Email allegations drag Alonso into spy scandal

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The Independent Online

In the paddock here yesterday the means emerged by which FIA, Formula One's governing body, "persuaded" teams and the three McLaren drivers to provide the further evidence that will be used against the Anglo-German team in the reconvened World Motor Sport Council hearing in Paris next Thursday.

Having previously refused to divulge any information in case they were accused of spinning the case, the governing body said that they had " noted the various reports in the international press regarding the discovery of new evidence", and "in the interests of complete transparency" had decided to publish the text of the letter written to Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and test driver Pedro De La Rosa at the end of August.

The nature of it left little doubt that all three McLaren drivers were required to cooperate fully with the FIA in the completion of its investigation, although it did not go so far as to overtly threaten to suspend the Super Licence they need to do their jobs if they did not.

While Hamilton told them that he had nothing relevant to divulge, it is alleged that both De La Rosa, a close friend of disgraced and suspended chief designer Mike Coughlan, and Alonso had had email discussions about aspects such as weight distribution and tyre warming that had come from the documentation that was stolen from Ferrari and subsequently found in Coughlan's house in July. That is the new evidence that prompted the FIA to reconvene the WMSC meeting instead of holding an appeal on behalf of Ferrari in the International Court of Appeal on the same date.

Though, if found guilty, McLaren could technically be barred from the championship, common sense suggests that such a Draconian punishment would only damage the sport in what is turning into a sensational season.

On legal advice, McLaren made no official comment yesterday, but Alonso made a response of his own on the track by setting the day's fastest practice time ahead of the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, and Hamilton.

"We went through our usual set-up and Bridgestone tyre comparison work and now have a good understanding of our competitiveness this weekend," Hamilton said. "The car feels really good to drive round here, and we have made some good steps forward. However you never know what everyone else is doing, so we will be looking for further improvements."

Monza practice times

First session: 1 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1 min 22.446 secs; 2 F Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:22.590; 3 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:22.618; 4 F Alonso (Spa) McLaren 1:22.840; 5 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams–Toyota 1:23.472; 6 J Button (GB) Honda 1:23.668; 7 G Fisichella (Ita) Renault 1:23.671; 8 R Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:23.703; 9 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:23.886; 10 J Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:23.965; 11 H Kovalainen (Fin) Renault 1:24.076; 12 R Barrichello (Bra) Honda 1:24.564; 13 T Sato (Japan) Super Aguri-Honda 1:24.587; 14 M Webber (Aus) RedBull-Renault 1:24.595; 15 R Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1:24.660; 16 A Wurz (Aust) Williams-Toyota 1:24.689; 17 A Davidson (GB) Super Aguri-Honda 1:24.694; 18 D Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Renault 1:24.810; 19 A Sutil (Ger) Spyker-Ferrari 1:25.130; 20 S Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:25.439; 21 Sakon Yamamoto (Japan) Spyker-Ferrari 1:25.448; 22 V Liuzzi (Ita) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:25.762.

Second session: 1 Alonso 1 min 22.386 secs; 2 Hamilton 1:23.209; 3 Fisichella 1:23.584; 4 Kubica 1:23.599; 5 Rosberg 1:23.679; 6 Massa 1:23.722; 7 Heidfeld 1:23.821; 8 Raikkonen 1:23.833; 9 Kovalainen 1:23.848;

10 Wurz 1:23.881; 11 Trulli 1:23.919; 12 Schumacher 1:23.922; 13 Button 1:24.137; 14 Webber 1:24.328; 15 Barrichello 1:24.462; 16 Coulthard 1:24.605; 17 Sato 1:25.328; 18 Vettel 1:25.459; 19 Sutil 1:25.531; 20 Liuzzi 1:25.567; 21 Yamamoto 1:25.86; 22 Davidson 1:26.021.