Ferrari facing sanctions over Hockenheim controversy

By Gareth Llewellyn
fernando alonso(Photo: Gregory Moine)

fernando alonso

Ferrari could be banned from Formula 1 following Sunday’s controversial one-two at the German Grand Prix.

The Italian team were found guilty of breaching rules 39.1 relating to the deployment of team orders which interfere with the outcome of the race, and 151c relating to a fraudulent act, or act detrimental to the interests of the sport.

Team principal Stefano Domenicali denied Ferrari had asked Felipe Massa to allow considered No1 driver Fernando Alonso through, but Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley could be heard telling his man that Alonso was quicker and asking him to confirm he understood the message.

With 18 laps to go, Massa slowed considerably, and Alonso swept into the lead of the race, Smedley was then heard to say “Good lad. Stick with it now. Sorry,” denying Massa the chance of his first victory of the season, and spectators the prospect of a battle for the race lead.

Many expect that Alonso could have taken the lead in a fair battle between the two Ferrari drivers, but this is the age where No1 drivers get their own way. At one point Alonso could be heard venting his frustration, branding the situation “ridiculous”.

As a number of commentators have said since the move, did F1 greats like Ayrton Senna, Jim Clark or Jackie Stewart need team orders to take the lead of the race? Certainly not.

Early polls indicate that the German Grand Prix was the worst race of the season, despite having the ingredients to be one of the best. It is surely down to just one factor—the decision by Ferrari to give Alonso the lead.

Ferrari’s penalty for the move, a mere fine of $100,000 (£65,000), does not fit the crime, but the team have been summoned to a hearing of the World Motor Sport Council in August. At that hearing, the team could be banned from the sport, although it would appear to be an unlikely decision.

Other sanctions available to the WMSC include a ban, suspended for a year or more, should they repeat the offence. They could also be banned for a number of races this season, although in the interests of the sport, it is unlikely the WMSC would opt to suspend a team which brings a substantial number of fans and sponsors to the sport.

The more likely option is that they uphold the fine, expunge the result, disqualifying Ferrari from the race, while handing down a suspended sentence as an appropriate deterrent.

Such a decision would clearly not sit well with the Ferrari bosses, as they have already said they will not appeal the fine in the “interests of the sport” they had little regard for during the race.

Should the result be expunged it would promote Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel to his first race win at his home Grand Prix, with McLaren duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button taking second and third to increase their lead in both drivers’ and constructors’ championship.

Vettel would move into third place ahead of team-mate Mark Webber in the drivers’ championship.

As criticism continues to rain down on Ferrari for reacting to petulance from Alonso, the punishment should have been handed out by the stewards after the race, rather than dragging the debacle on further.

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