Fernando Alonso has revealed his side of the story regarding the infamous incident at the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix.
One of the biggest flashpoints of the incredibly tense and bitter championship fight between the two McLaren drivers, as well as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, came at that year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Rookie Lewis Hamilton and reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso were both going for pole position, until an incident later dubbed ‘Pitlanegate’ occurred towards the end of Q3.
Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton cause ‘Pitlanegate’
Coming in to change tyres for the final runs in Q3, Alonso was the first of the two McLarens into the box to be fitted with his new set. Waved off by the lollipop man as the seconds ticked by, Alonso didn’t move off – instead sitting there for 10 seconds while his team frantically tried to signal him to move, as Hamilton was sitting directly behind awaiting his tyres.
Alonso would cross the line to start his final flying lap with just two seconds to spare before the chequered flag, while Hamilton would miss out on his final run.
The effect of this was that Alonso took pole position with his final lap, with Hamilton dropping down to second after being quickest on the initial run. The result left team boss Ron Dennis incandescent with rage as he stormed down the pitwall to find Alonso’s assistant and berate him, in what became famous footage as the civil war at McLaren became public knowledge.
Alonso would later be given a five-place grid penalty for the incident, dropping him down to sixth on the grid.
Fernando Alonso: No one heard my version of events
Speaking in an in-depth interview with the BBC, Alonso explained the day in question from his perspective – he had felt aggrieved by Hamilton not yielding track position to him earlier in the session, despite a team instruction to do so.
“The things that have been talked about and have been published on some episodes, for sure could lead to some misunderstandings,” he said.
“Like, as you said, 2007, the Hungary thing. No one heard my version, or the truth, or the facts.”
But what are the facts, according to the two-time World Champion?
“I said that I never hold anyone,” he said, “They [McLaren] just gave me old tyres when it was qualifying.
“So there is the radio transcript, the decision from the stewards, where it is written that they put me a penalty on an article that didn’t exist. They just put the penalty but clarified it was not for any article. And things like that.
“And it was my team putting a protest against myself, which is the first time in the history of the sport. So when you put all these kinds of things and you don’t see the facts, obviously it is difficult to clarify some misunderstandings.”
Given the events were some 16 years ago, it’s possible Alonso may have misremembered some of the facts off the day. Taking pole position on a used set of tyres would be a particularly impressive feat, while McLaren did not lodge an official protest against their driver – even if Alonso didn’t have the full support of every member of the team’s upper management hierarchy.
But the fact the FIA intervened to punish Alonso for a matter which really should have been dealt with internally at McLaren clearly rankled him – particularly as Hamilton didn’t face the same pushback from his team, despite having ignored an instruction.
“When you are 20 years in a competitive level in any sport,” Alonso said.
“I think you will get some of these episodes.
“If we go to tennis, or football, or whatever, with all the respect for any other players in football, maybe the right midfielder of one small team gets some episodes and no one knows anything about them.
“If Ronaldo or Messi or some other big players sometimes get a yellow or red card or [say something in] whatever interview, there is a big story behind.
“So I think I found myself sometimes in those situations.”