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Ferrari deny Navy flag gesture has any political message
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Oct 2012   |  12:50 pm GMT  |  127 comments

[Updated] Ferrari is at the centre of a deepening political row in India over its decision to run both cars in the Indian Grand Prix with the flag of the Italian navy, the Marina Militare.

Two Italian sailors, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, have been held in India since February having been arrested in connection with the shooting of two Indian fishermen, who were allegedly mistaken for pirates.

The matter has been drawn out over a row over jurisdiction, according to Italian agency ANSA, “Italy says it should have jurisdiction for the case as the officers were aboard an Italian vessel in international waters, but the Indian authorities do not agree.

“The Italian government also believes that, regardless of who has jurisdiction, the marines should be exempt from prosecution in India as they were military personnel working on an anti-piracy mission.”

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told Italian network SKY Tg24 that the flag gesture at the Grand Prix, “Is the contribution that can Ferrari can make to this story.” he added on Friday evening, “We only want to make a small contribution, with great respect for the Indian authorities, so that a solution might be found through dialogue,”

Meanwhile Foreign minister Giulio Terzi said that Ferrari’s gesture, “Shows the support of the whole country for our sailors.”

Speaking to reporters today in Rome, Terzi also said the two sailors “Will return home. I’m not able to give a date, but they will come home.”

However a spokesperson in the Indian ministry of external affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, said that the gesture by Ferrari at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix is “using sporting events to promote causes which are not of a sporting nature is not in keeping with the spirit of sports.”

Team boss Stefano Domenicali faced some heated questions in the FIA press conference on Friday in India, but refused to engage; he kept referring journalists to the team’s media office. He did at one point deny that it was in connection with the two sailors.

However, the statement on the Ferrari website confirms that the flag gesture is in support of the two Italian sailors. Its says,

“Greater Noida, 24 October – Scuderia Ferrari will carry the flag of the Italian Navy on the cars driven by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in this weekend’s Indian Grand Prix.

“In doing so, Ferrari pays tribute to one of the outstanding entities of our country, also in the hope that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation currently involving two sailors from the Italian Navy.”

It’s clearly an awkward one for Domenicali who doesn’t seem comfortable to deal with something which has been decided many levels above him.

Other than to raise the profile of the cause, which it most certainly has done, it’s hard to see why Ferrari has decided to do it, as it is really a matter for the Italian foreign office, not a car company racing in F1.

The Ferrari communications director says that the statement, if you read it carefully, is not political and therefore does not fall foul of FIA statutes banning teams from making political statements via their presence in F1.

Although many members of the Indian media are quite vexed about this gesture of Ferrari, the wording of the press statement is such that it is hard to drawn any overt political message, even if on the face of it, in the circumstances, it does seem more provocative than anything we have seen before in F1, given that this situation exists and given what has been said about it by Ferrari’s president and by the Foreign Minister.

Ferrari is highlighting something to the world’s media present at the Grand Prix, of which most were ignorant beforehand and the message is being “amplified” as media professionals call it.

It has become a bigger cause as a result and puts pressure on the Indian government.

One can see how the Indians might see that as political, although Ferrari has been clever in the way it has worded its statements on the matter.

Ferrari’s logistics people will also be wary of getting the cars and freight out of the country on Monday, through India’s notoriously complex and difficult customs. It’s a concern given that the cars need to be in Abu Dhabi for a race next weekend.

* On Saturday Domenicali met with the president of the FMSCI (India’s branch of the FIA) Vicky Chandhok, who accepted the Ferrari position and out out a statement aimed at taking the heat out of the situation,

“The FMSCI would like to maintain that the FIA code of motor sport is apolitical and non-religious and the FMSCI will not permit motor sports to be politicised in any manner, ” said Chandhok.

“Stefano Domenicali has confirmed their initiative of carrying their national navy flag does not have, and should not be seen as, having any political implication.

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What a way to gain attention. Stick to the sport please. Luca aint’t no saint and Italy’s been known for mafiaism and corruption. Ferrari should concentrate on giving Alonso a winning car, what a shame.


BREAKING NEWS: Ferrari has been asked by Indian Government to remove the flags from their cars with immediate effect.

The row is getting uglier by the minute


They are not going to do that


ferrari have always been a law unto themselves. The shame of it is that so many have gone along for the ride, for too many decades.


Maybe not,but Ferrari are using an ‘international incident’, which is sub-judice, to try to effect the release or draw attention to the Italian sailors.

Since F1 is supposed, by its Rules, to be non-political, how is it that one Team can unilaterally take a stance which is nothing to do with F1, but is entirely political.

The F.I.A. should make an immediate ruling on this, but are they too weak?


Political machinations. From ferrari. Who’d have thunk it.


I thought Domenicalli was a decent bloke. Now I`m rather disappointed `[mod]


Don’t follow that….. What has it got to do with him?


OK, now when do we start racing ?


In about 2 and a half hours time. Can’t wait!


Will Italy also feel OK if two Indian navy men killed two Italians and Force India displayed Indian navy flag on their car in Monza in support of their release? Will USA also be OK if people from Middle east put up the flags of Taliban or Hamas for the illegal detention of their activists in Guantanamo? When the Korean athlete in Olympics was not given medal for angering Japan with a political message, how different is this Ferrari’s gesture from that? I think if Ferrari is on podium, they will be welcomed with a good number of boos and also the FIA must not grant them any medal just as IOC did for the Korean athlete.


Ferrari playing politics? Never. Lol.

LdM scored some valuable political points in Italy, regardless of the outcome.



Italy has a navy???


It also has cruise ships.


Not only that. They have two (Yes, 2) Aircraft Carriers. 🙂


Ol’ 3-car Monte wants to run for PM and is just keeping himself in the public eye back home.


In this era of political correctness, I for one applaud Ferrari for backing their countrymen. It’s a sticker for goodness sakes…


Ferrari says this has been done with respect to India, I think they have done quite the opposite


Yeah, sounds an awful lot like Ricky Bobby saying that any offensive comments are instantly negated by prefacing those remarks with “no offence, but”.


I really must question Ferrari’s business Acumen here… You just launch Ferrari Road Cars in India and then you set about hurting sentiments of the largest retail market in the world with one of the highest Purchase Power Parity (PPP) in the world vide needless political protests…. I wonder what the Ferrari Board will view this as…. especially considering that India is a country who is probably the only country to say “back off” to the United States of America which means Indians will not bow down to anyone or anything.

Not wise I say.


Force India will now be carrying Anti Obama Slogans this U.S. Grand prix to protest his Outsourcing policies which is hurting India… Come… Lets change F1 into a Political Protest Message Boards 😀


American flags get burned regularly, yet they all get over it. It’s just political jockeying. There’s a local election in the Indian region where the fishermen came from I heard. Cynical..?


In all seriousness, such a protest would be 100% allowed and acceptable in the United States, which is (regardless of what is purported throughout the world) still the free-est nation on earth. More so even than most Western European countries, which have many limits on freedom of speech.


Well the USA must be the “free-est nation on earth” if it allows members of a sporting event to disobey the rules?

So what action would the USA take against the FIA if Force India were excluded from the race by the FIA for running such a message?

We’re not talking about what is allowed from one country to the next. We’re talking about what is acceptable or not within the confines of the sport itself.


Wade, what You call the fre-est nation in the world is not able to put up a race (New Jersey) in time (2013) despite holding a contract to do so, in stark contrast to the Indian nation, LOL.


A country’s level of freedom and democracy has nothing to do with whether or not it is well organized logistically or beaurocratically.

I’m quite sure that if a country such as North Korea were given a contract to host a Grand Prix, it would be perfectly on schedule and run like a Swiss watch. This doesn’t mean North Korea is a free democratic country at all.

The fact that New Jersey’s GP has been postponed to 2014 is of zero relevance to how democratic and free the United States is. The point you put forward is moot.


Excellent Idea. I like it!


“it’s hard to see why Ferrari has decided to do it”

Really? It’s easy isn’t it? It’s hard not to stop thinking of reasons!

a) They want the media to write about it and that sort of thing in the past has made a difference

b) maybe they want to cheer up the sailors

c) LdM may want to be prime minister of Italy and a populist gesture cannot harm that

d) etc


If Ferrari wins this race, will they request to have their military flag flown instead of national flag? 😀


Quick amendment – now I see “Silvio Berlusconi sentenced to four years for tax fraud” –

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20102215 it all makes sense, but it is still all wrong for F1.

Isn’t there a clause in the rules about bringing the sport into disrepute? 😉


They have clearly breached protocol as well as …..


21.1 The provisions of the Code relating to national colours shall not apply to the Championship.

Both cars entered by a competitor must be presented in substantially the same livery at each Event, any change to this livery during a Championship season may only be made with the agreement of the Formula One Commission……

It’s not a “little sticker”, it’s the full width of the car and is placed immediately above the number for maximum effect. I’d suggest that this was not done lightly or without considerable thought from high-up in Ferrari. The fact that the trackside guys are clearly embarrassed speaks volumes……….


By livery they mean overall appearance (colour) to stop teams having different coloured cars each race – as seems to happen with certain driver’s helmets of late. A flag sticker doesn’t consitute livery. Ferraris already carried Italian flag stickers.


Maybe you iterpret livery differently? Welcome to the happy world of “rules interpretation” 🙂 I see someone said it was ok anyway – probaby to appease the potential political storm, but we all know what really oils the wheels in India 😉


livery – A company’s distinctive color scheme or emblem on vehicles is called the livery; livery first referred to the dispensing of clothes, food, or provisions to servants.



Ferrari has at best demonstrated incredible tone deafness. And at worse they are being deliberately offensive and disingenuous.

Assuming the best, what Ferrari has been insensitive to is to the families of the two innocent fishermen who lie dead and for whom true justice will never be done. The Italian sailors who shot these innocent men are out on bail, and will likely be repatriated in due course.

It is disgusting to see Ferrari faking righteous indignation when fault lies at Italy’s doorstep. No doubt the Italian sailors didn’t act out of malice. But you can’t very well be killing innocent people by mistake without consequence. It is not as if the waters offshore India are active theatres of war! And given the track record of recent examples of Italian maritime incompetence (Costa Concordia) and now this, one would imagine Ferrari would be embarrassed rather than trumpeting their insensitivity.

Shame on you Ferrari.


Luca has obviously lost focus. He is clearly using this to rally support in Italy for when he one day turns full time politician or presidential candidate.


This seems to be at best an exceptionally naive and silly thing to do. Apart from the wider issue of F1 being supposedly a sport, and the competitors having no business making political statements of this sort, it just seems bizarrely provocative to put something a blatant on the car. Honestly, what did they expect to achieve, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of what has gone on? All they’ve done is make their job more difficult than it need be. It seems to me that Ferrari has been used as a platform again for Mr, di Montezemolo’s domestic political aspirations.

I was reflecting on Ferrari’s form of late ant it occured to me that they’re in danger of repeating history – not bad but not good enough cars, inconsistent technical management, operational management distracted by media and business pressures, and senior management focused more on political games than winning races.


displaying a national flag is one thing, but a military flag ? Very disrespectful when you’re guests in that country and have been made to feel very welcome.

I wonder if theyll be willing to post a message of support for Pussy Riot on their cars when the first F1 race is held in Russia !


Ferrari are standing up for their fellow countrymen. Obviously they are not going to take a political position on something that is completely non of their business (Russian political prisoners, Tibet, etc.).


The sailors are on trial for murder…due process is taking its course…what is there to stand up for?


I would say that this would be very stupid from Ferrari, but what I´m guessing here is that Il Signore Montezemolo is trying to strenght his position as future Italian Prime Minister using Ferrari as political tool.

Looking from outside looks stupid, but inside Italy, should be a very clever move from Monty.


I think ferrari should focus on improving the car and winning rather than pulling off such stupid stunts. Its sad to see Vettel coasting to another championship while McLaren and Ferrari hit self destruct buttons and cost Hamilton and alonso the title.


Before we condemn Ferrari, think, very hard, about what spending 8 months in an INDIAN jail must be like. For doing their jobs, and at the very most making an honest mistake. In legal limbo with no clue as to when they may or may not get released, or where they will be charged.

And you are worried about a painted flag on a car, really?


The question here is only that of jurisdiction. The Italians said they were in international waters, whereas the Indians say the ship was in Indian territory.

A brief overview of the incident is as follows :

Two fishermen were killed when they approached the Italian ship. The Italians said they warned them, but the rest of the fishermen said there was no warning at all.

After the shooting, as is required by law (international maritime law), the ship is supposed to wait, but it sailed for over 70 kms before it was apprehended by the Indian Coast Guard. Thereafter, the Italian marines were taken into custody.

a) It remains for the court to establish WHERE the Italian ship was in relation to Indian territory when the shooting took place. If it was in Indian waters, it was a clear case of murder. GPS and other evidences will take care of that.

b) The Marines were NOT ill treated and were let free on bail, on the condition that they would not be able to leave the country till the law took its course. Whether it finds them innocent or guilty is its prerogative.

c) It’s in incredibly bad taste for Ferrari to show such support as this is NOT a military matter. This is not as if the Marines shot some terrorists or pirates and enjoyed worldwide acclaim. They shot innocent fishermen, and the courts will establish both sides of the story and give its verdict.

Ref :






Yeah offcourse killing TWO innocent people was also part of their job wasn’t it?

Cant believe how foolish some people can get!

your comparing Indian jail as if its guantanmo or something.


There job was to interdict pirates, who operate in small fast boats and who carry RPGs and machine guns. It is very likely that the Indians did not respond to a hail or command given to them by the Italian Navy boat, probably due to a language barrier, and instead did something that caused alarm on the Italian boat or boarding party. Young sailors, fingers on their triggers because of the threats of RPGs, fired when alarmed, probably on semi or full automatic. A terrible mistake, but definitely part of their job. A simple “ooops” it isn’t, and Italy needs to pay compensation to the Indian families to make things right, but those sailors aren’t the problem – blame the pirates that put them in those waters when, trust me, they didn’t want to be there in the first place.



Since we are speculating, probably they were drunk and having some sadistic fun shooting innocent fishermen or maybe this is not their first time killing innocents, probably this time they were caught ? who knows.The point is, anyone can come up with the kind of story that pleases them, but there is a judiciary in the country which is there to find out the truth and give justice.Or if it is proven that the incident happened in international waters then, the law would take its course accordingly.But the midset that one can get away after providing a compensation is very disturbing.

It would have been a good gesture from Ferrari had they emphasized the fishermen family as well, instead of just standing up for their countrymen and waving their military flag.


I agree.

I don’t know a whole lot about this incident, but I would be curious to know how the two sailors ended up in Indian custody. If they were on an Italian ship in international waters, this just doesn’t seem possible?


You have to get two points straight here. According to reports they are released on bail and are not held in jail. The “honest mistake” cost someones life. So let the law take its course.


Firstly, they were not in jail for 8 months, they were granted bail after 105 days. Secondly, they were given exceptional leeway by giving them special status in the jail, kept away from other prisoners and were permitted food from a star Italian restaurant.

I love Ferrari, have been an ardent fan since I started watching F1 from ’96, but there gesture here is in poor taste and hurts many.


Dude – nobody’s in jail.


Can’t believe some of the comments here.

They just put a flag sticker on a car people. That was done for awareness and to put a bit of pressure on the Indian authorities to hurry up.

Like I said, in the end it’s just a sticker. Get over it.


Its not about it being just a plastic sheeted sticker…. its about the message it conveys and the intent that it was put up for.


Would you have said the same if this was the same story but with another team?


Yes! They are just 2 stickers. Ferrari didn’t put the faces of those 2 sailors on their cars. Just 2 stickers of their Navy flag.

It’s the media who makes a bigger political issue out of this.

I wouldn’t have probably noticed those flags if not for the media. Or if I noticed them, would’ve thought they added something to their livery.


“I wouldn’t have probably noticed those flags if not for the media”

But isn’t that pretty much the purpose of the media? To bring things to our attention that we otherwise may have missed?


Also, it’s the media who made a big fuss out of this. Can’t believe we needed a separate article just for these 2 stickers. Why can’t we talk about F1? If nobody would’ve wrote about these 2 stickers, maybe 5% of those who know about this issue would’ve noticed.


What your not getting is the post on their website along with the stickers are causing the fuss. The whole point is that F1 is the largest international sport on a regular basis with global media coverage. They might be just 2 stickers to you but they’ve just infuriated a nation that is hosting these arrogant people and I might add this is probably prejudicing the legal process for the 2 sailors which have to date been treated more than fairly. AND if they are just two stickers why don’t F/g remove them !- it’s because they know the exposure their getting out of this.


“The only thing (in my opinion) is that will show Ferrari’s support for them and a bit more exposure so the authorities are forced to hurry up with the investigation”- Uhmm hello !! That’s what the point of the regulation is- no political intervention by the sport .


Even Chandhok, the chief of Indian Motor Sport has said the flags are not a breach of rules.

Get over it people. 2 stickers. Big deal!

People tend to blow out of proportions some issues. Those two stickers can’t and should not influence in any respect the outcome of that investigation. The only thing (in my opinion) is that will show Ferrari’s support for them and a bit more exposure so the authorities are forced to hurry up with the investigation.

Bring Back Murray

Hamilton has moved to Mercedes now. There’s nothing left for anyone to talk about apart from stickers!


If the FIA have any credibility they need to ask Ferrari to remove it from their cars or they do not line up on Sunday!

I think it’s in incredibly poor taste if Ferrari & it’s not like the Indian authorities have been hostile in the treatment of the sailors- quite the contrary .!


FIA as in Ferrari International Assistance, all covered in the same stripes. Also the FIA has no credibility as its a living instrument with moving goal post, just depends whose side you are on when the music stops. I have never seen any team get one over the FIA, For its blunders and decisions since it’s existence…Watched Senna the movie on Blu ray..touching stuff, but also reminded me the truth behind the FIA…

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