Did McLaren demote Hamilton in Melbourne?

Tue, 20 March 2007, 09:50

As the haze of near unprecedented hype surrounding Lewis Hamilton’s GP debut fades, it has been suggested that the 22-year-old may actually have been at the unfriendly end of a McLaren team tactic on Sunday.

The reigning GP2 champion led his teammate Fernando Alonso for the entire Australian grand prix until the final pit stop, when he dropped behind the Spaniard to finish third.

Some observers immediately suspected a deliberate tactic from the team’s pit wall to switch the duo’s positions, in order to hand the points advantage to McLaren’s higher paid and more experienced race driver.

But it later emerged that Hamilton’s delay behind lethargic backmarkers cost him dearly just before calling in for pit service, and Mercedes’ competition director Norbert Haug insisted to RTL: “It was not a team order.”

The team’s F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh also insists that the McLaren policy relating to drivers is of equality; a sentiment seemingly backed by Alonso.

The reigning world champion said in an interview with ‘Diario As’ that he might have raced Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen harder in Australia if he had enjoyed a “clearer track” during the grand prix.

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