Dennis: Hamilton triggered incident
|By Mark Glendenning and Biranit Goren||Saturday, August 4th 2007, 17:27 GMT|
McLaren team boss Ron Dennis absolved Fernando Alonso of any blame in today's qualifying incident - and revealed it was actually Lewis Hamilton who triggered the pitstop hold-up.
Speaking to reporters after qualifying in McLaren's traditional media briefing, Dennis began by explaining the events in today's session and how they unfolded.
"We have various procedures within the team, and prior to practice we determine how it is going to be run, what our strategy is, and how that's going to be enacted on the circuit," Dennis said.
"There are some procedural issues there on qualifying. One of the things that you'll have seen several times over the course of this season is long periods of time where the car has gone down to the end of pitlane and sat for a long time.
"In this situation, we are timed to when we can dispatch the car based on when the car reaches a given temperature, and then we know how long we can hold it at the pitlane.
"The cars are dispatched as soon as possible. In this instance, Lewis's car got up to that temperature first, so we sent Lewis, then we sent Fernando, and the fuel burn characteristics [mean that] there is a small advantage which we play from driver to driver according to the nature of the circuit.
"In this instance, it was Fernando's time to get the advantage of the longer fuel burn. The arrangement was, OK, we're down at the end of the pitlane, we reverse positions in the first lap.
"That didn't occur as arranged. That was somewhat disappointing and caused some tensions on the pitwall.
"We were, from that moment on, out of sequence because the cars were in the wrong place on the circuit and that unfolded into the pitstops.
"It complicated the situation into the result, which was Lewis not getting his final timed lap. So this really started from that position, and from our drivers not swapping position to get the right fuel burn in order to arrive at the point where we cut the end result to the end.
"Now, as you have often asked the question, and let me make it a very honest answer: it is extremely difficult to deal with two such competitive drivers. There are definite pressures within the team. We make no secret of it.
"They are both very competitive, and they both want to win, and we are trying our very hardest to balance those pressures. Today we were part of a process where it didn't work, and the end result is more pressure on the team.
"But what you hear is the exact truth of what happened, and we will manage it inside the team through the balance of the season.
"Obviously Lewis feels more uncomfortable with the situation than Fernando. That's life, that's the way it is, and if he feels too hot to talk about it then that's the way it is.
"But what I've done is, I have given you an exact understanding of what took place today. And it's just pressure, competitiveness, and that's the way it is. We've just got to get on and deal with it, but we're not hiding from it.
"We're sat on the front row of the most difficult Grand Prix to win as regards to overtaking, and therefore we want to get on with the race."
Dennis turned to Alonso, who was sat next to him, and asked "Have I explained it accurately?" to which Alonso signalled the thumbs-up.
Explaining further the situation with Hamilton, Dennis said: "They were out of sequence because Lewis should have slowed and let Fernando past. And he didn't. He charged off. That's how we got out of sequence.
"We had a problem with the tyre blanket, but that didn't hamper us. We were out of sequence. If you look at the whole way that practice runs, you're running it by the second. And if you look, you can see other people spinning off the end at other times, but this time it was a bit more dramatic because it was two guys in the same team going for pole. It just cumulatively backs up. That's how it works."
Asked why, then did Alonso sit ahead of Hamilton in the pit box for some ten seconds, Dennis replied: "He's under the control of his engineer. He determined when he goes. That's the sequence. And if you think that was a deliberate thing, then you can think what you want. I have given you exactly what happened."
Dennis would not reveal what transpired between himself and Hamilton over the radio as the session ended, but said: "I was quite firm on the radio, and he was reasonably firm back. We were both firm with each other. But that's life.
"You're looking, understandably, for a sound-bite, a headline. But I am giving you what happened, clearly. I have told you, precisely, the truth.
"What happened, ultimately, and the consequences of what happened, cost one of our drivers the opportunity of having another lap to get on pole position. That's a fact. He (Hamilton) is not going to be happy about it. But that's what happened. Don't make it more than what it is. We try to run these things tight, and we got it wrong."
Despite that, Dennis admitted he took Alonso's physiotherapist with him to parc ferme because he feared both drivers would need to be calmed down.
"I took Fabrizio with me because I am only one person," Dennis said. "I didn't know what level of temperature the drivers were going to be when they came out of the cars, and I wanted Fabrizio to keep Fernando calm, and I was keeping Lewis calm.
"What we didn't want is things said in the heat of the moment that we would subsequently regret. We were both trying to calm both drivers down.
"Listen, as upset as both of the drivers were, they didn't say things that increased the pressure. They didn't increase the pressure, and basically, we tried to calm it all down.
"That's what we tried to do. It was as simple as that."
Asked about his reaction at the end of the session, when he was seen slamming his headphones on the pitwall, Dennis explained that despite the all-McLaren front row result, he was frustrated by the errors made through the session.
"OK, we are first and second, but we didn't do what we should have done as a team," Dennis said. "It wasn't the clean operation that I would have liked it to be, because it didn't unfold the way we meant it to unfold. It's as simple as that.
Dennis had to leave the media briefing, as he was called to the stewards' office, as they review the incident and decide if any penalties should be applied.
On his return, the McLaren chief summed up the pitstop hold-up: "When the engineer is controlling when the car goes out he has a GPS system.
"Every car is shown on the GPS system. It is standard procedure because you don't want to send your car out in traffic. He's looking at the GPS and he's looking at the gap.
"There's 15 seconds to the gap. So you hold the car, the gap is coming round, so you do a countdown: 15, 14, 13 and so on. The gap determines when the car is released. That's why you see the car stationary because the countdown is going on to the gap.
"The lollipop was out of sequence, and it was definitely not right. The lollipop man is basically looking at the car behind him and the engineer is watching the GPS system. We didn't do a good job.
"This whole thing started from the beginning of practice with two competitive drivers. The stewards understand the situation, they want to listen to the tapes, and they will review everything we said."