Pit Stop | South China Morning Post
  • Tue
  • Jan 27, 2015
  • Updated: 9:45pm

Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 July, 2010, 12:00am

Sorry Ferrari people, but I'm not a great fan. I haven't been for some years now. Don't get me wrong, I admire the history, love the passion of the fans and can only gasp with you at the aura of the Maranello magic. But in the recent past their passion to dabble in the dark arts of Formula One politics and the even darker arts of race fixing on the track have led me to fall out of love with the Prancing Horse.

What Ferrari engineered at Hockenheim last weekend was truly disgraceful. Team orders, which tell one driver to move out of the way for another, were banned in 2002 after another distasteful Ferrari stunt. You may recall Rubens Barrichello pulled over for Michael Schumacher to win in Austria just metres from the line.

Last weekend, Felipe Massa had picked the pocket of both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel at the start to steal the lead and he battled hard to retain it until his engineer Rob Smedley came over the radio and said 'Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm that you understand that message?' Massa knew well enough. He said nothing but let Alonso by shortly afterwards.

'Good lad, just stick with it now, sorry.' Smedley, as Massa's race engineer, seemed as uncomfortable with the decision as his driver. Ferrari's muted celebrations at the end of the race showed they knew they had pulled a cheap trick, and they knew that everyone else knew.

Team boss Stefano Domenicali, to his credit, fronted up to the paddock press straight away. It wasn't to his credit that he couldn't admit what had just gone on.

His friend and former team owner Eddie Jordan was happy to put him right: 'It was unlawful and it was theft. They stole from us the chance of having a wheel-to-wheel contest between the drivers. Ferrari should be ashamed.'

If the fans felt cheated by Ferrari's actions, think how Massa must have felt. He was robbed of victory a year to the day after he almost died when a stray spring hit his head during qualifying in Hungary.

Alonso was shamefacedly unrepentant. He spouted a heap of meaningless platitudes at the press conference. It certainly didn't impress Nikki Lauda, a man who almost died in a Ferrari 34 years ago. 'I've never heard a driver talk such bullshit,' he fumed. 'He has no character. This was the most stupid thing I have ever seen from Ferrari.'

Alonso won the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix after Nelson Piquet Jnr crashed his car to help his then Renault teammate to an unlikely chequered flag. That wasn't of his doing, but the petulance shown when he didn't get number one status over Lewis Hamilton at McLaren certainly was.

It would seem that Ferrari have folded to similar pressure. The Spaniard won't care what anyone thinks of the goings on in Germany. He won, and he established himself as top dog at Ferrari.

The cut-throat desire and ambition in Formula One often spills over into cunning, conniving and all-out cheating, and there are some who applaud it. Michael Schumacher, for one. He said he would have done exactly the same thing, but then he's not known for his sense of sportsmanship.

Team orders are hard to police and many say a team should be able to order its drivers as they please. But fans want to see racing, and seeing teammates toe to toe adds a little extra spice. McLaren and Red Bull seem to have managed it.

Ferrari have been punished by the stewards with a US$100,000 fine but the team, by not appealing against the decision, seem to think they have got away lightly. They still have to face the World Motorsport Council over the matter.

Let's hope it has the courage to disqualify the cars from the race result. Of course, the FIA is now run by Jean Todt, the man at the Ferrari pitwall that afternoon eight years ago in Austria, so perhaps we shouldn't hold our breath.

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