Alonso Wins German GP, But Storm Clouds Gather Over Ferrari and F1
As the dust settles and the crowds clear from the Hockenheim circuit the reverberations from the latest scandal to hit rumble on.
Today we witnessed a sport which, as usual, managed to throw up a surprise or two, this is what F1 is built and prides itself on. However, F1 is also sadly built on team orders which reared its ugly head today in, as always, controversial fashion.
The first major surprise of the weekend was to see both Ferraris back on form and at the sharp end of the grid ahead of both the ever threatening Red Bull's and the heavily updated McLarens. Ferraris surprising pace was not the only shock, McLarens distinct lack of speed was also a shock to many, especially with the new rear end and 'blown diffuser' package they bought to Germany this weekend.
Friday saw dark clouds hang over the circuit, and despite the sun eventually breaking through, it very much set the tone for what was to come. Friday was the first time we saw a surprise with Adrian Sutil taking first place in a session heavily affected by rain. Despite a few scary moments for Massa he achieved P2 in Practice 1, confirming that Ferrari had a very good pace this weekend. Practice 2 was a little dryer and this time both of the prancing horses set a gauntlet down to Red Bull by sandwiching Sebastian Vettel as Alonso took first place and Massa third.
Saturday opened with Free Practice 3 and we saw the first real dry session and again both Ferraris and Red Bulls locked out positions 1 to 4 with 0.7 separating Vettel in first from Massa in 4th.
Again in qualifying the battle resumed with Alonso taking the fastest times of both Q1 and Q2, but in Q3 the one lap pace of the Red Bull prevailed again and took pole with only 0.002 separating Vettel from second places Alonso, who both comfortably out qualified their respective team mates by over half a second.
Come race day again we clear sky’s above leaving all the eyes to be on track in which Mark Webber described on the grid, 'Could be one of the most interesting races of the year' after Bridgestone bought two very contrasting tyre compounds.
The race got underway and Pole man Vettel made a poor get away and he was soon swamped by Alonso, and most importantly Massa.
Massa jumped from third on the grid to first at turn 1 and Alonso had effectively held position by diving up the inside of Vettel at the same turn. Massa and Alonso streaked away and in the midfield Schumacher had made an impressive start from 11th to 8th by turn 2.
Massa and Alonso continued to pull away at the front dragging Vettel, in third, with them. Vettel and Red Bull a cunning and brave plan to pit early and surprise everyone, but most importantly release him into clear air. Both Ferraris reacted within a lap and Alonso pitted before race leader Massa to cover off Vettel. A lap later in came the leader and he rejoined back into first place ahead of Alonso once more on the harder compound rubber.
Massa regained the lead when Button pitted, however on the laps immediately after his stop Massa struggled and repeated locked brakes and was out of shape into corners. It has been a well known fact all season that Massa has struggle on the harder tyre.
The traffic was against Massa and he often caught it in awkward situations which at one stage let Fernando has an opportunity to pass at Massa into the hairpin and the following corner, however Alonso blew his chance by taking the inside for turn 7 meaning he had to back off and that left him too far down for 8 and not able to get that near to Massa again.
However after a couple of laps Masse seemed to get his car to work and actually pulled a gap to Alonso with race engineer Rob Smedley telling his driver he could win this race with his current pace.
However, this was not to be.
Alonso was gradually catching Massa, albeit by a small margin each lap, and inevitable the message came to Massa. 'Fernando-Is-Faster-Than-You, do you understand' came the message from Smedley to Massa over the radio. I think we all understood what was meant and sure enough over a lap later Massa cruised out of the hairpin to the delight of the Spaniard who casually took up first place.
Cried of foul rang wide across the internet, in the grandstands and among the media, most notably from golfer Ian Poulter who posted on his twitter, ‘That's nonsense if I was asked to bogey the last to let a Cobra team mate pass. I would tell them to forth and multiply. Make birdie instead’.
It's hard to say if what happened robbed us a great fight to the end, as there is no saying that Alonso would have made a move. But what we can say is today we were robbed of a rightful result. For me, it’s very much irrelevant that Alonso was faster. If in front of Alonso was a Red Bull or a McLaren he would have to find away past that car, else face being second.
We all understand why Ferrari has done it. We all understand that Massa had to do it but what we seemingly can't get to grips with is why it has to happen. One thing we must not do is look back on how sweet of a win this would have been for Massa and the F1 world a year on from the accident. We must deal in facts and leave feelings aside, after all if Ferrari broke a rule today, that is the most important thing.
Of course it is nothing new in the sport. As Martin Brundel and David Coulthard rightly point out in the excellent F1 Forum on BBC, the sport is built on this, it happens regularly. So why has this one incident caused so much out cry?
All the interviews after the race tell their own story. The 'I didn't know what happened' interviews by Alonso, bringing back vivid memories of Singapore 09 when he was being grilled on the result of Singapore 2008, and the very shady interviews from the top heads of Ferrari spoke volumes. But the most telling of all came from Felipe Massa, who once again was in the heart of every Formula One fan world wide.
When asked by BBC Radio 5 Lives David Croft in the post-race top 3 interview his string of questions, both his body language and his expressions spoke louder than his very striking words did. The nervous laughter when answering the question 'What happened?' was very compelling and matched his answer of, 'I don't really need to tell you do I?’. Seemingly though, and much more interesting, was how his answers had changed by the time Lee Mackenzie interviewed him for the BBC. Coulthard remarked on how professionally he answered the questions, however everyone could see and hear the hurt and anger voice and body language in the second interview, no matter how professional his words of 'It was my decision' were.
For all the analysis after the race, I felt that Coulthard's comments that 'it's part of the sport' were quite irrelevant. I think the uproar wasn't just about today it was the frustration of why it has to happen.
Since the end of the race I have spent my time ranting on various forums and I have been researching and asking sources about it and I have come to many conclusions.
Firstly, I don't believe today is about people thinking this hasn't happened before. Today is very much the straw that broke the camels back. We witnessed all the radio communications and saw with our very own eyes what happened and it does leave a very sour taste in the mouth. But I didn't hear an out cry like this in 2007 when Massa again let his team mate through 'for the team' and for 'the championship'. Again in 2008 I heard barely a whisper when Raikkonen returned the favour in Brazil.
So does that mean that to the degree we understand a decisions, make it any more fair? In 2007 and 2008 we understand why they did what they did. It worked in 07 and nearly worked in 08 so were they wrong to do what they did? Is it really much different from today as they effectively rigged a result for 'the good of the team and the championship'?
Secondly, today we have witnessed the business that is Formula One and not the sport. From hearing Stefano Domenicali say after the race that the result was effectively pre-mediated shows this race was settled in the board room and not on track. We heard Luca Colajanni stumble and stutter through a tough interview with the BBC, which hardly convincing results.
In both the interviews I was very much struck by the way they answered the questions. Sometimes they categorically denied that they had asked Massa to move over, however in other answers, especially Stefano’s 'We decided before the race what's best for the team' answer surely shows that it was pre-empted or even executed?
My final conclusion is a very unfortunate one.
Today we have seen that our sport isn't as 'fair' and as 'clean' as we are often fooled to think it is. Formula One is riddled with business decisions, clauses in contracts and people pulling the wool over ours, the fans, eyes.
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