‘Fernando Alonso gave McLaren mechanics envelopes stuffed with cash in 2007’

Sam Cooper
Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, McLaren, pose. Spain, January 2007.

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso pose in front of a McLaren image back in 2007.

Former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley has claimed that Fernando Alonso once gave out brown envelopes full of cash so the garage would like him more than Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton and Alonso were team-mates for just one year but that did not stop them from getting under each other’s skin.

With the arrival of Hamilton as a rookie into the sport and Alonso’s established role as a two-time World Champion, the expectation had been that the future seven-time World Champion would play second fiddle to Alonso but that quickly proved not to be the case.

The young Brit’s first season in the sport reached a climax when Alonso purposefully stopped in the pits to slow his team-mate’s effort at qualifying in the Hungarian Grand Prix. It has now been revealed that the dirty tactics were not confined solely to on the track either.

Speaking on the PitStop podcast, the former McLaren mechanic turned media man Priestley said that he was once handed a brown envelope with €1,500 in it.

“One of Fernando’s tactics is to try and bring the whole team over to his side of the garage,” the 45-year-old said. “He tries to wrestle control.

“There was a moment during 2007 when we had them both where Fernando turned up at a race and I arrived and Fernando’s manager or his trainer is handing out little brown envelopes stuffed with cash to everybody who wasn’t on Lewis’ car.

“So his team, the support team, I was running the t-car team, we all got these little brown envelopes and I remember opening up the envelope and there was like €1,500 or something.

“It was so dodgy, first of all you just get an unmarked brown envelope and I’m like ‘thanks very much what’s that’ and the trainer wanders off and you’re left with this thing and you open it up and it’s literally just full of cash.

“You start looking around and your colleagues have all got them going ‘have you opened yours? How much did you get?’ And all of a sudden this starts spreading around the team and the only people that didn’t get them were Lewis’ crew.

“All of a sudden it starts to dawn on us what’s happened here, he’s looking to gain support, he’s trying to encourage, let’s say, people to support his side of this intense battle that they were in.”

The tactic proved unsuccessful though as the team discovered the handouts and made the recipients donate the cash to charity.

“On one hand you can say it was a clever tactic but in the end the team obviously found out about it and made us donate the whole lot to charity which was fine, but it was a little insight into the two different mindsets.

“Lewis did different things, Lewis played little games with the media, they all did things wrong and things right, none of us are perfect, but how they went about their strategy for being the best Formula 1 driver was different, both achieved great results in their own different ways but they were very different approaches.”

The Hamilton-Alonso rivalry would last only one season before the latter moved onto Renault. The two veterans of the sport seem better friends now and Alonso was pictured receiving a signed Mercedes cap from Hamilton after the two crashed at Spa.