Ferrari's team orders in German GP is F1's latest mockery
Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Newton, IA (Sports Network) -
Formula One racing has once again become a circus after Sunday's controversial 1-2 finish for Ferrari in the German Grand Prix.
Felipe Massa was robbed of a potential win after his Ferrari team instructed the Brazilian driver to move aside and allow his teammate Fernando Alonso to take the lead with less than 20 laps remaining.
Shortly before Alonso made his winning pass, Massa's race engineer, Rob Smedley, told his driver over the radio that "Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand the message?"
Alonso won his second grand prix this season, while Massa settled for second.
Hours after the race, F1's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), determined Ferrari breached sporting regulations and fined the Italian team $100,000.
Race stewards claimed Ferrari contravened Article 39.1, which states that "team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited," and Article 151 (c) of the FIA's International Sporting Code, which forbids "any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motorsports generally."
Fernando Alonso's win in the German Grand Prix was his second of the season.
Stewards have also forwarded their decision to the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) for further review. It means Ferrari could face additional penalties.
Ferrari maintained their action did not constitute a team order. The team also has no plans to appeal the stewards' decision.
"As for the Stewards' decision, given after the race, in the interests of the sport, we have decided not to go through a procedure of appealing against it, confident that the World Council will know how to evaluate the overall facts correctly," Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said.
So, if Ferrari really did give team orders to Massa, why would they pull such a stunt?
Clearly, Alonso is the number-one driver at Ferrari right now. Alonso, who has claimed two victories so far this season, is the only driver on the team who remains in championship contention, despite eight grand prix remaining on the calendar.
Alonso, in his first season with Ferrari, currently sits fifth in the world championship standings, as he trails leader Lewis Hamilton from McLaren by 32 points. Alonso was 47 points behind Hamilton prior to the German GP. The Spaniard also is keeping Ferrari alive in this year's F1 constructors' championship battle.
"We are professional drivers, so we try to work in a team, and we try to do the best we can every day, not only here on the track but also between the races, at the factory etc., preparing the races," Alonso said. "I think we've been doing a good job over the last couple of races, and finally, we got a strong Sunday with a strong result."
Massa, who has finished second to Alonso in Bahrain and Germany, is far from title contention, as he is eighth in the rankings (-72).
"I cannot say that I'm there fighting for first position in the championship," Massa said. "I've lost many points, important points, and the only thing I can say is that I know what I can do, I can win races, that's what counts and everybody saw today that I can win races and I can be competitive."
Massa had hoped to win the German GP on the one-year anniversary of his near- fatal crash during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
"You always want to win," Massa said. "That's always what we're working for. For sure we don't have team orders, so we just need to do the best that we can, and if you see that you cannot do the race that you can, you need to think about the team. I think that's the most important thing."
Alonso is no stranger to controversy and scandals in the sport.
Last year, Renault avoided severe punishment after the team admitted to intentionally causing a crash in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
The FIA accused Renault of conspiring Nelson Piquet Jr. to cause a deliberate crash in the Singapore GP, with the aim of causing the deployment of the safety car to the advantage of Alonso, who drove for the French team at the time.
Alonso, who started on a light fuel load, made his first pit stop prior to Piquet's accident. The subsequent safety car period helped Alonso move to the front of the field after starting 15th on the grid. He went on to win the race.
Renault avoided permanent expulsion from the sport when the FIA handed the team a two-year suspended ban.
Ferrari's actions in Germany have outraged many associated with the sport, particularly former F1 team owner Eddie Jordan.
"It was unlawful and was theft," Jordan told BBC Radio 5 Live following the race. "They stole from us the chance of having a wheel-to-wheel contest between the drivers. Ferrari should be ashamed. This was a team order. For me, it is cheating, and these two cars should be excluded."
The FIA has banned team orders since 2002 when the sport was ridiculed after Ferrari's infamous "staged finish" in the Austrian Grand Prix. Rubens Barrichello, driving for Ferrari at the time, was ordered by the team on the final lap to move over and allow teammate Michael Schumacher to overtake him and claim the win.
Eight years later, you would've thought the FIA learned a lesson from what happened in Austria. Apparently, they didn't after handing Ferrari a minuscule fine for team orders in Germany.
It's time for the FIA to impose harsher penalties for such violations to prevent further embarrassment for the sport.