Ferrari Fined $100,000 for race orders
The 2010 season
Now I would be the first to admit that this season of Formula One racing has been the closest fought in years.
We have been watching since the days of Nigel Mansel, Alain Prost, Riccardo Patrese, Ayerton Senna and all those others of the eighties and nineties and we don't think that we've had a season in years that could go any of six ways.
Whilst Red Bull have been pretty much mopping up on the Saturday qualifying, it's been anyone's guess who would take the trophy on race day.
The driver's standings
At one point, we thought that Jenson was going to do what he did last year, but that quickly became apparent that wasn't going to happen.
Then we thought that Vettel was going to do it too--which didn't happen either.
In fact, no-one has been able to put a stranglehold on the championship.
The only thing that's clear is that whilst Red Bull get Saturday--or most of them and McLaren don't seem to be able to cut the mustard, that can and has gone out of the window on race day.
Alonso's win today has taken him to within thirteen points of Vettel with a car that looks as though it's very capable of doing what its supposed to and with McLaren appearing to be on the back foot, that also means that the championship is wide open still.
Until today, the only thing we found marred the enjoyment, was the fact that the teams are strategic with the amount of fuel that is put in the cars, meaning that the cars cannot finish the races at full throttle. It also means that at some point during the race, the drivers will almost certainly have to go into fuel-saving mode.
We have seen evidence of this in and earlier race, when Button overtook Hamilton as Button had not taken the order to reduce power to the same degree as his team mate, or didn't have the necessity to reduce power by as much.
Indeed, not seeing the cars battling as much as perhaps they could can make the race seem processional as was apparent in this weekend's race, when both McLaren's could possibly have done more to try and catch the two Ferraris and Vettel's Red Bull, but were heard just a handful of laps before the end being told that they didn't need to save any more fuel.
Surely, this is not racing if the cars cannot race. Perhaps if all the cars had to start on the same amount of fuel, that would be a different proposition.
Nevertheless, it may well be a moot point with regards to the results, if Ferrari get a negative result when they have to answer for this weekend's fiasco.
So what on earth was Ferrari doing?
Usually, the teams seem more intent upon the drivers winning for the team. The closer to the front the drivers come, the more points the team get.
In this particular instance, Ferrari came first and second, which netted the team maximum points.
So would it have mattered which one came in first?
Not to the team, but Ferrari--in its infinite wisdom--decided to demote Massa to second by asking him to let Alonso through.
True, that's not what was said. In actual fact, Rob Smedley, Felipe's race engineer, had to give a 'coded' message to the Brazillian, but the result was the same. Felipe had to move over and let his team mate past.
The result of that move showed. Felipe was clearly not a happy bunny and as far as the stewards were concerned, the team were in violation of rule 39.1--issuing team orders.
Former F1 team boss, Eddie Jordan was absolutely outraged and in an interview after the race shown on the BBC, he said that it was tantamount to theft as Ferrari had robbed the public of a wheel to wheel race between the two cars.
It appeared that the enquiry afterwards also saw it the same way, fining Ferrari $100,000--about what Alonso earns a day--and are being hauled up before the World Motor Sport Council, who have the power it appears, to boot them out of F1 or at least impose a much heavier fine and possibly disqualify them from the race.
Eddie Jordan: "They should be ashamed"
The rules were brought into effect after Rubens Barrichello was asked to let Michael Schumacher through in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix after dominating practice, qualifying and the race itself.Later that season, Michael 'returned the favour' by allowing Rubens through to win the American Grand Prix.
The media attention that brought about was enough for the governing body to outlaw such practices.
Ferrari were only too aware of the rule and should never have even suggested Felipe let Alonso through in the first place. There are enough points available for the rest of the season to allow Felipe or Fernando to win the championship so they two drivers should have continued and Alonso pass if he was able.
It looks like the win could be taken away, the team could face suspension or a heavier fine--on top of the fine imposed by the stewards--after Ferrari clearly broke rule 151c--bringing the sport into disrepute and will be asked to answer to the WMSC (World Motor Sport Council).
This was the same section McLaren were famously in violation of in 2007, ironically also involving Ferrari.
My tuppence worth
There are ways of doing that passing manoeuvre that the stewards would have been a little more willing to turn a blind eye to, but in this case, Ferrari were so obvious about it, I don't think they were able to. I think many of us knew something was brewing and whilst the messages between Alonso and the pit wall were not clear, the results were.
However, it seems the plan backfired in Ferrari's faces.
Felipe's displeasure with having to relinquish first place due to a team order showed and both he and Rob Smedley made it abundantly clear that they were not in favour of the move.
Felipe made a real show of letting Alonso past and Rob made it pretty obvious what he was asking. Okay, he didn't actually tell Felipe to move over, but we all knew what he meant.
Alonso's propensity for whining and complaining over the last few weeks has finally caught up with him. If the only way he can win is by having the bosses move his team mate out of the way first, perhaps he's not as good as he thinks he is.
I'm only sad that Felipe is likely to get the fallout from this.
If Ferrari are suspended, it means that he will be suspended for something that is not his fault--he was just following orders and if they are stripped of this weekend's win, then he will also be stripped of his second place.