The transcript of last Thursday's World Motor Sport Council hearing in Paris has inadvertently revealed the extent of the breakdown in relations between world champion Fernando Alonso and the management of the Woking team.

Although both parties put on a brave face at grand prix weekends, Ron Dennis' testimony to the WMSC explained that he and the Spaniard were hardly on speaking terms following a catalogue of problems and misunderstandings in Alonso's first season at McLaren.

"The relationship between Fernando and myself is extremely cold. That is an understatement," Dennis said, while explaining the background to the espionage case and Alonso's role in contributing incriminating e-mails to the evidence.

"In Fernando's mind, there is the firm belief that our policy, whereby each driver receives equal treatment, does not properly reflect his status as world champion. He bases this assertion on the fact that his experience and knowledge and what came to him from his former team is such that he should receive an advantage."

Dennis went on to reveal details of the confrontation between the pair at the Hungaroring that led to the team boss notifying the FIA of contact between his star driver and disgraced McLaren designer Mike Coughlan, in which confidential details of Ferrari's F2007 were spread deeper into the team than at first thought.

"In that discussion, he was extremely upset with what had taken place the previous day [the qualifying session at the Hungarian Grand Prix], but nowhere nearly as upset as I was. He said things that he subsequently and fully retracted. Within the passage of material, he made a specific reference to e-mails from a McLaren engineer. When he made this statement, I said 'stop'. I went out, brought Mr Whitmarsh in, and Fernando said everything again, in front of his manager. When he had finished, I turned to Martin Whitmarsh, asking what we should do with this particular part of the conversation. Martin said we should find Max.

"After Martin and Fernando left, that is exactly what he did. I recounted the entire conversation to Max. I was upset and angry, but mainly upset. Max calmed me down. He said that I should do nothing. I started to calm down. Then, prior to the race, Fernando's manager came and said that he had lost his temper and completely retracted everything he said. When I phoned Max, Max was understanding and said things to me that are irrelevant here, though I would be more than comfortable sharing them.

"He was completely understanding and said that, on the basis of what I told him, if he felt there was any real validity in what Fernando had said, he would contact me prior to taking any action. I, however, on the basis that this was an engineering matter, I asked Martin whether he thought something was amiss in that area. He told me "we have been too thorough in talking to the engineers; he cannot have been telling the truth'.

"We subsequently had a reasonable grand prix. Fernando came to me. He had come in third. He apologised for the outburst and I put it down to the heat of the moment, in which he was angry. That is how I took it. Other than following up with Martin, the matter ended there, until 26 days later, when the drivers received a letter. What took
place between those times, I do not know. I do not know what circumstances brought that into the public domain."

Subsequent questioning by Ferrari's legal representative Nigel Tozzi again underlined the rift that now exists between Dennis and Alonso, leading to much speculation that the Spaniard will be on his way out of the team at the end of the current campaign, despite having two years to run on his contract.

Questioned on his assertion that he did not who had brought the e-mails to wider attention, Dennis insisted that he had not spoken to Alonso since Hungary.

"I have not seen anything anywhere indicating who said what to whom," he said, "To this day, I do not know how this came to Max's attention, apart from my telling him. Only Bernie [Ecclestone] may said that he had seen something and said he would pass it to Max. I do not know what that is. I do know that Bernie said it was in Spanish, but I do not know how this material came to the knowledge of the FIA."

"After matters had calmed down with Mr Alonso and you were once again on speaking terms, you did not ask him then...," Tozzi attempted to counter.

"We are not on speaking terms, but that does not matter," Dennis interjected, "We have not had any conversations since that point."

Dennis subsequently revealed that he had not pressed the matter further within McLaren, believing that, having retracted his claims, Alonso did not actually possess the e-mails, but he insisted that contacting Mosley in the first place underlined McLaren's desire to be open and honest in the matter, despite not enjoying the best of relationships with the FIA president.

"Max will tell you that we have a difficult relation," he confirmed, "It is not a great relationship, due to various issues in the past years over which we have had differences of opinion. To call him on the telephone and tell him what had taken place clearly indicates that there was absolutely no effort on my part to hide what had happened. There was no such effort at all. It was subsequently retracted and put down to one of our engineers. I had absolute confidence that the information passed to our engineers had not been involved in it. That gave me the confidence that he was not telling the truth. And he retracted it.

"The simple fact is that [the e-mails] did not even exist,as far as I was concerned. Nothing existed, because [Alonso] said that he retracted it, that it did not happen. I phoned Max and said that he had retracted it and calmed down.

Asked why Alonso was not present at the hearing, and whether the Spaniard was supportive of the team's case, Dennis made no attempt to make excuses for his driver.

"Mr Alonso is not here because he does not want to be here," he said, "He does not speak to anyone much. He is a remarkable recluse for a driver. He is not here by choice. Moreover, he said he had other things to do by previous arrangement. I cannot force him to come. We asked him to come.

"I presume that what he has written in his statement is the truth. If our relationship is as it appears to be, why would he make the statement? The statement is the truth. That is what statements are about."

Dennis also confirmed that neither Alonso or Pedro de la Rosa had approached him with regard to having the e-mails prior to the initial hearing in late July.

"The 3 July issue focused on a quantity of documents that were, as we all know, obtained by [Mike Coughlan], copied by his wife, shredded by his wife and burned in the back garden and ultimately, seized on the 3 July," Dennis said, "Everything that emerged thereafter was focused on the possibility of the material contaminating our company. No driver approached me and, in fairness to them, I never approached them. Nor was anything found on the computers that you held on the morning of the third.

"I had absolutely no knowledge of them. How could I? 300 people work for our group. How on Earth could I know all about what moves amongst my employees? How do you expect me to know that? I certainly did not know anything about the e-mails moving between our drivers."

 

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