Rivals comment on McLaren driver absence

Fri, 24 August 2007, 11:22

A band of formula one drivers in Turkey sided against the absence on Thursday of their McLaren rivals.

Officially, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton stayed away from the Istanbul circuit for reasons of convenience and traffic congestion — more likely is speculation that team chiefs did not want them cornered by the media about various controversies including the spy saga and their tetchy teammate relationships.

Attendance on Thursday is however not compulsory for drivers or team members, unless they are called to appear at the FIA press conference.

At that very media gathering, drivers including Nick Heidfeld revealed that Thursday can still be an important day for the teams.

“We have a couple of things to do,” the BMW driver said, “but for me it’s just part of formula one, that you turn up on the Thursday, do all your meetings — it’s a bit strange that suddenly you stay in the city.”

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa pointed out that not coming to the track prior to the first day of action means a driver cannot inspect the circuit — something Alonso and Hamilton have usually done on foot in 2007.

“We also walk the track on Thursday,” Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen confirmed, “that’s tradition with our engineers.”

Former McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, said he thought he knew what was going on behind closed doors at the plush Conrad hotel in Istanbul, an hour’s drive away.

“I’ve been to those meetings,” the Finn, who now drives for Ferrari, said.

“They stick one driver in one room and the other driver in another and talk to them separately.”

Referring to their absence on Thursday, Raikkonen added: “For sure it doesn’t help them, but I don’t know if it going to hurt. But it doesn’t make anyone’s life easier.”

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