F1: McLaren rebuilding on and off the track

By Andy Darley

CalendarSaturday, August 25th, 2007

 
 

Free practice for the Turkish Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton top the timesheets and McLaren’s feuding drivers tell the world how they’d buried the hatchet.

So far so good, then, in the Woking team’s attempts to return to business as usual following the shenanigans at the Hungaroring – but it would be foolish to pretend that everything in the garden is rosy.

On the track, the Ferraris were comfortably fastest in the first session. In the second they put themselves out of contention by running with more fuel, opening the door for Hamilton’s top spot. Raikkonen still managed second, Alonso could only finish sixth.

And off the track the Spaniard undermined the concerted attempt to appear united by re-stating his belief that McLaren had not fully acknowledged his contribution to the team’s success.

Although both he and Hamilton were at pains to explain how they had talked through their differences, the double world champion also made it clear he felt the team’s policy of treating its drivers equally had the effect of underplaying his achievements.

He said: “I think that is always very clear in every team, to have equal opportunities to everybody and to have an equal car to your team-mate. What I think sometimes, and what I ask the team, is that I gave the team a lot when I arrived in December.

“I remember the car I drove; I remember the results they had in 2006. And now I brought to the team half a second, six-tenths or whatever, and I don’t see anything given me back. That’s the only thing.”

Earlier on Friday McLaren issued a statement saying its drivers had “found a constructive way forward” after a private meeting on Thursday, and both Alonso and Hamilton were happy to elaborate on what that meant.

Alonso said: “Everything is okay, the past is the past and what happened in Hungary, it’s not the right time to think about it now. With six races to go we need to try and win the championship and we need to think about Turkey now.”

He said his relationship with Hamilton was “healthy competition” free of bitterness: “I have no problems with him at all and he has no problems with me at all. We talked about Hungary and we all agreed that what happened in Hungary should not be repeated any more and that we should concentrate to try to beat the Ferraris.”

Hamilton also stressed there had been a thawing of relations, although he also claimed nothing had ever been as bad as it had seemed in the media.

“Things are looking better, a lot better than you would imagine after the last race. Everything looked as bad as it could ever be. A lot of that I think is from the press – they are always writing stories about me and Fernando at war. It obviously sells a lot more papers, but we’re not at war.

“Fernando and I met up yesterday and had a really constructive meeting, he said he had no problems with me, and I said the same. We just agreed to look forward.”

The brewing tensions between the pair were brought to a head at the Hungarian Grand Prix when Hamilton ignored explicit team instructions to let Alonso past in qualifying, and the Spaniard retaliated by delaying his team-mate in the pits, denying him a last shot at pole position.

Hamilton said: “We settled our differences. I apologised for everything that went on last week or the weekend before, and he said: “Yes, the same for me, let’s just start with a clean slate and move along.’”

Both drivers are aware – or claim to be aware, at least – of who the real enemy is: “For me and Fernando, we’re going to have to keep on pushing, but the war is not between me and him,” said Hamilton.

With Ferrari looking strong this weekend, Ron Dennis is surely hoping his talented but headstrong duo can remember that lesson once the action on the track heats up.

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