The oldest team have proved themselves to be in many ways, relics of an age Formula 1 needs to ensure it sees the back of.
With the nonchalance and continued arrogance of true elder statesmen the men from Maranello seem content – and suitably empowered – to write and read from what appears to be their own rulebook. And rewrite the rulebook they just might manage as we await the ruling – sorry did I say ruling? I meant ambiguous positioning – of the World Motorsport Council.
A tale of differing ideology amongst the rule makers, nothing new in a world of ever shifting goal posts. Ferrari seem able to withstand the negative hits of the last week – mainly because they seem anaesthetized to all external criticism – whether Formula 1 as a spectacle can stand up to the same scrutiny is questionable. As for the drivers, who are neither steeped in a team’s history nor blessed with their longevity.
While few question Fernando Alonso’s ability as driver, His position as a great champion is under far greater scrutiny. The manner in which Alonso portrayed Sunday’s on track events went against what everyone of us observed from either the grandstand, or in my case, an old 4×3 television screen. His ability to call a spade a candy coated donut must again call into question his knowledge of events that transpired in Singapore 2008. Alonso knew nothing then either.
Telemetry, radio transmissions and common sense lend themselves to a different story. If what Alonso told the stewards was indeed what he told the press, then Ferrari got off lightly in front of a governing body that has come down hard on dishonesty in recent years. $100,000 may have been all the money the team had in their pockets at the time.
Despite the team orders hullabaloo this really isn’t as simple a case as it was in 2002: Felipe Massa was not simply faster and then told to drop back a place like Rubens Barrichello had been. A slight difference in circumstance did not stop Barrichello from exhibiting a bit of empathy for an almost identical cause.
The fact that Alonso had the performance edge over Massa in the race provided Ferrari with only the smallest of saving graces. Statistics have by and large done nothing to quell the levels of disappointment felt by fans of F1. If Alonso was faster I personally expect him to prove it. What I don’t expect is hand waving and gesticulation of the type I see in summer traffic jams. In other words, I expect a fight.
According to McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh “We have moved into a rule which perhaps goes against the history of F1. There are team interests, there is a constructors’ world championship.” He would have done well to add there are fans that pay good money travelling air land and sea and who turn on televisions, which in turn bring sponsors. Sponsors bring money. Money funds teams, so as Pat Fry rightly called it early this week that such logical reasoning makes the fans the ultimate customer.
Teams and teams bosses who think different need a reality check. That reality involves looking to the future, not dwelling on a sense of the past that has no bearing on the modern demands on the present. The convoluted concept of gentlemanly conduct and in-team manipulation must end at 13.00 on a Sunday.
A year and a week on from an accident that could have done more than end his participation in the most dangerous of sports, Massa was quoted as saying he doesn’t just exist to race; he exists to win. It is a right that he fought long and hard for, but not only that, it’s something that we’ve come to expect. A race to the flag – that is the only team order the fans want to see.