Former Formula 1 mechanic Marc Priestly has gone into detail around the issues at the McLaren team in 2007, indicating that a lack of communication served to make the situation worse.
McLaren came into the 2007 season needing an all-new driver line-up having lost Kimi Raikkonen to Ferrari, while Juan Pablo Montoya headed to NASCAR.
To replace them, they signed double world champion Fernando Alonso after the Spaniard left Renault, and promoted their hugely promising talent Sir Lewis Hamilton to race alongside him.
They won eight races between them that season as the Briton impressively out-qualified the now 40-year-old nine times in his debut year.
Hamilton might have won the title too had it not been for his pit entry incident in China, and the competition between himself and Alonso as they fought for the championship led to the controversial pit stalling incident at the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Team principal Ron Dennis was losing control of his team as some members threatened to go rogue, and his furious power struggle with Alonso ultimately drove such a wedge between them that the Spaniard headed back to Renault in 2008.
Priestly, who was a mechanic on Hamilton’s car at the time, revealed that there was a conundrum in trying to keep everyone focused on the team goal.
“How do you actually prevent the individual from only pursuing their own interests at the expense of the team?” he said on his podcast.
One could be forgiven at the time for not necessarily believing that Hamilton could go on claim seven world titles, and the mechanics generally favoured Alonso, vying to work on his car rather than the young Briton’s.
“The mechanics and engineers fought among themselves to work in Fernando’s garage. People didn’t want to work on Hamilton’s car, because they didn’t expect so much from him,” he added.
Intertwined with their own issues was the “spygate” controversy, during which Nigel Stepney – who had become unhappy at his position with Ferrari – gave important documents to McLaren’s Mike Coughlan.
Coughlan went to a photocopy shop to distribute multiple copies to the McLaren team, and it is alleged that an employee at the shop notified Ferrari that their intellectual assets had been stolen.
Coughlan was suspended and Stepney sacked, and it added fuel to the fire in what was already a bitter relationship between Ferrari and McLaren, who affirmed that “no Ferrari intellectual property has been passed to any other members of the team or incorporated into [our] cars.”
The British side were ultimately disqualified from the Constructors’ Championship for their indiscretion, and Hamilton and Alonso ended the year level on points, one point behind Raikkonen, who won the title in his first year in red.
The internal bickering had ultimately proven detrimental to the British side, and Priestly laments that it would not have been an issue had the record been set straight from the start.
“McLaren could have avoided a lot of fighting by just speaking out [about] how things were. Instead of assuming everyone knew how things were,” he explained.
Hamilton won the title in 2008 ahead of Felipe Massa, and has since added six more to his tally with Mercedes.
Alonso came close to the title in 2010 and 2012 with Ferrari as he took 11 wins in five years with the Scuderia, but this year will mark 16 years without a title for the 32-time race winner, who spent four years with McLaren after returning in 2015.