x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Hamilton and Alonso make amends by text

Row over penalty in Valencia is ended and the McLaren boss welcomes fiery comments from Ferrari, believing it creates interest.

Fernando Alonso, left, and Lewis Hamilton have healed their rift in advance of the British GP.
Fernando Alonso, left, and Lewis Hamilton have healed their rift in advance of the British GP.

Lewis Hamilton has cleared the air with his Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix. Hamilton, the world championship leader, said the pair had swapped conciliatory text messages in the wake of their war of words after Hamilton had finished second in the European Grand Prix in Valencia last month. Hamilton received a drive-through penalty for an infringement, but Alonso said sterner punishment was needed.

"We are in touch. He has my number and I have his number," the McLaren-Mercedes driver told Reuters ahead of Sunday's race at Silverstone. "We messaged the other day," Hamilton said. "Things are cool. I just messaged him to see how he was doing and he said everything's cool and he knows how the racing world works and this is a tough year." Alonso was critical of his former McLaren teammate after Hamilton had illegally overtaken the safety car while Alonso and his Ferrari teammate, Felipe Massa, drove within the rules. Both lost track position, eventually finishing eighth and 11th, respectively.

The Formula One stewards were also condemned by Alonso for taking so long to impose the punishment. They needed almost 30 minutes to conclude that Hamilton had broken the rules, allowing the Briton enough laps to create a sizeable margin over his rivals to be able to take the penalty without losing track position. Alonso, who is fighting with Hamilton, the second McLaren of Jenson Button, and the two Red bull-Renault drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, for this year's title, was furious at how the events had unfolded in Valencia.

The Spaniard had said the race was "manipulated". The Ferrari team spoke darkly of a "false race". Hamilton had suggested the comments were "sour grapes" in the immediate aftermath, but Alonso said last week that he had calmed down and turned his attention to Silverstone. Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren team boss, said he had no issue with what Alonso had said in the heat of the moment and encouraged drivers to speak their minds.

"You are going to get two drivers who see the same incident from completely different perspectives and want to vent their spleen on the day and thereafter," he told reporters after a fan forum last week. "But you've got to have some of that. Alonso was fairly outspoken, but actually people want a bit of that. It doesn't worry me." Whitmarsh said there had to be a limit, but drivers also had to be able to query the stewards' decisions without fear of punishment.

"In the past you haven't been able to question," he said. "People complained about the sterility of conversations and debate within the paddock. Well, there was a regime in which you weren't allowed to even hint at 'have we got it right?'. "I don't think it's reasonable for any of us to then go on a blast and criticise the FIA (International Automobile Federation) over anything. "There have to be some limits and we have to be respectful to the FIA," added the chairman of FOTA, the teams' association.

"But I think it's acceptable for people to display their passion and enthusiasm and aggrievement from time to time in the sport. I think that's a healthy thing." Meanwhile, Fairuz Fauzy, the Malaysian test driver, will take part in four more Friday practice sessions for Lotus this season, starting with Silverstone this week, the team said yesterday. Fauzy tested for the grid newcomers in pre-season and also drove in free practice at the Malaysian Grand Prix in April.

* Reuters