“Nobody at McLaren wanted to work on Lewis Hamilton’s car in his first season”

"Nobody at McLaren wanted to work on Lewis Hamilton's car in his first season"

McLaren’s mechanics tripped over each other in 2007 to work on the side of Fernando Alonso’s garage, Marc Priestley claims.

That season McLaren formed an entirely new line-up of drivers from Alonso, the two-time reigning world champion who had switched from Renault, alongside the prodigious rookie talent Lewis Hamilton

The duo replaced Kimi Raikkonen, who won the World Championship that year for Ferrariand Juan Pablo Montoya, with the Colombian leaving McLaren in mid-2006 to return to America, replaced by Pedro de la Rosa.

Priestley, who became the No. 1 mechanic on the Woking squad before leaving to pursue a media and motivational career, says that despite Hamilton having built a huge reputation in junior series, it was Alonso who served as a magnet functioned within the team.

“The mechanics and engineers bickered among themselves and fought to get on Fernando’s car,” Priestley said in the latest edition of his ‘Pitlane life lessons’ podcasting.

“People didn’t want to sit in Lewis Hamilton’s car that first year because they didn’t expect much from him.

“As mechanics and engineers, you want to win that world championship just as much as the drivers do, so of course the best chance of doing that was sitting in the current world champion’s car…or so we thought.

“Virtually everyone at the factory had expectations, especially when we realized we had a fast car, that Fernando was our man to deliver the big results.”

But that’s not how events turned out, of course. Rather than being just a second series, Hamilton proved to be just as competitive as the Spaniard throughout the campaign and the duo finished level on points, just one behind champions Raikkonen.

There was also a huge amount of internal tension that led to Alonso leaving McLaren after just one season and returning straight to Renault.

Priestley added: “The two drivers at times struggled to gain control of the team towards them, to wrestle support to their side of the garage, to almost scramble over the person on the other side to give them a step. to give. upwards. That happened in 2007 on both sides of our garage.

“It happened for a whole host of reasons. McLaren handled this very badly at the time. It was the first time in quite a few years that we experienced such a dynamic between two drivers.

“It was a very bad job of man management when it came to both the drivers and the teams of people around those drivers, who were naturally drawn to their driver and essentially closed this big gap between the middle of the team.

“I would say that was why we failed to win the World Championship in 2007, a season where we had the car, the drivers and the right people on the team.

“We had every chance to win that world championship and yet we didn’t because as a team we weren’t firing on all cylinders and moving in the same direction.

“We had a giant, gaping split in the middle of our team.”

Although McLaren’s drivers collectively scored more points over the season than Raikkonen and Felipe Massa for Ferrari, they were banned from the Constructors’ Championship due to the ‘Spygate’ controversy and fined $100 million.

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