There was controversy in qualifying for the Hungarian GP when Fernando Alonso appeared to deliberately hold up McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton in a pit stop, with the result that Hamilton didn't make it to the start line in time to make another ...
There was controversy in qualifying for the Hungarian GP when Fernando Alonso appeared to deliberately hold up McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton in a pit stop, with the result that Hamilton didn't make it to the start line in time to make another flying lap before the chequered flag. The incident likely cost him pole position, which went to Alonso, as he had been faster than the Spaniard in the two previous sessions.
However, in a media briefing after qualifying McLaren team principal Ron Dennis revealed that it had been Hamilton that had triggered the situation. McLaren's strategy, or procedure as Dennis said, was to have Alonso at the front of the field during the fuel burning period in the last session. Hamilton was at the front of the pit exit queue and McLaren asked him to let Alonso past. He would not do so.
"We have various procedures within the team and prior to practice we determine how it is going to be run, what our strategy is and how that's going to be enacted on the circuit," Dennis said. He went on to explain that a car is sent out based on a certain temperature it reaches which indicates how long it can be held for at the pit exit. Hamilton's car reached that temperature first and he was sent out, then Alonso.
"The fuel burn characteristics (means) there is a small advantage which we play from driver to driver according to the nature of the circuit," Dennis said. "In this instance, it was Fernando's time to get the advantage of the longer fuel burn. The arrangement was, okay, we're down at the end of the pit lane, we reverse positions in the first lap. That didn't occur as arranged. That was somewhat disappointing and caused some tensions on the pit wall."
"We were, from that moment on, out of sequence because the cars were in the wrong place on the circuit and that unfolded into the pit stops. It complicated the situation into the result, which was Lewis not getting his final timed lap. So this really started from that position and from our drivers not swapping position to get the right fuel burn in order to arrive at the point where we cut the end result to the end."
When asked, the team boss said that it was Alonso's engineer that held the Spaniard back in the pit stop rather than it being Alonso's choice but did not say it was an intentional ploy. "He's (the driver) under the control of his engineer. He determined when he goes. That's the sequence. And if you think that was a deliberate thing, then you can think what you want."
Dennis summed up the pit stop scenario as this: "When the engineer is controlling when the car goes out he has a GPS system. Every car is shown on the GPS system. It is standard procedure because you don't want to send your car out in traffic. He's looking at the GPS and he's looking at the gap. There's 15 seconds to the gap. So you hold the car, the gap is coming round, so you do a countdown: 15, 14, 13 and so on."
"The gap determines when the car is released. That's why you see the car stationary because the countdown is going on to the gap. The lollipop was out of sequence, and it was definitely not right. The lollipop man is basically looking at the car behind him and the engineer is watching the GPS system. We didn't do a good job."
It was clear to see Alonso's frustration in his first pit stop, when it took quite some time before he was released and then a tyre blanket got tangled in the front wheel. "You have already seen 11 races with this," the reigning champion said of pit delays. "Sometimes we stop for 10 seconds, sometimes 20, sometimes 45 -- like the first one (today), because of the traffic and everything."
"I think (it happened) first of all because of the first pit stop, which was a 45-second delay -- they were holding me up for 40, and then the blanket, so 45-50 seconds. I was completely out of schedule. I should have been in front of the group, in front of everybody, trying to do the lap, and I think it was very difficult to manage where I was and for how long they needed to stop me in the stop, because I was not in the perfect place to position myself with the traffic."
Hamilton joined the meeting and his view was that he didn't let Alonso past because he was wary of Kimi Raikkonen, who's Ferrari was behind the two McLarens, getting past as well. "I didn't want to mess up my opportunity by changing places or whatever there was to do, and be open to being overtaken by Kimi and losing my place," he said. "So then it would have not allowed me to get an extra lap. So that's why we had the disagreement, because I didn't agree with it and I didn't do what they wanted me to do."
There were suggestions that Alonso was somehow given a signal by his personal trainer on when to leave the pit box and Dennis was seen marching down the pit lane after qualifying with the man to speak with the drivers. However, alleged signals to Alonso were not the reason for the trainer's presence. "I took Fabrizio with me because I am only one person," Dennis said. "I didn't know what level of temperature the drivers were going to be when they came out of the cars, and I wanted Fabrizio to keep Fernando calm, and I was keeping Lewis calm."
Dennis attended a stewards meeting as the pit lane incident is under investigation. "This whole thing started from the beginning of practice with two competitive drivers," Dennis commented. "The stewards understand the situation, they want to listen to the tapes, and they will review everything we said."