23 February 2010
Alonso on F1 scandals: I was in wrong place at wrong time
New Ferrari recruit Fernando Alonso has defended his somewhat besmirched reputation in the wake of his implication in two damaging and high-profile F1 scandals over the last three years - insisting that in both instances, he was simply in the 'wrong place at the wrong time'
Fernando Alonso has insisted that his involvement in two of the most explosive scandals in F1 history in recent years has simply been a case of being in the 'wrong place at the wrong time', and as he begins his new – and what he claims will be last – stage of his ultra-successful grand prix career with Ferrari in 2010, the Spaniard stresses that all of the controversy is now 'in the past'.
In 2007, not only did Alonso infamously fall out with both McLaren-Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and team principal Ron Dennis during his sole, unhappy campaign at the Woking-based outfit, but he also found himself embroiled in the so-called espionage row, after the multiple title-winning British concern was found to be in possession of confidential technical data belonging to arch-rival Ferrari.
Following a particularly bitter dispute with Dennis in the wake of the Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying session mid-summer, the Oviedo native is even believed to have attempted to blackmail the Englishman by threatening to disclose information to governing body the FIA, which was investigating the crime. McLaren was ultimately fined a sporting record $100 million and disqualified from that year's constructors' standings.
Two years later, and the same Alonso again found himself caught up in a headline-grabbing tale of outrage, as his employer Renault was exposed as having deliberately 'fixed' the result of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, by instructing Nelsinho Piquet to crash out to necessitate a safety car period that played perfectly into his early-stopping team-mate's hands and enabled the double F1 World Champion to triumph in the sport's inaugural night-time race from a distinctly disadvantaged grid slot.
Having been implicated – directly or otherwise – in two flagrant examples of cheating have admittedly done little for Alonso's reputation, and whilst he has always protested his innocence in and ignorance of the 'Singapore-gate' saga and was never doubted by the subsequent FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) hearing that very nearly resulted in Renault being banned from the sport outright, his critics argue that mud sticks.
“With the spy history I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” the 21-time grand prix-winner told British newspaper The Guardian, “but I was very happy to help the FIA discover everything. 'Crashgate' was not easy. It was a bad season for F1 last year and Flavio [Briatore – former Renault F1 managing director and Alonso's manager who allegedly initiated the Singapore conspiracy] is a friend. I have been working with him many years now, so for all the [legal] decisions that go well for him I am happy – but I don't know everything about his case.”
Briatore subsequently proved successful in getting his effective lifetime ban from all FIA-sanctioned forms of motorsport overturned by the French High Court earlier this year, but Alonso insists he has 'no idea' as to whether or not the flamboyant Italian will ever return to the F1 paddock. When put to him that he must have been shocked that his former employers could stoop so low as to resort to potentially life-threatening tactics, all he will concede is: “It is in the past.”
One person who certainly was shocked by the turn of events in the Far-Eastern city-state that night is Alonso's new Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, who angrily contended in the wake of the fall-out that Renault and Piquet's foul play had likely cost him 2008 title glory, given that the Brazilian had been leading in Singapore prior to his countryman's crash and in the enforced rushed pit-stop there was a problem with his refuelling hose that led to him ultimately taking the chequered flag a lowly and point-less 13th.
The Paulista went on to lose out on the laurels by just a single point in the final reckoning to Lewis Hamilton –somewhat ironically, Alonso's arch-nemesis in 2007, with little palpably love lost between the former McLaren team-mates. Given that ten points were on offer for victory in Singapore and Massa picked up none of them, the 28-year-old's ire is understandable – and it has led, some opine, to a somewhat frosty relationship with the man who has joined him at Maranello this year. Not so, stresses Alonso.
“People are only writing these things because they know we are very strong,” he urged, before concluding: “Felipe and I work for the team.”
World Motor Sport Council
Singapore Grand Prix
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