FIA steward to ensure equality for McLaren duo

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The Independent Online

The FIA has appointed a scrutineer specifically to make sure that the beleaguered McLaren team treat both their drivers equally in the upcoming Brazilian Grand Prix, which will see either of their pilots, Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso, or Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, crowned champion.

The decision follows a complaint by Alonso to the Spanish motorsport federation that he has not been getting the same treatment as Hamilton in qualifying at recent races.

Two days ago McLaren issued a statement stressing their commitment to fair play, but the FIA has taken the extraordinary decision to appoint a separate scrutineer for the Anglo-German team at Interlagos next week.

Carlos Garcia, the head of the Spanish motorsport federation who has personally been invited to attend the race by McLaren chief Ron Dennis, told the Spanish newspaper, AS: "The FIA will have a steward making sure that nothing wrong happens to Fernando, especially in qualifying, which is where there have been more complaints or strange situations in the last few grands prix.

"On October 3 I had a meeting with Max Mosley where I showed my concern over the situation that Fernando is going through, which is no secret, and he reassured me."

Alonso was said to have kicked a door in the McLaren team cabin, and to have smashed one of his helmets to the floor after qualifying in China last weekend, where he was only fourth fastest, six-tenths of a second shy of Hamilton who took pole position. That prompted yet another outburst to the Spanish media on the unfairness of his situation at McLaren, as he accused them of giving him incorrect tyre pressures.

"Perhaps if he had bothered to take up our offer to help us choose the pressures he would have been happier," a McLaren insider said. The fuel load the Spaniard carried in qualifying was sufficient for three laps more than Hamilton ran in the race, which could easily account for the time difference.

Garcia said he has no doubts that McLaren will treat Alonso and Hamilton equally, and added: "There are two Spanish drivers at McLaren and it makes sense for the federation to be there," he said. "Honestly, I think the treatment in this final race of the season will be the same, and that there will be equality for both drivers. It couldn't be any other way because it's what commonsense calls for, as there is a Ferrari driver behind and the British team have to fight against the red cars, not against their drivers. Fernando must be calm."

Parity of equipment, and the right of their drivers to race, have always been cornerstones of McLaren's culture. In Wednesday's statement, Dennis said: "This has been a tremendous season to which the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team and our drivers have, I believe, contributed a great deal.

"This contribution has been enhanced by allowing Fernando and Lewis to race each other with complete equality. This will, of course, continue in Brazil where the entire team will be doing its absolute best to win the drivers' world championship."

Hamilton, meanwhile, has decided his PlayStation rather than space-age technology will serve him better ahead of next weekend. Interlagos is another track on the calendar Hamilton has yet to experience, unlike Alonso and Raikkonen.

Ahead of the most important race of his career, gaining as much knowledge of what is a very bumpy track would perhaps have been beneficial. Yet despite the fact McLaren have a multi-million pound simulator at their Woking factory, Hamilton feels his PlayStation will prove more than adequate. "I've no plans to use the simulator, although I can if I want to," said Hamilton. "But I only use it if I come into the factory for development work on the car. I don't really gain an advantage, either physically or mentally from it.

"And anyway, I've played Brazil many times on the PlayStation. I've done a race with my brother, and I've always won!"