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F1 | Exclusive interview with race engineer Mark Slade: “I never had a problem with Alonso and thoroughly enjoyed working with him” during tumultuous 2007 season at McLaren

Mark Slade was Fernando Alonso’s race engineer in that remarkable campaign at McLaren fifteen years ago. MotorLAT spoke to him exclusively about it.

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F1 | Exclusive interview with race engineer Mark Slade: “I never had a problem with Alonso and thoroughly enjoyed working with him” during tumultuous 2007 season at McLaren
Fuente imagen: McLaren Racing

Fernando Alonso joined McLaren for the 2007 season after winning two consecutive Drivers’ Championship with Renault in 2005 and 2006. Kimi Räikkönen’s departure to Ferrari meant Mark Slade would be race engineer for Alonso that year.

In what turned out to be an extremely turbulent and extraordinary season within the team, Slade opened up about the Spaniard and how his working relationship was great with him.

“Working with Fernando was great,” he stated.

“He is the terminator of Formula One, isn’t he? He just never gives up, and he’s just super fast.

“You just knew that you were working with someone who was trying desperately to win every race he entered, so that was fantastic.”

It was thought going into 2007 that Alonso would lead the team and claim a third straight Drivers' Championship, as Lewis Hamilton was expected to learn the ropes during his rookie season.

Alonso finished 2nd in the season opener to Räikkönen in Australia and went on to win the second round in Malaysia from his young teammate.

Hamilton had immediately impressed, and the then 22-year-old went on to beat his two-time World Champion teammate at five of the next six races, including a first pole and win at the Canadian Grand Prix.

The biggest flashpoint came at the Hungarian Grand Prix. In qualifying, Hamilton did not allow Alonso to overtake him at the start of Q3 during the fuel-burn phase.

The Spaniard then took matters into his own hands by staying in the pit box for long enough during the final couple of minutes of qualifying to deny his teammate an opportunity to post a last lap after they changed to new tyres.

Alonso stole pole position with his final attempt, but he would be awarded a 5-place grid penalty for his actions.

McLaren’s implosion opened the door for their former star Kimi Räikkönen to steal the championship by a single point from both their drivers at the last round in Brazil.

Speaking about what went on in 2007, Slade explained that better management from the top brass could have avoided the events that occurred throughout the year.

The Brit also believes Alonso would probably have won the 2007 and 2008 championships had things been handled better. Alonso headed back to Renault for 2008 as his relationship with Ron Dennis had completely broken down.

“The problems were more within the team, to be honest,” recalled Slade.

“The team atmosphere was pretty poor. I think a few things happened that exaggerated the problems that were there.

“I would say it could have been better handled from a management perspective and a team objective. Things didn’t work the way they should have done. Really we just threw away the championship in 2007.

“I think if Fernando had been backed properly, we probably would have won the ’07 and ’08 championships. Who knows what would have happened after that but there you go. It’s the way it was.

“I never had a problem with Fernando himself. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him.”

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