because it was pointless their battling through the Istanbul traffic after a morning of other promotional activities. Alonso took part in a kart race for sponsor Vodafone, but opportunities to question him were restricted.

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