Ferrari fans, look away now! You will not like what I have to say.
Firstly, let me make it clear: I do not support any individual driver, nor any particular team. I support the sport – which descends in to a farce on days like these.
For those of you that did not see today’s race, towards the end, Raikkonen pushed Hamilton wide at the Bus Stop chicane, Hamilton subsequently had no option but to cut the corner, gaining the lead in the process. To avoid a penalty, Hamilton let Raikkonen reclaim the lead, before re-passing him at La Source. Fearing a penalty, Ron Dennis went to check with FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting as to whether the move was legitimate, and Whiting said it was. Although the stewards are independent of Whiting, he attends every race and knows what has happened in the past. Had Whiting declared the move illegal, McLaren would have let Raikkonen back through again. At the end of the race, Ferrari put in an official protest, although they deny this, and the stewards imposed a penalty of 25 seconds to Hamilton’s time. Due to the last few, torrential, laps squeezing the pack together, this was very costly as Hamilton was demoted from first, to third.
This is not the first time that McLaren have been harshly treated by the sport’s governing body, the FIA – or Ferrari International Assistance, as Paul Stoddart dubbed it. If we look back to last year when McLaren were thrown out of the Constructors’ Championship, during the ‘Spy Scandal’, for using Ferrari information on their car, not many people listened to what the two culprits, Mike Coughlan (McLaren) and Nigel Stepney (Ferrari), had to say. They revealed that the information passed was two-way, not one-way, meaning Ferrari were using McLaren’s intellectual property on their car. The FIA did not even investigate these claims.
That’s not all. At last season’s Hungarian Grand Prix, McLaren were stripped of any Constructors’ Championship points they would have won after a squabble between Lewis Hamilton and then-teammate Fernando Alonso. In what was an internal dispute, the FIA had no right in interfering. But it did.
Suspicians are also raised by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa about this event. At 11pm, a journalist asked Massa: “It looks like nothing’s going to happen tomorrow?“, to which Massa replied: “No, no, no, no… Alonso’s been penalised and McLaren will score no Constructors’ points.” Remember, this was at 11pm, the official announcement was not made until 11.35pm – more than half an hour after Massa knew the outcome. It sounds suspicious to me!
Another example is the Italian Grand Prix, Monza 2006. Fernando Alonso had his pole position time taken away from him for ‘blocking’ Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. It did not matter to the stewards that Massa was not even in the same television camera shot. Telemetry showed Massa 1.6km down the track from Alonso. It also proved that Massa had lost no time because of Alonso. But the FIA stewards still punished the Renault man.
If we look back at the last race, Ferrari were penalised €10,000 for releasing Massa into the path of Adrian Sutil in the pit lane. Ferrari claimed that there was no sporting advantage, and the FIA accepted this as a good reason for a low penalty. Yet if we look at the regulations, Article 23.1 i states:
“It is the responsibility of thecompetitor to release his car after a pit stop only when it is safe to do so.”
There is no mention of whether a sporting advantage is gained or not. Only, whether it was safe of not. The stewards decision to delay the investigation until the end of the race was also unusual. That only usually happens if someone crashes out, or if it happens in the last 10 laps.
So I finish by asking the FIA, what on earth are you doing? You treat the fans like idiots! And we deserve better from you!