Tuesday, July 27, 2010

“Dirty, Thieving Cheats?”

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - The 2010 Formula 1 series is certainly not lacking for controversy. After comments posted on the Ferrari website called the FIA a “federation of thieves,” this week at Hockenheim, the Sunday Press is referring to Ferrari as “dirty, thieving cheats.” What has caused the uproar this time? It appears to many that Ferrari is playing the “team order” game by asking Felipe Massa to stand-down to Alonso’s apparently quicker car. Though banned in 2002 as the result of Rubens Barrichello’s obvious move allowing then Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher to win the 2008, Ferrari allegedly ordered Massa to allow Alonso to pass on lap 49 of the 67 lap race. Massa finished 4.1 seconds behind Alonso, with pole-sitter Sebastien Vettel following 1 sec behind in 3rd place.

The “smoking gun” is Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley’s radio message to the Brazilian "Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understood that message?" Despite leading the race from the start, Massa had been struggling on hard tires. So he “decided to do the best thing for the team,“ Massa continued, “and a one-two finish is the best possible result, isn’t it?” Ferrari needed to have this 1-2 win, worth 43 points, as they are only 3rd in the Constructors Championship with Alonso 5th for the Driver’s Championship.

The press is not the only ones who think Ferrari cheated, as the FIA race stewards have fined Ferrari $100,000 for imposing illegal team orders, also finding them guilty of “disrepute.” The matter has been directed to the World Motor Sport Council for review. Ferrari is not appealing the verdict. "In the interests of the sport, we have decided not to go through a procedure of appealing against it (the decision), confident that the World Council will know how to evaluate the overall facts correctly," said team boss Stefano Domenicali. Or does Ferrari believe that $ 2,326/point is worth it? Less than a bottle of 1998 Dom Perignon Lagerfield!
Other comments by the press and colleagues have been derogatory towards both Alonso and Massa. The Swiss newspaper Blick correspondent wrote: "There are different ways for Alonso to return to the throne. Lying and cheating should not be one of them." And a scathing remark from three-time World Champion Niki Lauda. "…Nobody was fooled by Alonso's argument that he wasn't aware of the fix. I've never heard a driver talk such (junk). He has no character," said Austrian great Lauda. And Rubens Barrichello quipped, "I will speak to Felipe myself. Nothing has changed at Ferrari.” He later commented, "I think you can read my opinion better from my face." Even Massa did not escape scrutiny. Rio de Janeiro's Lance writes: "We regret writing it, but from Massa it was a lack of courage."

But not everyone is down on Ferrari. Italy’s Corriere dello Sport states “It is fair to recognize that the problem is with the regulations. Renault’s Fabric Lom speaks of the “hypocrisy” of the regulations. It seems that F1 is always embroiled in controversy. Is it me, or does this year seem to have a little something extra? Stay tuned.