Ferrari were fined $100 000 on Sunday for ordering Brazilian Felipe Massa to move aside and let teammate Fernando Alonso win the German Formula One Grand Prix.
The Spaniard’s 23rd career win, and second of the season, reignited his championship challenge after two difficult races and engulfed the Italian team in controversy over the use of banned ‘team orders’.
In addition to the fine, which they decided not to appeal, Ferrari were referred to the International Automobile Federation (FIA)’s world motorsport council which can impose additional penalties.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, whose German driver Sebastian Vettel finished third after starting on pole for the sixth time in 11 races, said what had happened was “wrong for the sport”.
“The drivers should have been allowed to race,” added Horner, whose own drivers collided while fighting for the lead in Turkey in May.
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.
In a five-way title battle, Hamilton has 157 points and Button 143. Red Bull’s Australian Mark Webber and Vettel are both on 136 and Alonso has 123. McLaren’s lead over Red Bull was cut to 28 points.
Ferrari, who remained third, saw no reason not to celebrate their one-two and had more good news when the FIA’s technical delegate cleared their front wing that some rivals had questioned.
While Massa told a news conference that he had made the decision himself to allow Alonso through 18 laps from the end, saying he was struggling with his car’s hard tyres, the radio traffic suggested a different story.
“So, Fernando is faster than you,” race engineer Rob Smedley told the Brazilian.
After Massa slowed and allowed Alonso to pass, Smedley added: “Good lad. Just stick with it now. Sorry.” He later said the Brazilian had been “very, very, very magnanimous”.
The furore that followed was fuelled also by sympathy for Massa, who might otherwise have stood on top of the podium on the first anniversary of his near-fatal Hungarian Grand Prix accident.
The ghost of the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, where Brazilian Rubens Barrichello had 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.
Not everyone was shocked, however. “There are team orders, you have to accept there will be,” Lotus technical head Mike Gascoyne told Reuters. “It just was handled very badly [today].
With Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren in a different race to the rest, Renault, Mercedes and Sauber scrapped for the remaining points.
Webber was sixth, Poland’s Robert Kubica seventh in a Renault and followed by the Mercedes of Germans Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. Russian Vitaly Petrov collected the final point for Renault.
In the day’s most embarrassing bungle, Force India were reprimanded by stewards after mixing up their drivers’ tyres and sending them out on a mixture of super-soft and hard. — Reuters