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Hamilton has every chance, says McLaren boss

india Updated: May 28, 2007 16:40 IST
Alan Baldwin

McLaren have assured Lewis Hamilton that he still has every chance of winning the Formula One world title despite being reined in by the team in Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.

"Of course he does," team boss Ron Dennis told reporters.

"We will not favour one driver, no matter who it is. We never have, never will. This (the Monaco race) is a unique one-off."

Double world champion Fernando Alonso won the showcase race ahead of the Briton after Dennis told them effectively not to race each other after the first pitstop to safeguard a one-two finish.

That decision triggered questions about so-called 'team orders', banned by the governing FIA after the infamous Austrian Grand Prix of 2002 when Ferrari ordered Brazilian Rubens Barrichello to let Michael Schumacher win.

Dennis said his conscience was clear.

"We don't have team orders, we had a strategy to win this race," he said.

"I make no excuses for instructing the racing drivers to slow their pace after the first stop and to effect our strategy.

"You can all give whatever twist or headline you want on it, my job is sometimes difficult and today was one of those times," said Dennis.

"There will be places where they will be absolutely free to race, but this isn't one of them."

Heavier load

"This is a place where one driver pushing another driver... is the way to induce a mistake," he continued.

"Everyone in the pit lane would be saying what an idiot the team principal of McLaren is for allowing their cars to compete to a level where one of their cars and maybe two of them are in the barrier."

Hamilton had qualified with a far heavier fuel load than Alonso — a tactical move that would have won him the race had the safety car come out and given an advantage to those able to make only one stop.

In the end, the safety car stayed in. Alonso now leads the standings on race wins, level with Hamilton on 38 points.

Despite celebrating his fifth podium in five races, the 22-year-old Briton fuelled the flames by saying he had number two on his car and was the team's number two driver.

Dennis denied Alonso was favoured and said McLaren had only ever manipulated a race in exceptional circumstances.

He referred to the 1998 Australian Grand Prix where someone hacked into the team radio and told Mika Hakkinen to pit, handing team mate David Coulthard the lead. Dennis then ordered his drivers to exchange positions.

"I sleep easy and have a clear conscience, both on that distant race and this race here," he said.