In the aftermath of the German Grand Prix, Ferrari fans should be celebrating a sparkling return to form and a 1-2 for Alonso and Massa. Instead the sport is again reeling over allegations of race-fixing or team orders. Race officials may have fined the Scuderia $100,000 for having broken the rules, but the damage to Ferrari’s reputation is inestimable.
Of course the Scuderia are not alone in scoring PR own-goals. Mark Webber’s infamous Silverstone quote of “Not bad for a number two driver” sprung to mind when Felipe Massa received the second place trophy from the dignitaries on the podium.
Webber’s public fury at parts being taken from his Red Bull at Silverstone to boost the chances of “team mate” Vettel pales into insignificance, to the Ferrari team management’s cynical disregard of the rules regarding team orders in Germany. One should understand Ferrari’s logic however.
Alonso, fifth in the championship behind the Red Bull and McLaren drivers, represents the team’s best chance of winning the title. Massa, 8th, simply doesn’t.
Add in the fact that while Massa had taken advantage of a lightning start to take the lead, Alonso was faster…. and Sebastian Vettel was closing in. A few laps previously, Alonso had attacked Massa as he attempted to get heat into his new, harder-compound tyres after his pit stop. He was clearly lining up to attack again.
No doubt mindful of what happened when Vettel and Webber got together in Turkey, someone on the Ferrari pitwall gave the instruction to let Alonso through. It probably robbed all of us of a great battle for the lead. It was certainly a PR disaster.
That instruction will have come from either team principal Stefano Domenicali or team manager Massimo Rivola. It was not well received by race engineer Rob Smedley.
His disgust came through loud and clear in his minimally coded instruction to Massa. Just in case the world did not get the hint, he also rubbed it in with an apology to Massa after Alonso had taken the lead.
Steve Slater is an F1 race commentator on STAR Sports