Alonso & McLaren: A study in contradiction

Those who expected the Fernando Alonso-McLaren reunion to be a stormy affair could hardly have predicted that an ill wind would blow so icy, so soon.

Not that it was the wind that Alonso was blaming for his Barcelona crash, of course, as he held court in the drivers' press conference in Sepang.

McLaren had issued a statement to the media explaining that the team's new hire would use that time slot, and that time slot only, to answer questions relating to his Barcelona accident, and that all other media opportunities were to be devoted solely to discussions of the weekend's progress and the car itself.

As a consequence, the stuffed FIA press conference was little more than 'The Fernando Alonso Half Hour', much to the frustration of the other drivers present.

Alonso answered the questions posed to him as comprehensively as he could, given the mystery that still surrounds just what caused the crash, but in one aspect the Spaniard was absolutely clear: the steering locked up, and despite acres of telemetry the cause of that lock-up has yet to be pinpointed.

"There is not in the data anything clear that we can spot and we can say it was that, the reason," he said.

"But definitely we had a steering problem in the middle of Turn Three. It locked into the right and I approached the wall. I braked in the last moment, I downshift from fifth to third, and unfortunately on the data we are still missing some parts."

The statement was in direct contradiction to McLaren's earlier claims that there was nothing at fault with the car.

Conflicting versions of what happened

There have been numerous contradictions and mis-statements in the month since the crash, but these have been explained away by both Ron Dennis and Alonso himself.

In Melbourne, Dennis attributed his erroneous remarks to simple human misunderstanding of a complex situation, while Alonso was of a similar mind when it came to comments made before sufficient information was to hand.

"Honestly, with an accident, with the repercussion of the accident, the news, being in Spain, a lot of attention on that day and probably the first answers or the first press conference that the team have, my manager, whatever, all the stuff around in these early days, it was just some guess. The wind, maybe other possibilities.

"That creates a little bit of confusion obviously – but you cannot say nothing for three or four days until I remember everything because these three or four days then will become even worse. So I think they say the theory of the wind, but obviously it was not a help… I don't know if you have seen the video but a hurricane will not move the car at that speed.

"If you have any problems or medical issue, normally you will use the power and go straight to the other side, into the inside. In an F1 car you still need to apply some effort to the steering wheel."

It was an entirely logical response.

Blowing in different directions

The wind theory, which had already been blamed for Carlos Sainz Jr's earlier off at the same corner, was but one bandied about in the heat of the moment when answers were being sought yet there were no concrete responses at hand.

But it also contradicted a press release put out by the team, as did Alonso's insistence that a steering issue was the cause of an accident McLaren had confidently asserted was nothing to do with their car.

That Alonso and his team appeared not to be sharing the same hymn book – let alone singing from the same sheet – was seen as a sign of foreboding by those who were around during the driver's first McLaren contract.

Have battle lines been drawn?

Alonso was asserting his authority, demonstrating that he will not toe any lines he is not happy to toe, and he did it with a calm confidence that was raising team eyebrows while the press conference was still in session.

Those present left the room safe in the knowledge that there is still much to be learned of the Barcelona testing incident, and certain only of a growing rift between driver and team before Alonso had sat in the MP4-30's cockpit for his first practice session.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Malaysian GP
Track Sepang International Circuit
Drivers Fernando Alonso , Carlos Sainz
Teams McLaren
Article type Commentary