Out of control: Hungary 2007 was boiling point for McLaren

Fernando Alonso returned to McLaren in 2015, after his first spell ended bitterly and prematurely. The 2007 season saw Alonso partnered with Lewis Hamilton, and tensions in the team rose as the year went on. Nowhere was that more prominent than in that year’s Hungarian Grand Prix…

The race took place in the midst of the Spygate scandal between McLaren and Ferrari, where McLaren was passed information from Ferrari. Whilst this was probably the biggest talking point going into the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, it sure as hell wasn’t the biggest talking point as the paddock left the Hungaroring. And it wasn’t a controversial moment in the race itself. It all boiled down to a few crucial seconds in the final qualifying session on Saturday.

Source: McLaren F1

Alonso had been unhappy for a short while, feeling that McLaren were starting to favour Hamilton. The rookie had developed much quicker than expected and had become a real title contender, so McLaren were therefore treating them both as potential champions, much like Mercedes have done with Hamilton and Rosberg the last few years. But Alonso did not like this. He had come into the team and expected to be number one for at least one year of his three year deal.

Hungary, 2007: Alonso was two points behind Hamilton, who lead the championship, as they entered the race and he wanted the lead of the title race at the end of the weekend.

Source: McLaren F1

Qualifying 1 and 2 went smoothly, but qualifying 3 was where it all went awry. Hamilton had been ordered to let Alonso pass on the earlier runs during the fuel-burn phase, but had not done so. Alonso was second after the first runs with Hamilton on pole, and the pair came in for fresh tyres. McLaren serviced Alonso and kept him in his pitbox for around 20 seconds, a tactic to make sure the cars were not in traffic and had the best shot possible at pole. But Alonso did not budge at the end of the 20 seconds. He stayed in his pitbox for an extra 10 seconds, the team gesticulating wildly to say “you need to go!”.  He eventually went on his way, after holding up Hamilton as he was immediately behind and waiting for his service. Alonso just made it round to start his final flying lap by 2 seconds, but he had cost Hamilton who missed out on a final attempt by 5 seconds.

Ron Dennis was absolutely livid. He knew exactly what had just happened, and went over to talk to Alonso’s trainer who had no knowledge of what his driver had just done. The stewards took an equally dim view and decided Alonso had deliberately compromised Hamilton’s qualifying session. He was given a five place grid penalty and started the race down in sixth place. Hamilton duly started from pole position and went on to dominate the event. Alonso meanwhile was compromised by Ralf Schumacher’s Toyota for much of the race and only managed to climb to fourth at the end of the race. Alonso would go on to lose the world title by just a single point, and a win in Hungary would have been more than enough for a world title at season’s end in Brazil. As it turned out, Kimi Raikkonen took the title and Alonso left McLaren for Renault in 2008. He would return with the revitalised McLaren-Honda partnership in 2015 and it would be much more harmonious, although as we all know, the results have been few and far between…