They say lightning never strikes twice; they also say that only the wisest and the stupidest of men never change, begging the question who are ‘they’, and what makes ‘them’ so damn wise in the first place? All these questions were passing through my mind after yesterday’s German Grand Prix, where race leader Felipe Massa was ordered by his Ferrari team to relinquish position to Fernando Alonso, who went on to win the race. This of course bore an eerie resemblance to the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, when Ferrari forced Rubens Barrichello to move over to let Michael Schumacher past.
The Ferrari team has been an outspoken critic should anything not benefit the team in the sport, such as technical and sporting regulations, as seen this year when Michael Schumacher took advantage of a grey area in the rules at the expense of a Ferrari car. Now, I’m not saying Ferrari is always wrong when it comes to its bleating and blubbering that it’s been unfairly treated, the Schumacher case for instance was an issue that needed to be questioned. However, it now seems that the teams’ holier than thou attitude has hit the buffers spectacularly, and shown that really Ferrari are happy to win no matter the method. It’s no surprise that Di Montezemelo has issued a statement claiming he doesn’t care about “the polemics” as long as his team wins, fair enough it is his job to see a red car wins as sporting director, although he and his team should expect to face the consequences for manipulating the race result.
This incident has also shown once again that Fernando Alonso is only happy in a team where everyone (including the second driver) is geared toward his interest. I can imagine he’s the sort of man that would have Massa doing petty jobs around the garage like getting his coffee, or wiping his arse if it came to it. Alonso is without doubt a great driver but unfortunately, like his team, is happy to win at any cost (like in Singapore 2008 where he took victory, thanks to his team mate crashing on purpose) and in that sense he and Ferrari were meant for each other.
Of course the controversy of yesterday has had a knock-on effect amongst the fans that wanted to see a race, and not an engineered outcome. However, the cries that F1 is not a sport as result, is a sign that loose knees are looking for a good jerking. Formula One is a sport, and a competitive one at that. It’s not like this kind of dubious fiddling happens every weekend, and when it does it get scrutinized appropriately. Hence the fact that Ferrari has been fined issued to the World Motor Sport Council and roundly criticized.
Overall the debate surrounding team orders has been waiting to happen for a couple of weeks now, as inter team politics have been steadily setting the agenda of paddock gossip. As long as this incident works as an agent of change for the better, then I welcome it.
It’s just a shame that too often the rule makers in F1 settle for the if it ain’t broke don’t fix it approach, which only tends to make the sport look silly in the eyes of the public when something invariably does go wrong. Then again maybe that’s just sporting institutions for you. Look at FIFA and the world cup after all.