McLaren-Mercedes test driver Pedro de la Rosa has accused compatriot Fernando Alonso of benefiting from an illegal call from the Renault pit during the early stages of the Turkish Grand Prix.

Having seen both Alonso and team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella fall behind the Spaniard's main title rival Kimi Raikkonen by lap two of the Istanbul race, television coverage of the event fortuitously switched to a message on the pit-to-car radio, telling Alonso that he was faster than his team-mate, and to pass him. Whether the call was a pre-arranged signal to both drivers remains to be seen, as no communication was heard with Fisichella, but Alonso duly passed his team-mate on the next available straight, and was in prime position to claim a damage-limiting podium finish.

"What did Renault was illegal," de la Rosa insisted to Spanish newspaper Marca, "What they told Alonso on the radio was 100 per cent team orders - the instruction to pass was clear. All that we don't know was what may have been said to Fisichella."

'Team orders' became a black phrase in Formula One after the 'A1-gate' affair involving Ferrari duo Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher in 2002. The Brazilian had been the man of the meeting, qualifying on pole and then romping away from both his team-mate and a field already far inferior to the Scuderia, but was instructed to slow and allow Schumacher to pass, taking a win he hardly needed towards his title quest on the final lap.

Asked on Saturday what the Renault team's tactics may be for the Istanbul race having seen Raikkonen qualify on the pole, Alonso - who crashed trying to catch and pass a recalcitrant team-mate in Canada - refused to be drawn on specifics, but clearly pointed out that team orders were prohibited. Fisichella, however, admitted that his campaign was now at a stage where aiding his team-mate would be a possibility.

"I will do my race and, depending on how it goes, I will try to help Fernando," the Italian intimated, "If Raikkonen falls behind us, or retires, I will fight for the victory but, if Kimi is ahead of us, I will try to help him. However, team orders that affect the outcome of a race are prohibited."

No official complaint has been forthcoming from the McLaren camp, and the sport's governing body - the FIA - has not said that it is looking in to the issue, leaving Alonso with a 24-point lead over Raikkonen, and Renault seven points to the good over McLaren.

 

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