Ferrari are no strangers to controversy, they’ve no issues with stunting Felipe Massa’s performance if
he ever does better than Alonso it will help Fernando Alonso, but was breaking Massa’s gearbox seal at the US Grand Prix a step too far?
The issue was all down to the huge difference in grip between the two sides of the track; while the right hand side offered bucket loads of grip, the left hand side, which was much dirtier, offered less grip meaning it wouldn’t be easy to make a brilliant start at the beginning of the race.
On Saturday Felipe Massa was due to start the race in 6th, while Alonso qualified in 8th, meaning he would start from the dirty side of the track. The team were so concerned about how ‘dirty’ the left hand side of the track was, they clearly thought it could really hamper their chances at winning the 2012 World Championship.
In a move that Dick Dastardly would be proud of, they decided to break the seal on Massa’s gearbox, meaning the Brazilian would take a five place grid penalty. He would now start the race in 11th, meaning Alonso would be boosted up the grid by one place and would now start from the clean side of the grid in 7th place.
Was it fair?
Hell no! It was incredibly unsporting. Not only did it undo all Massa’s hard work on Saturday, it affected other teams too. Drivers that were due to start on the clean side of the track were forced to start on the dirty side of the track. Though of course it did help a couple of drivers who had qualified on the dirty side of the track as they were boosted to the clean side.
The move was unfortunately completely legal and not dissimilar to Red Bull choosing to start Sebastian Vettel from the pitlane in Abu Dhabi so they could make some changes to the car.
More astonishingly was that Ferrari were pleased as punch to be admitting it and for some reason thought they deserved praise for being truthful about it, and it wasn’t like Massa minded anyway. (Sometimes I wonder if Massa and Rob Smedley ever wonder why they bother)
The only thing I can liken this sneaky move to is the celebrity tax scandals. Earlier in the year it was reported that Jimmy Carr an other rich and famous folks, were exploiting tax loopholes meaning they weren’t paying they tax they were due to pay. Like the Ferrari move, it was completely legal and we thought ‘Well I can see why they did it’, but they still came out of it looking like asses.
Should exploiting loopholes be allowed?
In my personal opinion, no, however I was clearly born in the wrong generation and should have been around back when F1 was a gentlemanly sport and racing was done on track and in the form of technological developments.
Gone are the days where teams would share their technology to help out their competition. No, now Formula 1 is a business, the teams rely heavily on sponsorship to get them through the year and to help them develop their cars. So they must do anything they can do to finish as high as possible.
Martin Whitmarsh expressed that he wasn’t all too pleased with the move by Ferrari, however you’ve got to wonder whether he’d do the same thing if his team were in the same situation. To be honest though, I’m not sure he would, maybe I’m wrong though.
What can be done?
Though it was a legal move, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for some Formula 1 fans, I for one don’t want to see that move repeated again. The simple thing to do would be to make sure there’s no longer a huge difference between the left and right hand side of the grid. Make sure both sides of the track are as clean as each other and no matter where you start, you’ve got good grip to help you get the best start you can.
What did you think of Ferrari imposing a penalty on Massa to aid Alonso?