McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso is the richest active Formula 1 driver, with an estimated net worth of $220 million. He’s being paid a reported $40 million per year at McLaren and was ranked 21st in Forbes’ list of best payed athletes in 2014, when Ferrari were paying him $30 million. You’d think someone who’s been World Champion twice and has one of the highest salaries around could pretty much do anything he wanted to, right? Wrong. Because, unless you’re Bernie Ecclestone, no matter how successful you are, in Formula 1 there are always people more successful standing way above you. So, before you say stupid things like “very embarrassing” about your car’s speed and before going on and saying that the engine resembles an engine from GP2 (a lesser formula), you should remember that Honda, the makers of that engine, are paying half of your salary. The Japanese company certainly wasn’t expecting their driver to publicly say that their engine is rubbish, especially during the Japanese Grand Prix and especially since it’s held at Suzuka, a track which Honda owns. I’m not saying that metaphorically, based on their past achievements. Honda literally owns Suzuka International Racing Course. Having the guy they’re paying $20 million per year publicly criticize them in their own house leaves Honda with egg on their face.
Cue Ron Dennis, McLaren Technology Group’s CEO, and a man whose net worth is almost four times larger than Alonso’s, weighing in at $865 million. He’s also the architect of McLaren’s last seven World Constructors’ Championships, out of a total of eight. See, Fernando? You may be McLaren’s top driver, but Ron is McLaren’s top dog. Alonso’s comments on the straight-line speed of his car came during the race, over team radio – which, these days, anyone watching on TV can listen in on – so he knew millions of people would hear him and he knew Ron Dennis would hear him, sitting in pit lane, with his eyes glued to the monitors and the headset on his… umm… well, head, obviously.
“I’m not going to condone those sorts of things”, Dennis said. “It doesn’t show the professionalism I would like all our drivers to show. He is in the car, he is frustrated, and his technical remarks to the technical staff were not a particularly constructive way to communicate with everybody”.
It’s not the first spat between Ron Dennis and Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard left McLaren after only one season, in 2007, following a heated argument with Dennis – who is not only CEO but McLaren’s team principal – about confidential information that Alonso had obtained on rival team Ferrari’s pit strategies for the Australian GP and Bahrain GP. There are plenty of signs that Alonso may be heading for McLaren’s fire escape again. He was very cryptic in his answers to the media about his future with the team, but went on to clarify things via Twitter, writing: “No-one should have any doubt that I have three years with McLaren and my career in F1 will end with this team, hopefully winning everything”. But that’s not exactly saying he’s going to see his contract through to the end, is it?
DRIVERS’ STANDINGS AFTER JAPANESE GP
- Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes 277 pts
- Nico Rosberg – Mercedes 229
- Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari 218
16. Fernando Alonso – McLaren 11
CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS AFTER JAPANESE GP
- Mercedes 506 pts
- Ferrari 337
- Williams 208
9. McLaren 17