From TJ13 contributor Sidy
As we endure the summer break from F1, those of us who remember life before Lewis Hamilton may reminisce a little, back to a time when when the cars were loud – very loud – and the manufacturers were pouring the equivalent of a small nation’s national debt into of dollars into the sport.
It was on a balmy August Saturday afternoon when a certain rookie driver foreshadowed his ability to irritate his teammate(s). Saturday August 4, 2007 lives in Formula 1 infamy as it represents for some an unrivalled example of petty levels of asinine behaviour and the destruction of the notion of sportsmanship.
Knockout qualifying was run very similarly to how it has been for most of this year and the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix Saturday session proved to be as contentious this year’s double-waved yellow controversy.
Lewis Hamilton was in his debut season with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. He and his team mate – the reigning two-time world champion teammate Fernando Alonso – traded fastest lap after fastest lap around the Hungaroring during Q1 and Q2. Hamilton finished Q2 three tenths quicker than Alonso then………… all hell broke loose during Q3.
McLaren had prepared for Alonso leave the pits first “for purposes of fuel burn allowance” and optimum track position. Hamilton, thanks to his mechanics, arrived first to the Pit Lane exit and left in front of Alonso on their penultimate runs. Lewis then declined repeated ‘requests’ to allow Alonso by.
After finally swapping positions, the McLarens came in with 2:20 remaining for stacked pit stops, but as Peter Windsor reported at the time, “instead of leaving his pit in order that his team-mate Hamilton could complete his pit stop, [Alonso] remained in position for a further 10 seconds…. Because of the delay caused by Alonso, Hamilton was unable… to complete a flying lap.”
Team principal Ron Dennis furiously accosted Alonso’s trainer Fabrizio Barro and Big Ron was then seen stampeding across to the parc fermé area to “discuss” the incident with Fernando. The Spaniard mostly ignored his McLaren boss and posed for the post-qualifying photos.
Fernando and Lewis were coy during the FIA post-qualifying press conference, though that famous naughty boy Lewis smirk appeared as the told the questioner to “ask the team” about what had happened. Alonso later claimed, “We wait for the countdown and we go…but I think the calculation was wrong because my teammate didn’t complete a lap.”
Dennis, his drivers, and the team manager were summoned by the Stewards. The FIA determined that Alonso “unnecessarily impeded another driver” and that the actions of Vodafone McLaren were “prejudicial to the interests of the competition and to the interests of motor sport generally.”
Fernando was given a five place starting penalty and Hamilton started from the front of the grid.. Lewis won the race the following day but McLaren were stripped of any points accrued that weekend.
The loss of the 15 points meant McLaren finished the season with 203 points and Ferrari with 204, though a later controversy over espionage saw McLaren disqualified from that season’s constructors’ championship and all 2007 points erased.
Alonso left McLaren at the end of that year and rejoined Renault who had their own corruption troubles over Crashgate!