Daily Archives: July 25, 2010

Massa and Alonso grilled in press conference

Both Ferrari drivers, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, have been hounded by the press following the team orders controversy surrounding the German Grand Prix. After Felipe was ordered to allow Fernando through, who went on to win the race, they were promptly summoned to the press conference, where they just about survived a grilling.

Normally, the first part of the press conference is an extremely boring affair, with lots of “for sures” and “the team did a great job” statements. However, the second part is much more interesting, when the newspaper journalists get to ask any question they want, and the drivers must respond. So without further ado, here are the stinging questions that Felipe and Fernando endured:

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Fernando and Felipe, via a coded message it appears that we’ve just witnessed a clear case of team orders being handed out. To Fernando, do you feel embarrassed about taking such a win, and to Felipe do you feel angry about having to give up such a win?
FM:
For sure, you always want to win. That’s always what we’re working for. For sure we don’t have team orders, so we just need to do the race that we can and if you see that you cannot do the race that you can, you need to think about the team. I think that’s the most important thing.
FA: Yeah, same. What’s important is the team result, so I’m happy.

Q: (Fredrik Af Petersens) Felipe, you said earlier that you lost out to Fernando on the hard tyres. How come that after you were passed, that you were doing more or less exactly the same lap times, a couple of times even faster?
FM:
I was pushing hard as well but maybe I think he slowed down, I don’t know. He was controlling the pace.

Q: (Alan Baldwin – Reuters) Felipe, after this afternoon, do you now think you’re the number two driver at Ferrari?
FM:
Well, I cannot say that I’m there fighting for first position in the championship. I’ve lost many points, important points, and the only thing I can say is that I know what I can do, I can win races, that’s what counts and everybody saw today that I can win races and I can be competitive. For sure, what happened today is something that has happened in many races this year: when I put on the hard tyres I struggle. This is exactly what happened in the race. On the soft tyres, I was very strong and then when we went onto the hard, I was struggling again, so there’s no news about that. So I know why sometimes I’m a little bit penalised, it’s just because of the very hard tyres that we have this year. I don’t think it’s a good thing, to be honest, because you don’t have strategies any more. Then also the grip level on hard tyres for me was always a little bit of an issue this year, and most of the races that we used these tyres I was struggling. And this is another one where I was very good on the soft tyres in the first part of the race, and then we put on the hard tyres and I was struggling again. It’s a similar issue that we have had in some races.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Alonso, in a normal race, do you think you could have overtaken Massa, and Massa, in a normal race do you think Alonso could overtake you?
FM:
Well, I think I was holding in a good way anyway, but the race is long and you always have many laps, so you never know what can happen in 20 laps. So maybe yes.
FA: Yeah, I think there was one moment also on (I don’t know) which lap it was but we were side-by-side into turn six, especially with the people we were lapping – always there is a better chance to overtake and even though we didn’t see too many overtakings here today we’ve seen a lot in the past on this circuit but this year maybe with the new cars etc we didn’t see too many.

Q: (Ian Gordon – News of the World) Fernando, you said after Valencia that the race had been manipulated in favour of Lewis. Those words seem a bit hollow now. Where will this victory rank in your career, is it up there with Singapore 2008?
FA:
I think you have a very strong result from Ferrari today, one and two, a very strong performance all weekend and if the final thought of the weekend is your question it’s because maybe you didn’t see the whole practice, qualifying and the race, so maybe it’s too early for you that Ferrari came back so strong.

Q: (Ian Gordon – News of the World) Team orders are banned in Formula One. They were banned in 2002, that was blatant team orders.
FA:
Sure.

Q: (Ian Gordon – News of the World) Eddie Jordan just said that you two should be kicked out of the race.
FA:
Again, if this is the final thought of the weekend for you, I think it is because you didn’t see the performance of the team and the performance from our car this weekend.

Q: (Juha Päätalo – Financial Times Germany) Fernando, I think we all know what happened on lap 48 and we don’t need any fairy tales about tyres or anything to be clear of that. I just want to ask you, because in 2006 in Monza you said that Formula One is not a sport any more for you but was that which we saw today a sport?
FA:
I think we tried to do our race, we tried to do as good as we can. We are professional drivers, we try to work in a team and we try to do the best we can every day, not only here on the track but also between the races, at the factory etc, preparing the races. Again, I think we’ve been doing a good job over the last couple of races and finally we got a strong Sunday with a strong result. I think we are happy with this, although there are things which are more for you if you want to write all these things.

Q: (Carlos Miquel – Diario AS) Fernando, do you feel that some people are worrying because you are back in the championship?
FA:
Maybe it seems like this, yes.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) Fernando, what have you got to say to the people who would call this a dirty win and if you win the championship, a dirty champion?
FA:
I have 19 races to… look at the overall races, there are a lot of points that we win sometimes and a lot of points that we lose sometimes. As I said, today was a good day, some other races were bad days for us, disappointing but as I said before, we need to remain focused, keep working, keep developing the car, not to be too excited when we win, not to be too down when we lose. In November, (we need to) try to be in the fight for the championship, not forgetting that Red Bull has so far been very dominant, not scoring many points on Sunday, or the points that they should have scored on Sunday, but remain very strong and McLaren as well, leading both championships, so there is still a long way to go for us.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) The reality is, though, that you couldn’t beat him on the track, so you had to get the team to do it for you.
FA:
If that’s your opinion.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) I’m asking you, is that not your opinion?
FA:
No.

Q: (Byron Young – The Daily Mirror) He had to give you this win, didn’t he, Fernando?
FA:
No.

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Fernando, you’ve said that you’re happy with this win but to be honest, I’ve never seen a driver look less happy in the middle of a podium there today, and in the middle of this press conference here. Why can’t you just be honest with us for once, and just admit that this win was handed to you on a plate today?
SV:
Can I go?

Q: (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Go Sebastian! Sebastian, give us your thoughts?
FA:
Hopefully the next question is for Sebastian. No, stay, stay. As I said, I think we were competitive on Friday, I was very competitive on Friday, first position. Finishing second in qualifying by 12 centimeters, I heard yesterday and today I think we scored the fastest lap of the race, so overall I don’t think I was very slow this weekend.

Q: (Miran Alisic – Korpmedia) I have a question for Sebastian. I think you had some not similar but close situations with Mark as well. Do you feel proud that what has happened at Ferrari today hasn’t happened in your team?
SV:
Don’t you have another question maybe? Yeah, maybe they should have crashed. I don’t know, I haven’t seen the incident. I was too far back. I always saw them going into the hairpin when I was coming out of turn five, so I don’t know what you’re all talking about. I can guess but I don’t know. For sure my advice would not be it’s better to crash because also then you get a lot of questions that you have to answer so… Yeah, for me I was focusing on my own race and trying to do my thing, trying to stay close enough, trying to get closer, trying to put them under pressure. It didn’t work, so I’m not pleased with that. No matter who you race, it’s always difficult in Formula One to pass people and sometimes you have to take a lot of risk. When you don’t have to race your team-mate, you’re racing for the team, both of you, both drivers and on the other hand everyone looks for his own advantage. We had a couple of situations this year in our team, so it’s quite a comedy that we are not in focus at this stage but life changes quickly, so… It’s never wise to say anything that you might regret. Maybe in a week’s time. I’m happy where we are now, as a team. Again, I can only repeat that from the outside there was more of a fuss made than there was inside. I can assure you that Mark and myself are always looking to do our best but on top of that, I think we understood many times this year that the team is the main priority and we are racing for the team, in the end. We don’t get our cheque from you guys, we get it from the team. I think that’s something we always have to respect.

Q: (Ralf Bach – R & B) Felipe, you said it was your decision to let Fernando past, so my first question is why did you take this decision, as a racing driver in Formula One, and my second question is do you have any idea why Rob Smedley said sorry to you? FM: No. (Regarding your first question) As I said, because I was not so strong on the hard, so we need to think about the team.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Felipe, Rubens damaged his image a lot in Brazil when he did what you did today. Until now you had the support of the country; aren’t you worried that now after you did what Rubens did you have deeply damaged your image in Brazil?
FM:
For sure not, for sure not. I’m very professional and I’ve showed in my career how professional I am. You are professional as well, you work for a company. I believe you are doing what you have to do, so I’m professional and today I showed how professional I am. That’s it.

Q: (Tony Dodgins – Tony Dodgins Associates) Fernando you’re getting quite a bit of flak but as you say, you’ve been the quicker Ferrari driver for most of the weekend. We see it so often that the guy who is second on the grid gets beaten away by the guy who is third. Is there ever a case for actually asking to reverse the positions on the grid?
FA:
I think there are some circuits where the clean side is an advantage. There are some circuits where it is not an advantage, for example in Hungary next weekend, it will be crucial to be on the clean side. There are other circuits like that. There’s nothing we can do. We have a fifty percent chance of being on the clean or dirty side of the grid, unless you are the quickest which secures the clean side. The only thing we can do is to fight for pole position which allows you to be on the clean side. If not, I don’t see any other possibility. Maybe there should be more distance. Instead of eight meters, maybe 12 or whatever.

Q: (Tony Dodgins – Tony Dodgins Associates) Take today, if you’d been able to opt to start third instead of second and actually swap places, would you have done it?
FA:
Maybe I would have done a bad start, you never know. I think it was a good start today, overtaking Sebastian and that was our target today. You never know.

Q: (Anne Giuntini – L’Equipe) To both Fernando and Felipe, we always talk about the show, the necessity of the show in Formula One. Can you conceive that race lovers and show lovers might be a bit frustrated today?
FA:
Well, I think we try to put on a good show always for people, for spectators but as Felipe or Sebastian said, we work for companies, we work for teams. Sometimes, as we saw this year, there are crashes between team-mates and the loss of 42 points for the team. Today Ferrari has 42 in their pocket, so I think it’s what we are here for.

Q: (Ted Kravitz – BBC Sport) Fernando, after the pit stop, when you were behind Felipe, we heard a radio message, it wasn’t very clear, but it sounded like you were telling the team guys ‘think of the victory.’ Did you say that?
FA:
No.

Ferrari fined $100,000 and WMSC to investigate further

Ferrari have been fined $100,000 after they broke the Sporting Regulations of Formula 1 twice, regarding the team order to Felipe Massa to allow Fernando Alonso through, during the German Grand Prix. Also, the World Motor Sport Council have been referred to, meaning that they will investigate this matter further.

Felipe Massa is ordered to allow Fernando Alonso through

Felipe Massa is ordered to allow Fernando Alonso through

After the race, the team claimed that they had not ordered Massa to let Alonso through, and only “provided him with information”, even though radio transmissions proved otherwise. Also, Massa said that he allowed Alonso through,albeit of his own choosing.

The stewards decided that this incident broke article 39.1 of the Sporting Regulations, which states: “Team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited.” Also, it was decided that the infamous article 151c of the International Sporting Code was broken , which involves bringing the sport into disrepute.

They decided on a fine of $100,000, even though they fined Ferrari $1,000,000 after Austria, when Rubens Barrichello allowed Michael Schumacher through at the very last second on the final lap, after being shouted at for many laps by the Ferrari boss, Jean Todt.

While the opportunity of further punishment is appealing, the fact of the matter is that the next World Motor Sport Council meeting is in September, by which time the excuse will be “it’s too late for another penalty”. In my opinion, a big loss of constructor’s points would do, as they would lose plenty more money by finishing further down the order. However, the drivers’ points should remain unchanged, as they weren’t the ones who orchestrated this incident, although you could argue that Felipe was a bit spineless letting Alonso through.

Team orders taint F1 yet again by Ferrari

It couldn’t come worse for Felipe Massa. Exactly one year after his crash in Hungary that ruled him out for the rest of the year, his team have turned his back on him, and blatantly taken a rightful win off him. Of course, championship points are what Fernando needs at the moment, but this cannot cover what happened today.

This incident kicked off when Alonso was unable to make a move on Massa for the lead. He complained on the radio: “This is ridiculous”. Clearly, the heads of the team wanted Fernando to get through, and the engineers, specifically Rob Smedley, were fighting for the drivers to battle over the lead themselves. After many laps of arguing over the matter, Smedley dejectedly ordered Massa to lift and allow Alonso through.

After this, nobody on the pit wall spoke to each other, Smedley sitting there, with his arms folded, not saying a word. Stefano Domenicail was in between Smedley and Chris Dyer, who was similarly refusing to talk, although it is not known what side of the argument he was on.

The problem lies within the FIA’s inability to punish Ferrari for this blatant act of team orders. Firstly, the stewards will need to find hard evidence to hand out a penalty, and unfortunately “Fernando is faster than you” just doesn’t cut it as evidence. While there is 100% certainty that the race was manipulated by Ferrari, they have conveniently maneuvered themselves in such a way that they cannot realistically be punished. And secondly…. Jean Todt is FIA president. Do you trust him in this situation? I don’t. But it would be nice to be surprised.

If Ferrari were to be punished, excellent. Team orders would be fully banned (at least in situations in relation to the lead of the race), and it would not happen again. If that were the case, then I would be happy enough, and move on. But, Ferrari, even if they were summoned to the stewards, could use many other blatant team orders to defend themselves. Look at Kovalainen letting Hamilton through in Germany 2008, or Raikkonen and Massa in China ’08. The radio transmission “Driver X is faster than you” has previously been shown to work, and I don’t think that it will change this time.

So, we must point the finger of blame, but I don’t think it should be aimed at Fernando Alonso. While he certainly gained from this, it was the team who made the call, and they are the ones who need to be taught a lesson. On the other hand, Fernando’s complaining about “this is ridiculous” earlier on shows that he was expecting Massa to let him through, as opposed to what happened in Australia, when he was held up by Felipe all race long.

However, should we not criticise Massa, who was obviously slower than Alonso? When Fernando got through, he was up to half a second faster at points, and pulled out a 4 second lead by the end of the race. This situation would never have happened if Felipe had the pace to stay away from Fernando in the first place.

But that’s not justifying the team order. What happened today has happened many times before, and it needs to stop now. The McLaren and Red Bull bosses are saying that they treat their drivers equally (cough *Webber* cough), and that Alonso is gaining an unfair advantage by using Massa to help himself to some extra points, and this is perfectly true. Look at what happened in Turkey, when Vettel and Webber collided. While what happened was completely unnecessary, at least the team allowed them to race each other, rather than ruin the excitement (before the crash, that is) by issuing team orders.

In fact, the shining example of how to treat your drivers comes from McLaren, who have been excellent so far in giving equal treatment to both Button and Hamilton. While the “save fuel” incident initially caused concern, the team later said that it was a mistake by Hamilton’s engineer, and I would believe them. If the world championship ended today, then McLaren would totally deserve to win it. Button or Hamilton? Doesn’t really matter.

You know what the worst part of this is for me? While in London, I bought a Ferrari shirt, and I’m wearing it as I write this.  Looking back, not a perfectly timed purchase.

Alonso leads Ferrari 1-2 amid team orders in Germany

Fernando Alonso won the German Grand Prix today, ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa. However, this result was overshadowed by a coded team order from Ferrari to Felipe Massa, instructing him to allow Alonso through during the race. Behind the two Ferraris, Sebastian Vettel was third for Red Bull.

At the start, Vettel was slow to start, and both Alonso and Massa took 2 different routes to get around him. Fernando Alonso was pushed up by Vettel close to the wall, but still got through, while Felipe sailed around the outside and took the lead. At the hairpin, the Toro Rossos collided, with Jaime Alguersuari ripping off Sebastien Buemi’s rear wing, putting him straight out, and Jaime pitting for a new front wing.

Vitantonio Liuzzi hit the debris and pitted for repairs, but Adrian Sutil also pitted on the same lap. In a huge mix-up, the Force India team put each other’s tyres on both cars, which led to the FIA instructing the team to change the tyres again on both cars.

Jenson Button fell to 6th at the start, behind Mark Webber, who was overtaken by Lewis Hamilton. The top 6 began to swiftly move away from the rest of the field, as the super-soft tyres were holding up much better than expected. Sebastian Vettel got the ball rolling on Lap 12, when he switched to the hard tyres. This prompted a flurry of stops from the frontrunners, with nearly all of his rivals stopping in the next few laps.

Everyone except Jenson Button, that is. He opted to stayo out until Lap 22, and when he did change tyres, he got out ahead of Mark Webber to move into 5th place.

After this, the main battle was for the lead, with Alonso pressurising Massa. Up until Lap 28, Felipe kept Fernando at bay, until the Spainard decided to c0nserve fuel for a few laps, giving Massa a few seconds of room. However, within a few laps, Alonso had already began to catch up, and was less than 2 seconds behind.

Massa holding him up allowed Sebastian Vettel to close up behind Alonso, and this angered the team. Under no circumstances would they allow their 1-2 to be compromised, and they also felt that Alonso needed the extra points. So, on Lap 48, after a few laps of the team engineers arguing, Rob Smedley dejectedly sent a message to Massa: “Felipe, Fernando… is… faster… than… you. Can you confirm you understood that message?”

Clearly he did, as Massa slowed down to allow Alonso through on the next lap. Smedley simply said “sorry” to Felipe, as Fernando sailed away into the distance. Now, the focus switched to Mark Webber, who was under instruction to lift off on the straight, as he had an engine oil consumption problem. He managed it well, but he lost the opprtunity to challenge Button for 5th place.

While many were furious about the team order, it was very clear that Alonso was now much faster than Felipe, as Sebastian Vettel began to close on Massa. While he got within 1.4 seconds, he was unable to make a move for 2nd place.

Most drivers started on the super-soft, then switched to the harder tyre. However, both Pedro de la Rosa and Nico Hulkenberg decided to start on the hard tyre for most of the race first, then use the soft at the end. The strategy did not work though, as Hulkenberg and De la Rosa were 13th and 14th respectively.

With no more moves until the end, Alonso crossed the line first, 4.1 seconds ahead of Massa, with Vettel another second behind. The McLarens just didn’t have the pace today, as Hamilton and Button were 4th and 5th, more than 25 seconds behind Alonso. Mark Webber was another 14 seconds slower than Button, in a poor result for Red Bull.

With all the focus at the front, the other points-scorers went practically unnoticed. Robert Kubica was 7th, ahead of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. Vitaly Petrov was 10th, getting in the points for the first time since China.

It was a poor day for the new teams, with both Lotus cars retiring, followed by Lucas di Grassi and Sakon Yamamoto. Only Glock and Senna were classified in the finish. It was a disaster for Force India, with Liuzzi and Sutil 16th and 17th.

So, the German Grand Prix is over now, but the controversy over team orders has just begun. A post about it will be up soon.

The standings have also been updated, you can view them here.

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