Ron Dennis has reacted angrily to claims from former McLaren-Mercedes star Fernando Alonso that Heikki Kovalainen has been cast into a supporting role at the team in 2008 – insisting that 'only one' driver has ever hinted at a lack of equality within the squad.
Alonso walked away from the Woking-based outfit at the end of 2007 – two years before his three-year contract was due to expire – after complaining for much of the season that team-mate Lewis Hamilton was receiving preferential treatment.
He has now backed up those comments by suggesting his successor Kovalainen was told to move aside for Hamilton at Hockenheim two weeks' ago, adding that had he himself remained at the multiple world championship-winning concern this year, he would have had just as little chance of being permitted to win as his underperforming Renault currently allows him [see separate story – click here
Those remarks have come in for short shrift, however, from McLaren team principal Ron Dennis, with whom Alonso fell out so publicly and spectacularly last year. The pair's relationship reached a nadir in Hungary when the Oviedo native threatened to blackmail his boss over the espionage row.
Speaking in Budapest twelve months on, Dennis insisted that 'only one' former driver had ever complained about a lack of equality, and suggested that in his renewed criticism the Spaniard may have transgressed the terms of his termination agreement with the squad.
“Firstly, when the contract with Fernando was terminated there were pre-conditions which determined the behaviour of both parties post-termination,” the Englishman said in an interview with British newspaper The Guardian
“We have no intention of breaching that agreement. His opinion is his opinion – I'm not going to voice my opinion about anything that Fernando has done or said.”
The 61-year-old also flatly rejected Alonso's interpretation of Kovalainen's actions in the German Grand Prix, instead making reference to the Finn's lack of 'selfishness' that he explained had been such a breath of fresh air at McLaren this year.
“When you're in a team and you know your team-mate has the opportunity to win the race and you don't, if you have the right values that are not lodged solely and exclusively in your own motives and your own objectives and your own selfishness, then you take a decision which is to allow the driver past and allow him a chance to win the race,” Dennis reasoned.
“What I would say is you can't see any strings leading to Heikki's shoulders or anyone's hands up his back. He's an honest guy – he will more than convince anyone who talks to him that this is a team absolutely committed to equality. It always has been and it always will be.
“People will point to the last grand prix [at Hockenheim] and say it's absolutely obvious there were team orders in that event because it was clear that Heikki moved over and let Lewis past. The essential fact was that throughout that race Lewis was nearly seven tenths of a second faster than Heikki and he knew that; he was told that. He was not told to let Lewis past.”