Dennis no longer talks to 'reclusive' Alonso

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The Independent Online

The head of McLaren, Ron Dennis, has not been on speaking terms with the team's Formula One champion Fernando Alonso since last month's Hungarian Grand Prix, it emerged yesterday.

In a transcript of the "spy hearing" that last Thursday fined McLaren £50m and stripped them of their 2007 constructors' points, Dennis revealed the extent of the rift with a driver he described as a "remarkable recluse".

"First, the relationship between Fernando and myself is extremely cold," he told Ferrari's lawyer under questioning about a row with the 26-year-old before the Budapest race on 5 August. "That is an understatement. In Fernando's mind, there is the firm belief that our policy, whereby each driver received 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."

Alonso, who joined from Renault after winning the last two titles with the French team, is two points adrift of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, in his first season, with three races remaining. McLaren have promised both a fair crack at the title. Dennis' revelation will only fuel speculation that Alonso will move on at the end of the season, with a return to Renault the most likely.

McLaren were handed the record fine and points penalty after new evidence, some of it emails handed over to the FIA by Alonso and McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa, emerged. Dennis told the hearing how he and Alonso had a heated conversation before the Hungarian race, in which the "extremely upset" driver revealed the existence of the emails. Dennis then informed the FIA, before the Spaniard's manager returned to retract what had been said.

Asked about further conversations with Alonso after matters had calmed down, Dennis interjected: "We are not on speaking terms, but that does not matter. We have not had any conversations since that point." Alonso, unlike Hamilton, did not attend the Paris hearing. "Mr Alonso is not here because he does not want to be here," Dennis told the hearing. "He does not speak to anyone much. He is a remarkable recluse for a driver ... I cannot force him to come. We asked him to come."

McLaren's lawyer said exclusion from this and next year's championship, the punishment threatened, would "destroy" the Mercedes-powered team. It also heard a plea from Hamilton's lawyer not to strip either driver of points, even if McLaren were deemed to have benefited from the leaked Ferrari data found at the home of now suspended chief designer Mike Coughlan in July. "Lewis Hamilton has done nothing wrong and has won his points by driving," counsel Mark Phillips said. "Let him get back on the track to become the first rookie world champion in Formula One history."

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