Did Ferrari bring Formula 1 into disrepute?

Mat Coch Roar Guru

20 Have your say

    Ferrari has graciously elected not to protest the result of the Brazilian Grand Prix. It had no cause for complaint, however that didn’t stop thousands of fans posting videos on YouTube and bombarding the Italian squad imploring it to lodge a protest.

    Last Thursday the team confirmed it had sent a letter to the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, Formula One’s governing body. In it the team asked for clarification with regards to an overtaking move Sebastian Vettel made on Jean-Eric Vergne on lap four of the Brazilian race.

    Rounding the third turn under yellows, Vettel pulled out and overtook Vergne, who failed to make the German’s task difficult; Vergne drives for Toro Rosso, of course Red Bull’s feeder team. It would not do to annoy the Austrian task masters.

    Once Vettel completed the move a green flashing light was clearly evident. It was the first that Vettel has passed since rounding the third turn, which was under yellow flag conditions.

    Under yellow flags drivers should proceed with caution, and be prepared to stop, with overtaking strictly prohibited.

    What the footage didn’t show clearly was a marshal’s post on the inside of the circuit just beyond the exit of the third turn. The rather damp volunteer was brandishing a green flag.

    For all its technology, flags still override lights and even dashboard signals to drivers. The FIA noted the fact during the race and correctly decided not to investigate the issue, a sentiment it reiterated to Ferrari when an envelope from the Italian marque arrived in the letter box.

    Ferrari felt it owed its fans an explanation, and in face of video evidence – the green flag could be seen from onboard footage from Vettel’s car – chose to write to the governing body.

    It was a move that achieved nothing in the context of the world championship or its potential outcome but it created days of uncertainty in the immediate aftermath of the championship.

    Ferrari’s justification, that it owed an explanation to its fans, does not stand up. The team is not accountable to its fans; it is accountable to its board and owners.

    In 1994 Ayrton Senna pleaded with his Williams team to protest against Michael Schumacher’s Benetton, alleging it carried an illegal traction control system. The team opted not to.

    That season’s championship was controversial from start to finish but at no point did Williams feel the need to succumb to the will of the masses and question that which they had no evidence of.

    That it’s come to light since that the Benetton computer did have a hidden traction control option is largely irrelevant.

    In 2007 McLaren was thrown out of the constructors championship after one of its employees was found in possession of Ferrari intellectual property. The team was penalised for ‘bringing the sport in to disrepute’ rule and was slapped with a draconian fine, seen by many as a personal attack on Ron Dennis by then FIA President Max Mosley.

    Without the debatable penalties McLaren would have won the constructors world championship that year, and with it pocketed millions upon millions of dollars in prizemoney. That it did not complain or protest won McLaren many admirers. It simply accepted the penalty without complaint and simply got on with things for 2008.

    Ferrari has been less gracious. It has dragged the sports name through the mud without due cause, forming opinions and doubts in the minds of many over the legitimacy of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s achievements, not to mention their credibility and reputation.

    The problem is for the sport to punish Ferrari would likely make it guilty of bringing itself in to disrepute, so while the team has done the sport no favours and deserves to be severely wrapped over the knuckles, nothing will happen.

    It will be quietly swept under the rug while Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel deal with the fall out of unfounded conspiracy theories.

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    The Crowd Says (20)

    • December 4th 2012 @ 3:25am
      AndyMack said | December 4th 2012 @ 3:25am | ! Report

      You are kidding right?? Seems the Vettel move was debated in the media back and forth with varying opinions (certainly on Sky in the UK), not sure why Ferrari wouldnt keep their options open. In the end, they didnt even protest (did they?). How is that bringing the sport into disrepute?

      And the comparisons to McLaren (why would they protest, they were caught red handed) and Williams (they should have protested, the Benetton team were cheating and everyone knew it) seem a bit off to me.

    • December 4th 2012 @ 3:48am
      myatuck said | December 4th 2012 @ 3:48am | ! Report

      I agree with Mr. Mack. And I extend this opinion to include the subesequent exchange between Messrs. Ecclestone and Montezemolo. Ferrari acted within its rights and with a full measure of professionalism. The author of this article should be forced to take and pass a basic logic course. Or, run for Congress and perform for the Sunday talk shows. Or, work for F1, where he should feel right at home.

      • Roar Guru

        December 4th 2012 @ 8:50am
        Mat Coch said | December 4th 2012 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Ferrari could ha’ve said ‘we are not pushing it’ or simply remained silent. It may not ha e started the fire but it’s actions certainly fueled it.

        The point re McLaren. Toyota was caught in possession of Ferrari IP and no action was taken. A technical director has been seen rushing down pit lane with a rivals IP and no action was taken. McLaren was dealt a harsh card for which it had grounds for complaint given the precedence. It chose not to, ending a sordid saga in the most dignified manner the situation allowed.

        Re Williams. What would a protest have achieved? How do we know Benetton was cheating? We know only rumour and innuendo. One should consider the events of the Belgian Grand Prix where marshals found pieces of Schumacher plank on the curb he spun over, evidence which was not allowed in the investigation and subsequent appeal.

        For clarity I am an FIA accredited journalist. I do work in Formula One.

    • Roar Guru

      December 4th 2012 @ 9:00am
      Mat Coch said | December 4th 2012 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      You’ll have to forgive my fat fingered typing from my mobile above!

    • December 4th 2012 @ 9:23am
      Frankie Hughes said | December 4th 2012 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      Ferrari did nothing wrong.

      F1 is a multi million dollar business. It’s all ways better to be safe than sorry.

      Most people know that without Ferrari, which Bernie seems to want at present, there won’t be an F1 series anymore.

      • Roar Guru

        December 4th 2012 @ 10:37am
        Mat Coch said | December 4th 2012 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        But by questioning it so long after the fact did Ferrari not harm the integrity of the series from which it earns its millions?

        It would have been better aired behind closed doors.

        • December 4th 2012 @ 10:58am
          Frankie Hughes said | December 4th 2012 @ 10:58am | ! Report

          Certainly not.

          The alleged illegal overtaking footage was only available by the BBC.

          The BBC didn’t air the footage until their filming crew returned to the UK.

          If Ferrari hasn’t enquired about the move and it was illegal, how stupid would they have looked?

          • Roar Guru

            December 4th 2012 @ 11:38am
            Mat Coch said | December 4th 2012 @ 11:38am | ! Report

            Teams have access to footage and do not rely on broadcasters as we do.

            The BBC lit the fire by creating a rumor, Ferrari stoked it unnecessarily by publicly acknowledging and acting upon it.

    • December 4th 2012 @ 10:49am
      Karmen said | December 4th 2012 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      I really want to thank you Mat for this article. I couldn’t agree more with it.

      What Ferrari has done this week is disgraceful and I’ve been saying since day 1 that they should’ve been fined for trying to diminish a rival’s legitimate title. Of course nothing will happen. They showed their true colours and I rather support a team that accepts defeat than a bunch of sore losers.

      • Roar Guru

        December 4th 2012 @ 11:45am
        Mat Coch said | December 4th 2012 @ 11:45am | ! Report

        Let’s not brand Ferrari. It should be held accountable for its actions, but I for one would stop short of name calling.

        Fernando Alonso drove probably the best season of his career, and I feel Ferrari’s reaction in the aftermath has detracted from that somewhat. The team did incredibly well to get there because by rights it probably didn’t deserve to have a shot a the title in Brazil, and for that at least we should give it credit for.

        • Roar Guru

          December 4th 2012 @ 6:56pm
          ayoung said | December 4th 2012 @ 6:56pm | ! Report

          One thing I’d like to add.

          Alonso was hands down the best driver of 2012 and was unfortunate to be involved in several incidents which caused retirements or severe car damage (i.e Spa). He definitely deserved to win the title this year.

          However the issue for me is not that they contested the overtaking move by Vettel – I think they had a right to do that as it did look a little shady and contradictory, but rather the fact that Ferrari stooped so low in deciding to “damage” Massa’s gear box at the Circuit of the Americas so that he would be penalised 5 places and Alonso would move up to be on the clean side of the grid. I think that was bad sportsmanship on their part and if anything was what brought F1 into disrepute.

          • Roar Guru

            December 7th 2012 @ 10:05am
            Mat Coch said | December 7th 2012 @ 10:05am | ! Report

            Fernando had the best year of his career to date, and I would argue the German Grand Prix to be one of the best of his career. Throughout the race we thought he was struggling but in reality he was intentionally absorbing the pressure he was under, managing traffic and so on in order to have an advantage at the end. He is an incredibly talented driver and, pound for pound, the best currently on the grid. Perhaps not the fastest, but in terms of that all round ability he is in a class of one.

            As far as the USGP goes I for one don’t have an issue with Ferrari’s tactics. It is a team sport and I applaud the team for opening stating it penalised Massa for Alonso’s gain. The ethics of it are debatable but ultimately the team did not breach the rules and therefore were perfectly entitled to break Massa’s gearbox seal. Everyone of my colleagues agrees that, while they can appreciate some would see it as unsavoury, it was a necessary and intelligent move.

    • December 4th 2012 @ 10:49am
      Distant Knight said | December 4th 2012 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      In regards to Benetton, all you had to do was listen to their cars as they accellerated out of a corner that year to know what they were up to. As far as I’m concerned, when the only 2 germans to ever win the world championship are Schumi and the Finger, it speaks volumes as to their ability to drive within the rules!

      • Roar Guru

        December 4th 2012 @ 11:32am
        Mat Coch said | December 4th 2012 @ 11:32am | ! Report

        Not certain what Seb has ever done in breach of the regulations.

        Unless proven in a fair and unbiased manner we must assume Benetton was legal. Williams had the right to protest if it felt something was awry, but it chose not to exercise that option. We must assume it had access to far more information than we have.

        • December 4th 2012 @ 8:47pm
          Frankie Hughes said | December 4th 2012 @ 8:47pm | ! Report

          RBR has flexi front wings.

          Holes in the floor to aide aero.

          Lets make no bones about it, RBR cheat all the time, yet the FIA are too scared to chop then down.

          • Roar Guru

            December 7th 2012 @ 10:14am
            Mat Coch said | December 7th 2012 @ 10:14am | ! Report

            All teams have flexible front wings, however they have also all passed scruitineering.

            The holes in the floor is somewhat more debateable. What was legal in Monaco was, two days later, deemed illegal though the decision was not retrospective. Of course Ferrari could have protested that result until November 30, after which date all results are deemed final and official according to the FIA, but it chose not to.

            At the time I remember writing that Caterham had the most to gain from protesting since it could have lost it’s 10th place in the championship there (an important position when it comes to financial perks from Formula One Management) but didn’t consider the possibility of itimpactingthe wnner of the world championship. Had Red Bull been thrown out of that race Nico Rosberg would have won and Alonso would have finished second.

            That would have left the world championship at Alonso on 281pts vs Vettel on 269pts.

            Could of, should of, would of. It didn’t happen, of course, but that course of action seems more justified that the overtaking row.

            As for the FIA being too scared of Red Bull to protest, remember during Schumacher’s reign at Ferrari the FIA became known as Ferrari International Assistance. The FIA went after Red Bull’s fuel map, and floor, and has introduced stricter tests for flexible wings and the car has been deemed legal in each and every instance it’s been scrutineered.

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