Ferrari shrugs off flag controversy


Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali refused to be drawn on Friday into a mounting political row over his outfit's decision to run an Italian navy flag on its car at the Indian Grand Prix.

The Maranello-based team is running the flag on its nose at the Buddh International circuit to pay tribute to its military organisation - and help push for a solution to the tense situation between Italy and India over two Italian sailors who were charged after an incident that resulted in the deaths of two Indian fishermen.

A statement on Ferrari's website about running the flag said: "In doing so, Ferrari pays tribute to one of the outstanding entities of our country, also in the hope that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation currently involving two sailors from the Italian Navy."

The move prompted criticism in India because of the controversial nature of the incident, and the government stepped in to hit out at the move.

Indian news agencies quoted Syed Akbaruddin, an official spokesperson in the ministry of external affairs, as saying: "Using sporting events to promote cause which are not of a sporting nature is not in keeping with the spirit of sports."

Domenicali was asked about the situation during an official FIA press conference in India, but declined to elaborate on the situation.

"If you look behind in the past we have done a lot of initiatives, but there is nothing I want to get into specifically because this is not the place we should do it," he said.

When asked if his team would consider reviewing the running of the flag, Domenicali said: "Honestly I don't think it is a matter of this press conference to discuss this subject. If you have any questions, we have a press office."

The FIA's statutes state that no team should make political gestures, and Domenicali insisted that his team's action had not done that.

"There is not any political intents or discussion - that is what is written."

When asked to clarify why that was the case because Ferrari had made reference to the Italian sailors on its own website, Domenicali said: "That is not true."

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said he would not get involved in the matter, and that it would be up to the country's motor racing authorities to deal with it.

"What we'd do, we'd look at the national sporting authority (FMSCI) here to have a look at that...we are not political," Ecclestone said.

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