Fernando Alonso - McLaren new boyAfter the Monaco Grand Prix just a couple of weeks ago, there was an uproar in the British media over McLaren’s apparent bias towards Fernando Alonso by telling their other driver Lewis Hamilton to back off and not race him.

This seemed like common sense to most people, why should McLaren allow their two drivers to race and potentially force one or other (or both) into a mistake which in the end costs them millions of pounds and dents their chances of winning a World Championship or two?

The British media saw this as a slight against “our Lewis” though, and kicked up a big enough stink to force the FIA into an investigation which was only really going to have one result - McLaren were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Now, Lewis has claimed his maiden victory and the whole thing has been dragged up again, only this time with the boot on the other foot with claims that McLaren are actually biased against Alonso - make your mind up!

Fernando Alonso is quoted as saying he feels the team is geared up to back his British teammate, a driver who has grown up as part of the McLaren family as Ron Dennis has backed his career since he was just a boy racing karts.

Personally I feel that Alonso’s comments have been taken out of context and while they could be read as being somewhat huffy, I think that he’s just stating a fact.  He is a Spaniard, coming to work for a British team yet his teammate is not only British but he has also been part of that team behind the scenes for many years - it is only natural that he would feel Ron Dennis, etc may favour Lewis over him.

Alonso states that when he first joined the team he didn’t feel totally comfortable, or as at home as he did at Renault - which is to be expected whenever someone starts a job for a new employer.  Lewis coming in as his teammate would probably only highlight the fact that most of the McLaren employees were already familiar with this “rookie” therefore giving Lewis a headstart over the double World Champion even before the racing had started.

We have seen a similar thing in the past when David Coulthard was paired with Mika Hakkinen.  While you may expect the British team to favour the British driver, the opposite was the case as Ron Dennis formed a close bond with the Finn after Hakkinen was involved in a life-threatening accident in Australia 1995 - an accident in which Hakkinen may very well have died at the wheel of one of Ron’s cars.

Being part of the recovery process and seeing Hakkinen race again in his cars was bound to allow a close emotional bond to develop between the team boss and his driver, which may explain Coulthard’s insistence that it was the Finn who received preferential treatment during their time together.  Some would say that DC was just moaning because his teammate was beating him at the time, but like Alonso I think he was just stating a fact.

As a team without an obvious number one and number two driver, McLaren will always leave themselves open to this kind of complaint - but it should really be left up to the team to decide whether they adopt this strategy or follow the old Ferrari example of having Michael Schumacher coupled with a lesser number two driver.

Whether Alonso really does feel aggrieved at his treatment, only he will know and some would say that his starts at the last two races have been somewhat desperate which may be a sign of his anger.  In Canada he was actually ahead of Lewis arriving at the first corner and could easily have cut across him, but instead he ended up leaving Hamilton too much room and went over the grass himself, thus damaging his own car and effectively ruining his race.  He could easily have been more aggressive, but instead chose to play the team game and try not to decide the whole race result at the first corner of the first lap - not really the clear thinking you would expect from someone in a frustrated frame of mind.

For the sake of Formula One, I would hope that these sensationalist type stories which are surrounding McLaren and Lewis Hamilton will stop but I can’t honestly see that happening any time soon.