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McLaren deny Alonso bias

NEWS STORY
28/05/2007

It seems only yesterday that McLaren was being accused of favouring Lewis Hamilton. However, following the Monaco Grand Prix, the British team finds itself accused of favouring its other driver, reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso.

It has been suggested, both in the media and on various message boards and forums that Hamilton was "ordered" to play a support role to his teammate, a claim denied by team boss Ron Dennis.

"Everybody feels I'm sure, and a lot of people will feel it in England, that there is some favouritism or some penalisation that is given to either Lewis or Fernando," said Dennis. "But we are scrupulously fair at all times in how we run this team. We will never favour one driver, no matter who it is. We never have, we never will."

At the start, when many were expecting the two McLaren drivers to go head-to-head, and possibly bring about an incident wrecking both their races, Hamilton tucked in neatly behind his teammate, almost riding shotgun.

It was widely presumed that the English driver was carrying enough fuel for four laps more than his teammate. However, unlike previous years there were no incidents, no safety car periods, therefore Alonso stayed out two laps longer than originally planned. Ahead of his first stop Hamilton banged in a couple of fast laps, but after his stop it was evident that the two were not racing one another, even though the Englishman clearly had the pace, often closing right in on his teammate before backing off, just to prove a point.

Monaco is a unique circuit and race fans of a certain age will remember that it is the one circuit where team orders are a necessity, albeit an unwelcome one.

"This circuit has to be addressed in a team way," said Dennis, "and that is why we have won 14 races here. I don't like to slow drivers down, to be frustrated or see these things happen. But because I am an absolute racer, it is the way you have to win the Monaco Grand Prix, which is what we have done.

"Lewis has an equal opportunity to win the world championship," Dennis continued. "There will be places where they will be free to race, but this is not one of them because one driver pushing another will induce a mistake, and then you've a car out. Everybody would then say 'what an idiot the team principal of McLaren is for allowing his cars to compete to a level where one of them is in the barrier'.

Following the race, it was evident that Hamilton was not entirely happy, and some of his comments supported this.

"It is something I have to live with," said the youngster. "I've number two on my car and I am the number two driver.

"I was told to take it easy," he admitted, "so there was no point pressuring him into a mistake, and then if he had made a mistake to crash into him, so it was best to finish one-two.

"To be honest I pushed as much as I could to the end. I didn't give up, so I didn't really take too much notice and kept going. But at the end of the day I'm a rookie, and finishing second in what is my first Monaco Grand Prix, I really can't complain."

The British media will not be happy, but one must remember that it is essentially Ron Dennis' team, he makes the decisions. Furthermore, despite Hamilton's meteoric debut, Alonso is the star, the reigning World Champion, while the English youngster who is still in his first season, with much still to learn.

And as he says, he does have the number two on his car, Alonso earned his number one fair and square.

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