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Pointless Controversy Overshadows Germany

Posted by Carrot on July 25, 2010 | 4 Comments

I’ll avoid the obvious controversy until a bit later and just comment on the result as it stands for the first part of this post. Ferrari came back to form in Germany, recording a 1-2 finish and easily outclassing the Red Bulls and taking home a maximum haul of points. Both the red cars looked quick all weekend and their pace at this track catapulted them above both the Red Bulls and the McLarens to emerge as the fastest overall team in all situations. They’ve been talking about their pace since their big update in Valencia and now they’ve had a safety car free race and have demonstrated the performance they’ve had.

The day was a disaster for Vettel, overhauled by both Ferraris into turn one and then stuck trying to chase them to the end. With McLaren off the pace and with pole position in hand this was a prime opportunity to overtake his team mate and put a significant dent in the lead that both McLaren drivers have over him. Yes he scored more points, but not nearly as much as he could have.

McLaren’s damage limitation was extremely successful, they managed to use superior strategy and tyre conservation to ensure both their drivers were ahead of Mark Webber and hold him behind them for the rest of the race. It was a poor race for the team who haven’t managed to optimise their blown diffuser upgrade even with the extra two weeks development they’ve had on it. The fabled McLaren development machine that everyone’s been expecting to decide this championship is faltering and doing so very badly and very publicly. The morale in the team has to be suffering with this result.

Renault ended up as the fourth team this weekend, scoring one more point than Mercedes due to Petrov finally delivering a result. I really think his drive is in danger, current paddock rumour suggests a straight swap between him and Timo Glock sending the Russian to Virgin. I don’t think Glock will ultimately deliver any better than Petrov, instead Davidson, Kovalainen or Klien would be the better prospect to score consistent points behind the ever dominant Pole in the Renault. Schumacher recorded his worse result in a German Grand Prix with a ninth place, again outdone in the race by his younger compatriot. Mercedes have no answer to Kubica’s pace at the moment and will need to if he continues to score like he is if they want to hold on to fourth in the championship in Abu Dhabi.

Elsewhere Kobayashi ended the race just outside the points, de la Rosa’s charge into the points halted by Kovalainen’s mistake into the hairpin. Sauber have made another step forward and Williams find themselves demoted down the order in pace if not by points yet.

And now, finally, the controversy. Yes it was a team order. No there’ll be no penalty as long as Massa continues to stick to the line that it was his decision, and he’ll do that if he wants to continue driving with Ferrari. Where do I put the blame? Not where you might think. We all understand that team orders are a part of Formula 1, it’s still a novelty that team mates are allowed to race each other on track, it’s the nature of the beast. F1 fans understand and accept this, otherwise we’d be demanding a single driver per team formula. What we don’t like is things like this being blatant and then being insulted after the race with pathetic answers that avoid the question and make the team look like fools. The blame for this whole incident clearly belongs with Felipe Massa and Rob Smedley.

A lot was said after the race about how gracious in defeat Massa is, and he very much is, I think back to how together he was in Brazil in 2008. The fact remains that he followed the team orders in such a way as to make it completely blatant. You don’t even need the in-car display to tell he was deliberately and pointedly off the throttle, you just had to listen. People may talk about his professionalism, I see today as a very selfish display as through his action he brought the team and the sport into disrepute. It would have been easy to go a little wide into turn one or turn five and let Fernando put an actual pass on him, something he could have actually looked like a racing driver by doing. Instead he turned an inevitable situation (You’re driving for Ferrari next to a double world champion who is outperforming you, what do you expect to happen?) into a spectacle that causes resentment amongst fans and cultivates sympathy towards yourself. Fernando Alonso isn’t a team player, but after today I’m quite sure Felipe Massa isn’t either, and he’s damaged the sport by doing so. Rob Smedley’s “I’m sorry” comment for me was the basis of the stewards’ enquiry. There was no reason for it, you’re supposed to be a professional, do your job and save the condolences for after the race in the debrief. The pair of them are the villains of this piece, although the outrage that people have over the incident is naturally directed towards the team at the moment. When Mark Webber was made to play second fiddle he went out and dominated the race, he didn’t do something stupid for his own benefit, that’s the difference between class and ego.

We’re off to the dusty track at Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix in a week, back-to-back races before the big three week summer break. The fall-out from Germany will still be reverberating around the paddock for that race. Hopefully the only overshadow we’ll get come the Hungarian race is clouds and not continued talk of this controversy.

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Comments

4 Responses to “Pointless Controversy Overshadows Germany”

  1. Tim Sculthorpe
    July 26th, 2010 @ 8:05 am

    It seems harsh to blame Massa and Smedley for the situation. I would have like to see Massa ignore the order but at end of the day he is an employee of the team. Both men acted in a way certain to make plain exactly what was happening.

    I think there is a big difference between what Ferrari did in Germany and what other teams do, whether that is favouring one driver on strategy, focussing development on one car or whatever. Ferrari were cynical and then lied about it.

  2. James Davies
    July 26th, 2010 @ 8:30 am

    The most annoying thing about the whole incident was the fact that Smedley denied it was a team order after the race. Just say yes we asked Massa to move over.

    Also the fine of £65,000 is crap, I should think they spent more than that on coffee and biscuits over the weekend.

  3. Evar
    July 26th, 2010 @ 9:51 am

    Agree with Carrot it was a pointless controversy – any other team would have done the same. Do you really think McLaren or Red Bull wouldn’t have done this if they were in the same situation?

  4. Carrot
    July 26th, 2010 @ 9:59 am

    Hi Tim,

    It might seem harsh, but in the end I can see nowhere else to place the blame for this. The order was always going to come from the team, everyone accepted that. It’s the manner that it was done that caused the outrage, if Massa had run wide so Alonso could have a run and then not fought that hard to defend the position we’d have had no outcry from the fans and no subsequent investigation. Massa did it deliberately to make a point, and that point has damaged the reputation of the sport because he didn’t like the simple fact that Alonso is more likely to challenge for the championship than he is.

    I agree with you that Ferrari’s subsequent comments after the race and how they changed over time as they got ‘the story’ right was insulting towards the fans, but the catalyst for this was the way Alonso was let through, and it was only Massa that had control over that.

    Hi James,

    Yeah, if they’d have just crafted a line that ended up as “You heard what we said to Massa, it wasn’t and order or an instruction, we were just informing him of events in the race” and stuck with that no-one would have been able to break through that with Felipe saying it was his decision. Smedley saying sorry on the radio was the key communication for me, why would you apologise for telling your driver information about the pace of other cars? It meant it was obviously more than that.

    The fine is a bit paltry, but I think it was a token gesture. I think the stewards were right not to affect the race result based on what was being said by Ferrari. The stewards can’t go around assuming the testimony of drivers and engineers is suspect and then changing results based on that. I think the right decision was made to refer the matter to the WMSC and to add a charge of bringing the sport into disrepute, something I didn’t know they’d done when I mentioned it in my post. Whether or not the WMSC will do anything is another matter.

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    1 Kimi Raikkonen 25
    2 Fernando Alonso 18
    3 Sebastian Vettel 15
    4 Felipe Massa 12
    5 Lewis Hamilton 10
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    7 Adrian Sutil 6
    8 Paul Di Resta 4
    9 Jenson Button 2
    10 Romain Grosjean 1

  • Constructors Championship 2013

    1 Ferrari 30
    2 Lotus 26
    3 Red Bull 23
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    6 McLaren 2
    7 Toro Rosso 0
    8 Sauber 0
    9 Williams 0
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    11 Caterham 0