Report claims Alonso demanded No. 1 status at McLaren

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We’ve talked a lot here about the overheated British press and its reaction to the German Grand Prix and the Ferrari “team order” incident.

I suppose the only way the British media could have gotten more in a lather would have been the inclusion of Michael Schumacher. As it were, two of the Brit press’s favorite targets, Fernando Alonso and Ferrari, were involved.

Can you feel the temperatures rising?

Well, at risk of fanning those flames, I point you to a report in the Daily Mirror — yes, yes, the paragon of journalistic virtue and values — that claims Alonso demanded clear No. 1 status three years at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The same grand prix we’re heading to in a few hours.

Given that coincidence, I can understand where the British press would dredge the issue up again. But we all know there’s some ulterior motives here, and not just the motive to get a great story and the resulting page views / paper buys.

Here are the juicy bits:

Fernando Alonso demanded McLaren force Lewis Hamilton to play second fiddle, it is alleged today.

The double world champion’s Ferrari team were fined after benefitting from team orders in Germany on Sunday.

But Mirror Sport can exclusively reveal that this is not the first time Alonso has been linked to such a controversy.

Paddock sources say he had talks with McLaren bosses Martin Whitmarsh and Ron Dennis on the morning of the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix.

[snip]

It is claimed that on the morning of the event he confronted the team and wanted to be given preferrential treatment on the track over his rookie team-mate, but that McLaren refused to do so. And months later they lost the world title by a single point. Alonso’s manager, Luis Abad, denied the 2007 claim when he said: “I don’t want to talk about it but in any case, it’s not true.”

Last night team boss Whitmarsh refused to comment specifically on that day in Hungary three years ago.

[snip]

“Had we leaned to the advantage of one of our two drivers that year – and there were lots of temptations to do so – then it would have made enough of a difference to have acquired the extra point to have won the championship.

“During that phase I remember talking to the drivers and their management and saying what a great driver would want to do is look at himself in the mirror and say ‘I have won this world championship on merit’ and not by the team leaning one way and giving him an advantage.

“If McLaren won a championship where I think we did something dodgy to achieve it… if you did the record book might show it but in your heart I don’t think you would have the same feeling of pleasure.

“If you win against the odds it is slightly more enjoyable. If you win when you have swayed it to your advantage by cheating or doing something unsporting, you would not feel so good.”

So, first question: Do you read Whitmarsh’s comments as tact confirmation of Alonso’s demands? I think the story clearly is trying to lean readers that direction. Do you buy it?

Second question: If true, does it change your opinion of Alonso? Given that I just laid out my concerns about Alonso, I think it’s probably fair for me to answer. No. I think given the situation, his coming off his world championships at Renault, it is entirely legitimate that a competitive Alonso would ask for the team’s total commitment and backing. Even to the detriment of his rookie team mate.

That’s what Schumacher would have done. And Ayrton Senna. And Alain Prost. And if not every other world champ, than just about every one.

Last question: We all know how badly things ended with Alonso’s tenure at McLaren. While the situation is different now (I doubt many would say Ferrari’s support for Felipe Massa equals McLaren’s for Hamilton), do hints from this story give you any thought of “uh oh, here we go again?” Could the German Grand Prix incident cause a serious rift, an unrepairable one, at Ferrari?

And if so, what happens? Who goes? (Are you sure, for sure sure, it’s Massa?)

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