Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2007, 12:00am

This column often tries to tackle subjects in Formula One that don't always hit the headlines but are important all the same. Forget that this week; there's only one thing to talk about, and that's the soap opera that is Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

Let's be honest, this spat at McLaren is fabulous. It's fabulous for us, the fans, rekindling memories of the sport's glory days. Remember the gloriously bad-tempered relationship between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost?

It culminated in the infamous crash at Suzuka between the two in 1989, which handed the title to Prost. You wouldn't have fancied being in the team crossfire (also McLaren, funnily enough) but it led to some great races and acres of coverage in the newspapers.

So why has this current version of the old story started to spiral out of control?

On the surface it seems Alonso has the most to answer for. You can almost hear his thoughts as he put pen to paper in his McLaren contract ... 'great new car coming up, no Kimi to put a spanner in the works. Perhaps [Pedro] De La Rosa, who I can deal with, or that young snot Hamilton. He's a rookie and I'm a two-times world champion - no problem'.

Of course it hasn't worked out this way and Hamilton's progress has underlined Alonso's surprising mental frailty. He feels he's not favoured and the team are behind a boy who has been part of the family since before he hit the teenage years. The sight of Ron Dennis hugging his rival after his first successes couldn't have helped much, neither the fact that Hamilton is so damn fast.

But Alonso seems to have turned in on himself, imploding in anger and resentment. This is the time a true champ steps up to the mark, and does what it takes to win. The shenanigans in the Hungarian pits may have ultimately proved counterproductive, but it may have marked the moment when the worm turned.

One thing he mustn't do is cut and run to another team. Whatever he may feel about McLaren, they have the fastest car on the track.

Time to turn up to work with a cheery smile and win over his mechanics before winning a few more races. It's the best way to sort the situation out. And perhaps time to listen to former world champion Alan Jones who in a recent interview suggested he has a word in Hamilton's ear: 'I'd say: 'Mate, you're leading the championship. If you'd like me to bugger that up for you a bit more, you keep going'.'

So what of the new golden boy of F1?

Let's be honest, he hasn't put a foot wrong so far. He's been fast, he's been consistent and he's top of the championship standings. He's also managed to ruffle a double world champion who was composed enough to see off a charging Michael Schumacher to win his crowns. Hamilton might look all sweetness and light, but make no mistake, he has inner steel and he knows how to mix it.

Don't forget who started all the nonsense in Hungary. Hamilton sparked it by ignoring a previously agreed qualifying strategy. It takes courage, focus and a disregard for all else but winning to start behaving like that. You might expect it from a seasoned driver, but not someone so young with so many other pressure to deal with.

And so to Ron Dennis. The media, particularly the British press, are calling for him to bang heads together. Some feel he's been weak to let it get this far. I think Ron's a genius. McLaren are one and two in the drivers' championship. They are still 34 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors' championship, despite being stripped of any points in Hungary (a decision that surely must be overturned on appeal - after all it was an in-house argument that didn't affect anyone else).

Where is the crisis? I think Ron Dennis and McLaren should be congratulated for producing the best season for year. Spying scandals and now teammate battles. Rejoice, the good times are back again.