F1’s harsh spotlight of the international media is shining on Ferrari and Fernando Alonso, but also the regulation prohibiting team orders.
In a frosty post-race press conference at Hockenheim, some reporters warned Spaniard Alonso he now risks winning a “dirty” championship, comparing his win at the hands of an illegal team order to his victory at Singapore in 2008.
“That’s your opinion,” the Ferrari driver told them.
Team orders, of course – dating back to the gentleman racer’s days when number two drivers would pull into the pits to hand over their cars – are nothing new.
“This was just handled very badly,” said Lotus’ Mike Gascoyne.
And Ferrari’s handling in Germany, with Felipe Massa ordered aside by way of a coded message from apologetic engineer Rob Smedley, fuelled the media’s fire.
“I am glad that the media in the paddock are kind of like our police,” remarked Alex Wurz.
But according to Spain’s Marca sports daily, “the English press showed no mercy” for a driver who clashed so memorably with Lewis Hamilton back in 2007.
The Sunday Express called Alonso and Ferrari “dirty, thieving cheats”, while even the milder Daily Telegraph admitted that the World Motor Sport Council could in theory disqualify the famous team from formula one at an August meeting.
“A suspension for a number of races is another possibility,” said the Daily Mail.
Triple world champion Niki Lauda scolded Alonso for blatantly denying he had won the race thanks to a team order. The Independent newspaper said “nobody was fooled” by Alonso’s argument that he wasn’t aware of the fix.
“I’ve never heard a driver talk such bullshit. He has no character,” said Austrian great Lauda.
Dr Helmut Marko, under fire for some recent decisions at Red Bull, revelled in the change of fortune.
“It is unbelievable how awkwardly they demonstrated who is their number one. The FIA must react with a drastic punishment,” he is quoted by Blick.
The Swiss newspaper’s correspondent agreed: “There are different ways for Alonso to return to the throne. Lying and cheating should not be one of them.”
Even the usually partisan AS newspaper remarked: “Alonso deserved to win the German grand prix, but not like this. Domenicali has confirmed his true ineptitude by giving Massa obvious team orders that are prohibited by the rules.”
Said Brazil’s Folha de S.Paulo: “It was an insult to the sport.”
Rio de Janeiro’s Lance added: “We regret writing it, but from Massa it was a lack of courage.”
Rubens Barrichello, whose move for Michael Schumacher in 2002 motivated the team order ban, said: “I will speak to Felipe myself. Nothing has changed at Ferrari.
“I think you can read my opinion better from my face,” he stormily told Brazilian radio Jovem Pan.
Said French newspaper Liberation: “Ferrari is a team unlike another; when not undermined by political intrigue, they shoot themselves in the foot.”
La Libre wondered how the FIA is going to react at the World Motor Sport Council: “Would Jean Todt dare punish his old team for a practice he applied himself? We honestly doubt it.”
Another side of the story is what Renault’s customer engine boss Fabric Lom described on Europe 1 radio as the “hypocrisy” of the current regulations.
Agreed Italy’s Corriere dello Sport: “It is fair to recognise that the problem is in the regulations.”
Rome daily Il Tempo said Ferrari “did the right thing in the wrong way”, and Spain’s El Mundo said the team order ban is “a regulation that penalises team interests”.
Italy’s Autosprint marvelled that Ferrari was “fined for teamwork!”
Said Britain’s Telegraph: “Ferrari were caught and they must pay. But the rule is unenforceable. To pretend otherwise is deluded.”
Mercedes’ Norbert Haug does not quite agree: “We need to think of the spectators. They want to see fights on the track, not these actions.
“The different teams have different attitudes about team orders.”
To the Spanish press, Alonso argued: “The ones who pay us are the team, not the newspapers or anyone else, and now Ferrari is taking 43 points back to Italy.
“And that is what we have to do — what is best for the team. On Friday I was faster, I was second in qualifying and faster than Felipe in the race. I don’t think the slower driver won this race,” he added.
© RIF | GMM