The row between formula teams Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and Scuderia Ferrari over allegations of spying and dirty tricks reached a new, more personal level yesterday following the qualifying session for today’s Hungarian Grand Prix. It started when McLaren owner Ron Dennis made a hand gesture to Ferrari chief Jean Todt which he insists was just to point out that both his drivers were on the front row of the grid, ‘That’s both of them. Two. That’s all I meant,’ he said, although footage of the incident clearly shows a smug Mr Dennis appearing to be more vindictive.
Dennis continued, ‘He came up to me and put his nose very close to mine, so I just had to tweak it, and told him he had ‘a girl’s name’. It was just a bit of fun’. Todt immediately put on a pair of sunglasses and began waving a comb at Dennis shouting ‘the sunlight is reflected off your head Baldie’ and demanded that Dennis apologise. An unseemly scuffle ensued when Dennis refused with Todt initially managing to give Dennis a painful wedgie followed by Dennis giving Todt a rasping Chinese burn.
The row was only diffused when Bernie Ecclestone stood between the two men, looked up at Dennis and down at Todt, and told them to behave like grown ups and to tuck their shirts in properly. Calm was restored and the teams were starting to go back to their respective garages until a McLaren mechanic commented that, ‘and anyway, our motor home’s much, much better than yours,’ at which point it all kicked off again.
The row will continue at least until Ferrari’s appeal is heard and perhaps much longer after that, but for the rest of the season the FIA will be watching both teams’ behaviour, and particularly for inappropriate use of pit boards. Meanwhile at McLaren, following a dispute over team orders in qualifying, Lewis Hamilton was caught removing the logos from team mate Alonso’s car and replacing them with something altogether ruder which called into question the manliness of the current world champion.
Stewards looking into the qualifying incident later stripped Alonso of pole position and the Ferrari-McLaren row is set to continue after Todt made a hand gesture to Dennis widely interpreted as meaning ‘only one’.