Former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley has revealed the level to which Fernando Alonso and his team plummeted in a bid to curry favour during the Spanish driver's infamous 2007 F1 rivalry with Lewis Hamilton.
Priestley, who worked with McLaren for almost 10 years, has claimed that during that fractious season 15 years ago, the people behind Alonso attempted to bribe McLaren team members to ensure they were on his side.
It was a battle that lasted a single season as Alonso returned to Renault following his switch from the team to McLaren at the end of 2006 in a bid to add to the two world titles he had won with the French marque.
The enmity between Hamilton and Alonso culminated in both drivers missing out on the title by a point to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
Speaking on the PitStop podcast, Priestley said: “One of Fernando’s tactics is to try and bring the whole team over to his side of the garage. He tries to wrestle control.
“There was a moment during 2007 when we had them both, where Fernando turned up at a race and I arrived and Fernando’s manager or his trainer is handing out little brown envelopes stuffed with cash to everybody who wasn’t on Lewis’ car.
“So his team, the support team, I was running the t-car team, we all got these little brown envelopes. I remember opening up the envelope and there was like €1500 or something. It was so dodgy.
"First of all, you just get an unmarked brown envelope and I’m like ‘Thanks very much. What’s that?’
"The trainer wanders off and you’re left with this thing and you open it up and it’s literally just full of cash.
“You start looking around and your colleagues have all got them going ‘Have you opened yours? How much did you get?’.
"All of a sudden this starts spreading around the team and the only people that didn’t get them were Lewis’ crew."
Hamilton resorted to mind games
Priestley and his colleagues within McLaren recognised what was unfolding.
He added: “All of a sudden it starts to dawn on us what’s happened here.
"He’s looking to gain support, he’s trying to encourage, let’s say, people to support his side of this intense battle that they were in.
“On one hand you can say it was a clever tactic but in the end, the team obviously found out about it and made us donate the whole lot to charity, which was fine, but it was a little insight into the two different mindsets.
“Lewis did different things, Lewis played little games with the media.
"They all did things wrong and things right, none of us are perfect, but the way they went about their strategy for being the best Formula 1 driver was different, very different.
"Both achieved great results in their own different ways but they were very different approaches.”