Rivalries between Alonso, Hamilton and McLaren, Ferrari continue at Hungarian GP

Fernando Alonso can overtake teammate Lewis Hamilton in the season standings while their McLaren team takes its off-circuit feud with Ferrari back onto the track for the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend.

Alonso vaulted to within two points of leader Hamilton with his victory at the European Grand Prix on July 22 in Germany. Alonso made a daring move to overtake Ferrari's Felipe Massa, touching wheels as he pushed past late in the race.

The win was Alonso's third this season, and cut Hamilton's lead to 70-68 as the Englishman missed the podium for the first time in his rookie season. Hamilton started from 10th place after crashing in qualifying, and finished ninth in the race.

Hamilton and Massa both have two victories this year, with Massa third in the overall standings with 59 points. Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, the only other driver with three wins, is fourth with 52 points.

McLaren leads the constructor standings with 138 points to 111 for Ferrari.

Besides the season-long on-track duel between the two teams, McLaren and Ferrari are also embroiled in a bitter legal dispute concerning leaked information and sabotage.

The bickering was renewed Thursday, after McLaren boss Ron Dennis attacked Ferrari for continuing the dispute over leaked confidential information and accused the Italian team of having an "illegal competitive advantage" at the Australian Grand Prix earlier this season.

Dennis said in a five-page letter to Luigi Macaluso, head of the Italian automobile association, which represents Ferrari, that Raikkonen may have won the season-opening race in March in a car using an illegal floor attachment mechanism.

"As far as we are aware, Ferrari ran their cars with this illegal device at the Australian Grand Prix, which they won," Dennis said. "In the interests of the sport, McLaren chose not to protest the result of the Australian GP, even though it seems clear that Ferrari had an illegal competitive advantage."

The main dispute ignited when a 780-page technical dossier on Ferrari cars was found at the home of McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, who has since been suspended. The documents were allegedly supplied by Ferrari mechanic Nigel Stepney, who was fired.

After a hearing in Paris last Thursday, FIA's World Motor Sport Council ruled that McLaren did possess secret Ferrari documents but did not punish the team because there was insufficient evidence the material was misused.

Ferrari's decision to appeal the verdict was also criticized by Dennis in the letter.

"The World Championship should be contested on the track, not in courts or in the press," Dennis wrote.

Meanwhile, the drivers are trying to focus on this weekend's race.

"It was great to take the win in Germany and I hope to achieve the same result in Hungary," Alonso said this week. "I have some good memories from this track, as I took my first Formula One victory in Hungary."

Alonso won here in 2003, barely a month after his 22nd birthday.

Last year, he started 15th after a penalty in qualifying but took the lead only to drop out after he lost his wheel.

Hamilton is anxious to get back on the podium.

"We have as good a chance as anyone at the race," he said in a team statement. "We have a great car and it is important that I go with a clear mind and the same approach as normal, but there is no reason why we can't go there and win."

There is free practice Friday and Saturday morning with qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday's race is 70 laps of the 4.381-kilometer (2.72-mile) twisty Hungaroring circuit.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova