Ferrari fined for illegal orders

Reuters - Sun, 25 Jul 17:20:00 2010

Ferrari were fined $100,000 and risked further FIA sanctions after Fernando Alonso won a German Grand Prix clouded by their use of banned 'team orders'.

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The Spaniard's success, beating team mate Felipe Massa by 4.1 seconds in a one-two finish to reignite his championship challenge, was engulfed in controversy from the moment the Brazilian was sent a veiled message to let him pass while leading the race.

"I have to say that is the clearest team order I've ever seen," said Red Bull team Christian Horner, whose German driver Sebastian Vettel finished third after starting on pole for the sixth time in 11 races.

"It's wrong for the sport. The drivers should have been allowed to race."

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton finished fourth to extend his championship lead over team mate and reigning champion Jenson Button, who was fifth, to 14 points. McLaren's lead over Red Bull was cut to 28 points.

The furore that followed was also a reflection of the sympathy surrounding Massa who might have otherwise stood on top of the podium on the first anniversary of his near-fatal Hungarian Grand Prix accident.

After hearing from both drivers and Ferrari team manager Massimo Rivola, the four stewards - including former Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan - found Ferrari had broken the rules.

In addition to the fine, the team were referred to the FIA's world motorsport council which can impose unlimited penalties.

While Massa told a news conference that he had made the decision himself, saying he was struggling with the hard tyres, the radio traffic suggested a different story.

"So, Fernando is faster than you," race engineer Rob Smedley told the Brazilian on the 47th of the 67 laps.

After Alonso passed two laps later, Smedley added: "Good lad. Just stick with it now. Sorry." He later said the Brazilian had been "very, very, very magnanimous".

In a tense and hostile news conference, Massa faced questions about whether he was now number two at the team while Alonso fended off suggestions that the win was as tainted as the one he took in Singapore in 2008 after Brazilian team mate Nelson Piquet crashed his Renault deliberately to help him.

The ghost of the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, where Brazilian Rubens Barrichello was ordered to let Ferrari team mate Michael Schumacher win in a notorious incident that led to team orders being banned, also hung heavy in the air.

So remorseless was the questioning that Vettel, ignored by all, asked if he might leave. "No, stay, stay," said Alonso, laughingly placing a hand on the youngster's shoulder to restrain him.

Vettel had started the day as favourite but made a poor getaway, moving across to try and block Alonso but handing Massa a clear road to turn one.

With the Ferraris one-two for the first 13 laps before Alonso pitted, the main thrill was the battle of wills between the determined Brazilian and a Spanish team mate whose frustration became increasingly evident.

"This is ridiculous," Alonso said over the radio as he tried, and failed, to squeeze past on lap 21.

When the double world champion, who will celebrate his 29th birthday in Hungary on Thursday, finally did get past, the gesture was obvious.

Lotus engineering head Mike Gascoyne said he had sympathy for Ferrari but the gesture had been too blatant.

"There's always been team orders in Formula One," he said. "The bottom line is - if you are going to do it, do it far more cleverly than that."

With Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren in a different race to the rest, Renault, Mercedes and Sauber scrapped for the remaining points.

Australian Mark Webber was sixth for Red Bull, Poland's Robert Kubica seventh in a Renault and followed by the Mercedes of Germans Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.

Russian Vitaly Petrov, his future with the team subject to considerable speculation, collected the final point for Renault in his first top-10 finish since April.


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