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Ferrari back in title race despite fine

Last updated on: July 27, 2010 11:52 IST

Stewards ruled Ferrari had brought the sport into disrepute



Ferrari and Fernando Alonso are back as Formula One title contenders despite leaving Germany with a $100,000 (64,658 pound) fine and the threat of further punishment hanging over them.

The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) must now decide whether to impose additional sanctions after a Sunday that cast a cloud over what is shaping up to be one of the closest seasons ever.

The Hockenheim stewards decided Ferrari, who finished one-two, had told Brazilian Felipe Massa to let Spanish team mate Alonso win the race, a breach of the regulations barring so-called 'team orders'.

They also ruled the team had brought the sport into disrepute and referred the matter to the FIA's world motor sport council (WMSC).

Ironically, the FIA is now run by the very man - Frenchman Jean Todt - whose actions as Ferrari boss at the notorious 2002 Austrian Grand Prix led to team orders being banned in the first place.

Todt, who has steered clear of controversy so far in his short time as president, can be expected to step aside from any involvement in the process when the council eventually meets but the council will not have an easy decision to make.

Image: Fernando Alonso
Photographs: Reuters

'Massa guilty of obeying team orders'

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Alonso, however, will not be having any sleepless nights about his role in the affair even if some have suggested the top two positions be reversed.

"If I was the WMSC I would take away team points and leave the drivers' points," said Lotus technical head Mike Gascoyne, who worked with the double world champion at Renault.

"They just did what they were told to do after all," he added on his Twitter feed.

"At the end of the day Alonso did not do anything. Massa backed off and let it happen. He is guilty of obeying orders so shouldn't be rewarded."

If Sunday afternoon was not Ferrari's finest moment in Formula One, then Alonso could equally argue that he did very little wrong.

The double world champion, who celebrates his 29th birthday in Hungary on Thursday, was ultimately gifted a win that most people had expected him to take anyway.

Alonso had been faster than Massa in practice and in qualifying and lost out to the Brazilian at the start mainly because Red Bull's pole sitter Sebastian Vettel saw him as the bigger threat.

When Vettel moved across to try and block Alonso, he handed Massa a clear road to the first corner and the lead. It was evident in the race which was the faster Ferrari.

Image: Felipe Massa

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Battle has become intense

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While Massa was denied an emotional win on the first anniversary of the crash that left him fighting for his life in a Budapest hospital, Alonso was also overdue some good fortune after having his last two races wrecked by the deployment of the safety car.

"Apart from the win, the most important thing is to feel confident with the car again, to feel that we are going in the right direction in terms of developing the car," he said, focussing on the positives.

"So despite the win, the better news for us in the last two or three races is that we are competitive."

Leaving aside the controversy, the Formula One title battle will benefit from a resurgent Ferrari putting pressure on Red Bull and McLaren.

From looking like a four-way battle, there are now five drivers divided by just 34 points - very little under the new scoring system that rewards a winner with 25.

Five drivers have won at least two races each and any one of them could win in Hungary next weekend. Alonso's win, even if tainted in the eyes of some, has only made that battle more intense than ever.

Image: Fernando Alonso

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