On Ferrari’s “tactical” gearbox penalty
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Nov 2012   |  11:33 pm GMT  |  394 comments

One of the major talking points from the US Grand Prix weekend was the decision by Ferrari on Sunday morning to deliberately break a seal on the gearbox of Felipe Massa’s car, so that he would get a five place grid penalty which would move team mate Fernando Alonso one place up the grid and onto the clean side of the grid for a better start.

Practice starts during the weekend had shown that the dirty side of the grid was so lacking in grip that the car would lose up to a second in the 350 metre run to Turn 1, equivalent to two positions.

Much has been said and written about Ferrari’s tactic in the last 24 hours, but it’s worth looking in more detail at the background and technical detail of this to better understand whether the rules need to be re-written to avoid similar actions in future.

Ferrari used Article 28.6 (e) to give their own driver a tactical penalty on Sunday. This states that: “a replacement gearbox will also be deemed to have been used if any of the FIA seals are damaged or removed from the original gearbox after it has been used for the first time.”

The rules on gearboxes are that each ‘box must last for five Grands Prix. An FIA seal is placed in several areas of the gearbox, “to ensure that no moving parts, other than those specifically permitted … can be rebuilt or replaced.”

These seals may only be broken with the approval of the FIA in order to make limited repairs. These include replacing a damaged gear ratio with a similar one, O-rings and oil seals. Nothing is allowed to be done to the transmission itself and if needed a new gearbox must be used which incurs a five place grid penalty.

Ferrari were transparent about the fact that there was nothing wrong with Massa’s gearbox and they will have been equally open with the FIA about it. In fact they will have gone through the procedure carefully with the FIA’s Charlie Whiting and Jo Bauer to ensure that they satisfied the regulations. They broke the seal on the cross-shaft, which is at the back of the gearbox and drives the final drive.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali confirmed that the team waited until the last moment to break the seal, so as not to allow time for Red Bull to react and do the same with Mark Webber, who was starting 3rd. However Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said that they never even considered it.

This is the second race in succession where a team fighting for the championship has done something unusual in order to gain an advantage for the race. In Abu Dhabi Red Bull Racing were penalised for not having enough fuel in Sebastian Vettel’s car in qualifying.

He was sent to the back of the grid, but Red Bull Racing used Article 34.5 of the Sporting Regulations to change his car and optimise it for overtaking in the race. So he was able to gain an advantage from what should have been a severe penalty. The rule states, “If a competitor modifies any part on the car or makes changes to the set‐up of the suspension whilst the car is being held under parc fermé conditions the relevant driver must start the race from the pit lane.”

Both actions were within the rules and as things stand, both rules are in the 2013 Sporting Regulations.

A lot of effort goes into thing through various scenarios and wording these regulations; for example on the rule regarding teams using 8 engines in a season, Ferrari was one of the prime movers in adding a detail whereby if an engine is replaced after qualifying with another from the permitted eight, the unit removed cannot be used again that season for qualifying and race. This was to avoid teams producing special “qualifying engines”.

This is the level of detail the teams and the FIA go to.

There’s no doubt that what Red Bull did in Abu Dhabi and what Ferrari did in Austin played badly with fans. Ferrari’s move affected their own driver Massa and it meant that several drivers who had qualified on the clean side of the grid, were forced to start on the dirty side.

The most affected were Senna, who moved to 10th and lost two places at the start. However his team mate moved onto the clean side in 9th and still lost four places. Hulkenberg moved to sixth and picked up a place at the start.

The dirty side did have an impact overall; Raikkonen lost three places from 4th and Hamilton lost a place from second.

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A creative yet desperate move by Ferrari - but you can't blame them for trying. I'm not in favour of the deliberate misuse of penalties to aid a driver - doesn't seem right. It'll be a bigger talking point if Alonso nicks the WDC by a point or two next weekend - hopefully that won't happen.


Actually, you can blame them for trying

It is against the spirit of the rules, spirit of competition, just wrong on so many levels.

This is what happens when corporations make decisions.

It is also the reason I have never been a Ferrari fan. They do this stuff over and over.

Alonso deserves the championship, but Ferrari doesn't


Rules determine how a game is played, not the 'spirit' of the rules. If you know the rules well, you can use them to your advantage. If you want to play the game by the 'spirit' of the rules, you set yourself up for failure because you then impose artificial restrictions on your game play.

If expectations are that all players will stick to the 'spirit', we would not need rules. This applies to all sports, not just F1.


Dear God, RBR have been involved in almost a ratio of 1-1 in terms of races against flagrant breaking of the 'spirit' of the rules. Their short history has been shocking in this regard, they are also the primary reason why the sport has been unsuccessful in terms sof bringing in cost control measures.


I read somewhere that there is no such things as the 'spirit of the rules in F1' well all I can say is that is exactly what caused cycling to end up with their Hero Lance Armstrong faling into the pits of shame.

If the F1 teams and the FIA cannot see that it is wrong, then they are just encouraging the likes of Alonso to think in a non sporting way and this will lead to the same calamity as cycling.

Martin Whitmarsh said that was Alonso's problem with McLaren in that they would not do such actions.... it tells you all you need to know about his cconsideration of sport much like Lance...


Oh, please - Armstrong (assuming his guilt) completely violated the rules, whereas Ferrari completely held to them, albeit in an unsporting way.


How about Red Bulls against the spirit of the rules engine mapping earlier in the season....



RB have proven time and time again they are masters at bending the rules. At the very least give Ferrarri credit for being open and transparent with FIA. The RB team has consistently shown they bend the rules and hide it til caught Red handed. Worse they get to keep the points they accumulated from the race. Talk about "spirit if the rules". RB have no concept of this.


Agree completely with Trevor. Ferrari has a long history of doing this, and much worse. What will it be next time? Will Ferrari mechanics be instructed to sabatoge the Red Bull of Vettel? They're just trying to win, right?

To see an F-1 World Driving Champion (Alonso) stand there and say he is 'proud' of Ferrari is terrible.


Oh please... haven't RBR contravened rules throughout the last 3 years?

Didn't the FIA have to change the tests they applied to wings etc because of RBR building fleex into them.

What about a hole in the floor of their car, when the rules specifically state it's not allowed, or a device that a mechanic can lower or raise the car with, never mind the engine mapping they used prior to Hungary.


I honestly can't see what the fuss is about. It was the only logical decision at this end of the championship. F1 is about winning. If u upset some people with a decision and u win who cares. Massa has had ferrari do him favours over team mates in the past afterall.


I completely agree. In fact I'm not sure there really is much "fuss" is there? Amongst my F1-fan friends no-one has an issue with what happened so I feel James' statement that "There’s no doubt that what Red Bull did in Abu Dhabi and what Ferrari did in Austin played badly with fans" is correct.

Neither team has "cheated" taking the actions they've taken. They analysed the rules and made a (clever!) call to improve their chances of winning.

That's exactly what all the teams do with the technical regulations... work hard to find ways in which they can gain an advantage by doing "clever stuff". It's not deceitful, cheating or in any way "not in the spirit" IMO.

They're not sabotaging other teams' equipment, stealing documents, using non-regulation fuel or anything like that. They're just doing the best thing WITHIN THE RULES for the situation they find themselves in.

If you set up a car for quali and for whatever reason it qualifies last (be it the car fails or you're penalised) it's the smart thing to do to say "sod it" and go all out to modify the car into a better race trim and start from the pit lane. Everyone has that option - maybe HRT, Marussia and Caterham should do it more often.


Agreed. Ferrari's passion and desire to win turn me 'on' not 'off' (and I have never been a Ferrari fan).


The actions of both Red Bull and Ferrari were completely against the spirit of competitive motor sport, morally wrong and in my view they are both guilty of cheating!

Whoever wins the WDC will not deserve it because of the underhand (although legal) means of attaining it!


The championship is one thing but at the same time it did affect the drivers who were starting on the cleaner side originally. Shameful by FIA to let it stand. Another piece of evidence that they desperately want Ferrari to win the title this year. They should've forced Massa to start from the pit lane without changes in the grid positions. You can use all the dirty tactics within the team but if it starts affecting other teams and drivers, it should not be allowed at any cost.


The fact that departing from the side of the track makes the start 1 sec. slower to the first corner should be a major concern and needs to be addressed by FIA in some way.

There is no justice in the fact that the odd positions in the starting grid are favored.

There should be some way to modify the inner part of the track in order to make starting performance even among sides.(clean, add rubber, add traction enhancers)



After lots more races and a winter this will change for next year. I'm sure the difference will be a lot less


Desperate? Obviously you haven't seen the start. Alonso gained three positions that eventually led to his 12th podium of the season


'Desperate' is different from 'justified'. Despite being legal, it was a desperate move. The fact that it worked as it was intended doesn't make it any less so.


And Jenson Button dropped 5 places to 17th at the start


I don't think Button started 17th. He started 12th. He was unaffected because he qualified more the 5 places behind Massa.


You are right, but if I am not mistaken JB started with the harder tyre, making his start even slower


And still came 5th. Can't understand why people are rating Massa's (admittedly impressive) drive as better...


Because McLaren is a race winning car, as Lewis proved. The Ferrari isn't.

So for me, Button had the car to carry him into 5th place. He had a great drive, but Massa's was better since his car is not as fast as the McLaren.


Becouse of Button lack of performance on option.


I seem to recall a radio message from JB during his second stint on options saying that he was losing time because he didn't have KERS. Do you have any further info on this James?


He was on hard tyre!


Yes...he did have the hard tyres on...and he got boxed in...came back through in style though! 🙂


It doesn't sit comfortably with me that Massa can be used as a sacrificial lamb for Alonso before the lights have even gone out, but there's no denying that the tactic worked and we've still got a championship to decide at Interlagos. Therefore I have to conclude it was for the good of the sport!!


In my view Ferrari will stop at nothing to gain advantage, there is a big difference between pushing the boundaries of the regulations to gain performance, and deliberately using regulations designed to ensure fairness, to cheat. That is what it was, just like RB with their modification of Vettels car after being punished for running out of fuel, they used the rules to gain an unfair advantage, simply cheating against the spirit of fair competitive motor sport.

Both WDC title contenders should have 50 points deducted for cheating, but they won't in this corrupt "sport" where anything goes because the FIA will not use their teeth to ensure fairness.

I always knew that FIA stands for Ferrari International Assistance, particularly since 2007, now it seems to support cheating by RB as well!

There only needs to be a simple caveat to the regulations that "no team may use any of the regulations to gain advantage against the spirit of sporting competition"


RBR took Webber's front wing last year before the race started. That was done to give Vettel an advantage because he had more points than Webber. Webber was still a title contender at that stage, while Massa is not.


I'm with you here as this incident came up with me over the weekend. And I agree with you. What was upsetting about the Vettel / Webber incident was the fact tha Webber was still in the running and the way RBR & Christian Horner handled it. Come out in the open and speak the plane honest truth. But to try and be coy and clever about something that EVERYONE KNOWS is not the case is an insult to fan's intelligence.

On paper G=Ferrari took an calculated and worthwhile risk - but it was still a risk. We know now things worked out okay, but maybe things could've been even better. We'll never know now.

But I can appreciate Ferrari's honesty and openness about it and I'm sure, regardless of what Mr Whitmarsh said, any other team in the same position would make use of the grey area.

To me it's just as ridiculous to think you get a penalty (Vettel in Abu Dhabi) and then get to make a whole host of changes to minimize the impact of the penalty. A penalty is a penalty and the severity of it should be felt. But it's game well played by both teams to eek every last ounce of better result out of a race.

Bring on Brazil. Bring on new youngest 3 Time WDC ever.


this is what i think is clearly different between Vettel's Abu Dhabi and Massa's COTA.

RBR took measures to minimize a punishment's effect (agreed, that is not exactly "fair"). Maranello's mafia DELIBERATELY punished Alonso's TEAM MATE to obtain an advantage to the title contender.

makes one think?

besides, does one misdeed justify others?


Massa has been way out of contention for the championship for a long time now. He has failed to support the team with points for the constructors title and has not been taking enough points off of the Red Bulls when he should have (earlier in the season). The least he can be expected to do at this stage is whatever is possible to help Alonso to the drivers title.

Of course it was good for the sport; it shows teamwork.


Wade I 100% agree with your logic. For the first half of the season where was Massa while Alonso was man-handling that car into the points continuously? Alonso was single handedly carrying the team. You need both drivers to do well in order to win the Constructors championship. Now that Massa is doing well, but way out of contention for the drivers title, then he should make some sacrifices to help Alonso win.

I guess its harder to remember that its 1st and foremost about the team and THEN the drivers.


do you guys really think that Massa,s poor performance in season,s 1st half was solely by his own fault?


"for the good of the sport"

Such an irony here.


It was far from good for sport or sporting. It was for good of Alonso only. How did all the other drivers who got pushed to the dirty side feel?

If Alonso fails to win third time in a row Ferrari better give Massa equal treatment in 2013 and stop treating him like a doormat. Enough is enough.


Nothing wrong IMO with what happened at the Badminton. These badminton fanatics should have directed their feelings towards the tournament organizers who allowed a competition to exist where losing sometimes presented the best opportunity for winning in the long term.

Strategy is a big part of any sport and to not adopt the better strategy when it is presented (as long as its within the rules) is foolish.


All you have to do is look at the fans reaction and realize that just because the rules allow it doesn't mean it's in the spirit of the sport.

Which is exactly the reason why Ferrari's move can rub many people the wrong way, while Vettel's scenario was anything but. An error, turned into a big panalty, turned into trying to minimize the damage.


Yeah, imagine what would have happened if they decide to change Felipe's car front wing to Alonso's car while Felipe still in competition for the WDC?


so before the 5th or 6th round of any season then?


Wing is much different to deliberate penalty.

I would compare what they did to taking a loss on purpose in Olympic badminton group stage. Do you remember how fans felt about it?


Why would Red Bull give MW a forced penalty. He was already starting 3rd and behind SV?


To put Alonso back on the dirty side. Oops, has someone said that already??

James maybe something can be done to improve the frequency of post checks to avoid all these repeat posts? Or tell people not to post when it's nighttime in Britian!


LOL, I just spent about 5 mins reading each of these before I thought the same thing. And I'm not in UK.


To push Alonso back onto the dirty side.

Red Bull would never have been able to do it anyway. Webber would have spat the dummy.


I wondered this as well, and can only assume is was to move Alonso back to the dirty side again.


Does anyone know why Red Bull would intentionally incur a penalty for Webber? Would Alonso be moved to the dirty side or something?

Sorry, Glynn ... not a dig at you. JAonF1 could probably do with a reply pending option!


Indeed. At least Bruce now has his answer (x about 1000) 🙂


That would have put Alonso again on to the dirty side of the grid as he would have been moved to 6th place. MW would have started 8th. But it was not worth taking such a risk as we saw in race he initially split VET and HAM and then was holding Alonso behind him till he retired.


'Cause if he had started 8th, Alonso would have moved to the dirty side again


To put Alonso back on the dirty side, but it would have been a stupid move for them.


To put Alonso back on the dirty side.


To move Alonso, Vettel's only championship threat, back onto the dirty side of the grid


To put Alonso back on the dirty side of the grid


To move Alonso back on to the dirty side of the track at the start.


It would have moved Fernando back on to the dirty side.


Just to put Alonso back on an even position (P6) so he would have started on the dirty side of the grid.


Because by doing so, he would have forced Alonso back on to the dirty side of the track, thereby nullifying the advantage he would have gained by pushing Massa back.


Because if MW started 8th on the grid, it will elevate Alonso to 6th, thus Alonso will be on the dirty side of the track again.


It would have put Alonso back on to the dirty side of the grid.


Because he would have dropped back 5 places meaning Alonso moved up to 6th and had to start on the dirty side of the grid.


If Redbull did it after Ferrari, Alsono would have moved up but to the dirty side. Utimately Alsono still would have been better off.

Craig in Singapore

Only to move Alonso back to the dirty side of the track, which would also have given him an additional place. It's a no-brainer - far more valuable to have Webber in between Vettel and Alonso than to opt for an unknown quantity with the dirty/clean side of the track. I'm surprised Ferrari considered it a possibility at all.


Would have moved Alonso back to the dirty side.

As for trying to compare the RB tactics with this, there are a few things that are different James. One would be that this was unprecedented by Ferrari; we've seen the pit lane start tactic for several out-of-position drivers over the years in order to improve the car. Another thing is that Ferrari impacted their other driver's race negatively. Thirdly, this is clearly an artificial penalty and it risks bringing the sport into disrepute. One may look at recent history of the Ferrari team behaviour in American races to see how that might end up being very bad for the sport in that country.


Red Bull impact Webber's race negatively very often. Taking his parts and unnecessarily pitting him into traffic are the two prime examples.


Agree 100%. Oh, and the barcode had nothing to do with Marlboro. That played well here, too.


One of F1's oldest and most experience team in the world using dirty tactics to win. Wow!!! What an impression F1 is giving to the Americans, very unethical!!!!


@Wanida and for that matter ANYONE with RB tendencies

Please do some homework
Google "Red Bull F1 Controversies "

The list Is endless, and cements the wreckless regard RB have for F1 rules, the sport and fellow drivers.....What a Shame

Even more shameful is the FIA's lack of action


Doing the same to MW would have dropped him to 8th, and promoted Alonso to 6th - back to the dirty side of the grid.


Red Bull deliberately penalising Webber would have pushed Alonso back on to the dirty side, negating the advantage that Ferrari had gained for him.


To push Alonso back on to the dirty side of the grid. There would then be a greater chance of a poor start and greater chance of him getting involved in a turn 1 incident or being caught up behind slower cars.


To make alonso start from the dirty side!


I'll take that one: by giving MW a forced 5P penalty, Alonso would have started from P6 instead of P7, on the dirty side of the track. Most likely he would have been P7 at best after the first corner, instead of P4.


MW would have gone to 8th, therefore advancing Alonso to 6th - and back onto the dirty side


It would have moved Alonso back onto the dirty side - albeit a position further forward.

Mark would only lose from it - hence, perhaps, Christian Horners comment that it was never even considered.


If Webber took a 5 place penalty, it would've put Alonso back onto the dirty side of the track..so that's why they might have responded.


As with Massa's "penalty", Alonso started in 7th place on the clean side. had MW given the same penalty dropping to 8th, Alonso would then move up to 6th and be on the dirty side of the track again.

Marking the Massa sacrifice to move Alonso to the clean side of the grid pointless.

I'm really 50/50 on this whole thing still. Not a huge fan of team orders, unless your team mate has not chance of the WDC towards the END of the season, but it is a TEAM sport still.

But it has now made the title race run to the final race of the year.

I don't know, end of the day it was the Rule that they all playe by, and Ferrari exploited the rule via a "loop hole" or just a hole, usually it's for the design/development of the car, but in the case. it was a gird spots.


It would have kicked Alonso back to the "dirty" side of the grid.


because then alonso would move up to 6th and be back on the dirty side.


To put Alonso back on the dirty side, albeit up one place.


Moving Alonso to the dirty side.


To put Alonso back on the dirty side


If they had done this it would have put Alonso up a spot and back onto the dirty side of the grid, not really ideal for RBR though, prefer to have Webber in between Alonso/Vettel.




If MW took a penalty it would have shuffled Alonso back onto the dirty side again.


"the team waited until the last moment to break the seal, so as not to allow time for Red Bull to react and do the same with Mark Webber, who was starting 3rd."

Ferrari were over thinking it, they were concerned that RBR had considered they might try it and as a master stroke do the same to Webber thereby nullifying Ferrari's intent in the first place.


I expect to put Alonso back on the dirty side of the track.


To put back Alonso on the dirty side.


Move Alonso back to dirty side yet still behind MW.

I think if they did it to Alonso, maybe I could live with it. But to do it to Massa, while it can be argued that it makes sense - it is just wrong.

What kind of a WDC is it when you would win it that way? Abu Dhabi - it was all done to Vettel, with only his GP at risk when the fuel decision was made and when pittance start was decided. I am sure he would have much rather have started on front row.


Isnt that inconsistent. How could it be wrong for Alonso yet you could live with it if it was Massa?

What RB did to Vettel's car in Abu Dhabi did affect the races of the other drivers and impact their risk. Firstly the fueling error caused every driver below Vettel to be displaced to the opposite side of the grid. Secondly the optimised pit lane set up meant he was able to finish a few places higher up than he otherwise would have, thus relegating others to lower places. Thirdly, webber was forced to pit and put out into traffic to allow SV a free pass.

I have no problem with RB or Ferrari optimizing their strategies within the rules to maximize their chances for a WDC.


100% agree with everything you said. rules are black and white. You can't disagree with some rules because you don't like a certain driver.


Pitlane not pittance. Darn you autocorrect!


This is just too funny. Autocorrect with a sense of humour.


prsumably to get Alonso back on the dirty side again.

Sorry to be a cynic, but I think RB DID consider it, and quite possibly Webbo refused and threatened to spill the beans on something hush hush that they got away with sometime or other.

Could be totally and utterly wrong of course


Mark Webber will write a fascinating book one day which will explain everything, can't wait for it!


This is a bold assumption. Not that they have considered it, they might or they might have not, but that they proposed it to Mark. By the way, Massa told the Brazilian press that he agreed to it on the condition that Ferrari would state it clean and not say that there was a problem with that gearbox. I'm not saying it was so, only that Massa said it was so.


How old are you, and how on earth did you come to that conclusion?


It's not a conclusion, it's a speculation and btw I'm old enough to know there's a difference


Loving the conspiracy...would be great to have a behind the scenes documentary following one of the teams again, like the BBC McLaren one in '93.

That's great quality, and on youtube..


By doing so Alonso would have moved up yet another grid position, but on to the 'dirty' side of the grid.

In the end the dirty side didn't make a massive amount of difference.


Giving MW a forced penalty would've put Alonso back on the dirty side of the grid 🙂


Because that would have put Alonso back on the dirty side of the grid


It would have moved Alonso up to 6th, and hence put him back on the dirty side of the grid!


To get Alonso back on the even side of the grid


The point was that they could thus nullify Ferrari's plan by putting Alonso back on the dirty side (not exactly, since that would nevertheless advance Alonso two spots on the grid). I doubt they would've done that though, even if they had had time for it.


To force alonso back onto the dirty side


I suppose I'm not that surprised that both of the incidents mentioned played badly, but I would have thought that most seasoned viewers would have accepted both without much fuss.

What was the feeling in the pit lane James?

My feeling is that they were both OK: not the most sporting of actions, but it's not like it happens every race. At this stage of the season they have to take every measure they can within the rules.


To push ALO back to the dirty side of the grid at WEBs expense.


Nice article James. You're correct that Ferrari's actions did play badly with the fans. For some reason what Ferrari did doesn't seem to bother me as much as what Red Bull did. Red Bull was penalized for breaking the rules and sent to the back of the grid. Once that happens they shouldn't be able to benefit from it by modifying their car. That really bugs me.

Ferrari on the other hand CHOSE to do something that would get them a penalty strictly to optimize their grid places. What does bother me about what they did is that it directly impacted several other drivers by shifting them to the dirty side. From a strategy point of view I thought it was brilliant.

I know I'm splitting hairs here and I'm sure others won't agree but it does seem to be different. To me the rules should be modified so that if a team GETS a penalty for infringing the regulations they shouldn't be allowed to touch their car. It should still be in parc fermé.


What is the difference between Ferrari's action in Austin and Red Bull in Abu Dhabi?

Ferrari affected other cars. 2 drivers drove their hearts out in qualifying and find themselves demoted to the dirty side. So the Ferrari action compromised the race for three drivers, one they employ and two they don't.

Red Bull also navigated their way around the rules. They did not compromise the race for anybody else but gained a huge advantage configuring Fettel's car for speed by taking it out of Parc Ferme. This ensured no difficulty overtaking inferior cars in what is probably the best car on the grid. Starting from the pit lane lost them little time.

In my opinion both teams cheated, one to a lesser extent.


What Ferrari did was much worse as it impacted on other people's starting position. It influenced at least three teams outcomes in the race - Lotus, Williams & even Jensons starting positions. What Red Bull did had no effect on anyone's race and they were moved right back to the garage rather than move a team mate forward- & had it not been for two safety cars they would have been lucky to finish in the Top 10.


in all fairness, every gearbox penalty all season affect a number of other teams.

a big deal was made that the even side at Austin was relatively quite lacking in grip which spurred Ferrari into a very deliberate decision to affect the race outcome between Q3 and the race start.

am not much af a Ferrari F1 fan, but they were clever in using the rulebook and in being so forthcoming in advance to everybody. not in the "spirit", but not illegal...

I see the real problem being a failure to react to the supposedly large difference in track surface. there was time to react in any number of ways to at least minimize the difference of a few hundred yards of pavement... I guess Mario and the others would not have minded a few extra burnouts in front of the crowd LOL...


"Gearbox penalties all season long"- these are a result of racing !

"Ferraris ... Deliberate decision to effect the race outcome."

Your words !Are we getting warm or do I need to paint a picture.

No one is saying it wasn't a clever play on the rules by Ferrari. But what the post is suggesting by James's clever baiting is the rules are the same now and 2013 and maybe suggesting that the rules be reviewed in this regard.

As for burnouts I think everyone would prefer to see intentional burnouts and not accidental ones.


Interesting comment, I agree.


I couldn't disagree more. What RedBull did is common practice. If you object to that you'll have to do a lot complaining.

Ferrari did something very unusual. I think it was a clever move, but Alonso is quick to point out that Vettel has the benfit of running a Newey designed car... but not so open about the fact that he has the full resources of Ferrari behind him, including the guys in Massas garage...

I think it is sad to hear all the praise for Alonso without mentioning the huge beneficial treatment he is getting from the team.

When he was denied the number-one-and-only driver treatment at McLaren he was beaten by a rookie...


And that sir is the truth. No one walks over their team mate the way Alonso does. I really feel that enough is enough if Alonso doesn't win WDC third time try this year Ferrari need to man up and treat Massa equally.



Massa treated equally? Start of last three seasons? Forgive the question, but have we been watching same F1?

Maybe you have the season mixed up with preseason. 🙂 Yes, in February Massa is treated equally. Come first GP it's all Alonso, all the time. This is what a team does when they get paid big money regardless if they win WCC.


Massa has been treated equally at the start of every season he has raced together with Alonso, the problem is that during those 3 years he has not been able to put himself in a championship contention position, while Alonso has, despite having an inferior car compared to the opposition. That is the reason why Ferrari has been supporting Alonso and not Massa, plain and simple. If you can not understand that, just tell me what would you do in the same situation if you were managing Ferrari.



The whipping you speak of is indeed a driver who has agreed to back Alonso. With 3 years of no WDC this supportive act is actually helping the case to treat Massa equaly in 2013.

Let's be honest, most fans follow F1 for the drivers. Drivers need to be built up into heros of some sort to carry the sport. Bernie knows this well, as does every single power broker in F1. Massa has been the man who's done quite a bit to build up Alonso into this mistical thing some of his fans think he is. Time to give Massa his due. He showed he can deliver the goods this past weekend. He also proved recently that he's a match for Alonso if only given proper support.

Oh how I would love to see a string of mechanical issues early in the season on FA's Ferrari that puts Massa into WDC contention and forces FA to back him. I think I'd pay a big subscription fee just to see those races and even out the score on that team.


Massa is free to leave at the end of the season, I'm sure, but has chosen not to. It doesn't bode well for his future after Ferrari. He must enjoy the whipping.


He was beaten by a Team [by the way, he was not outscoredm just a 5th position made the difference].

"We are not racing Kimi, we are racing Fernando", Dennis dixit.


To be fair it wasn't your average rookie.

Craig in Singapore

It's my opinion that grid penalties should carry over to subsequent races until they are served. So, in this case, Vettel is at the back of the grid for the fuel sample issue. If he then gets a 5 place grid penalty for a gear ratio change, he can't go back any more so it carries to the next race. If he also gets a 5(?) place penalty for altering the suspension or whatever, that's 10 places to serve at the next race. If, for example, he only qualified in 20th position in the next race, he can only serve 4 out of the 10, so he would then carry the remaining 6 to the following race. Some may say that's a bit Draconian, but what are penalties for if you can basically circumvent them?


Except there are no penalties for making changes to your car when starting from the pit lane...


How do you know redbull did not under-fuel vettel on purpose hoping that they'll get away with 'its all somewhere inside, but not in the tank and we dont know why'?


Ferrari chose to do something to Massa, give him a penalty he doesn't deserve in one of his best weekends since his return (was ahead of Alonso the hole weekend) to benefit Alonso. Imagine you were Massa or a fan of him, still not bothered?

Both are legal actions. the difference in my view is that Vettel made the modifications, received the penalty (he did start from the pit lane as required) and gained massively both for him and the team. Alonso, on the other hand, Massa was sacrefied together with a number of other drivers without any benefit for the car or driver.

This reminds me of Abu Dhabi 2010, when Alonso was radioed to find out if pit stop at that time is wise. His response was "pit Massa and see if it works with him" which they did immediately. we were not bothered at the time because Massa was having a bad weekend and it wont affect that much.


For me I cant stand that Red Bull cops way too much criticism for what they do, yet a team like Ferrari blatantly takes an unwarranted penalty to benefit one team member at the expense of the other team member. Whereas in Abu Dhabi, Red Bull were given a severe penalty and worked within the rules to maximize their drivers chances from a worse position than the start of the grid.

I think its plain to see that Ferrari is clearly Team Alonso, and everything done is to his benefit; whatever the cost. Then again, I've never been a Ferarri fan so perhaps that's just my personal bias coming through. I wasn't impressed with Red Bull's decision to box Webber so Sebastian could pass without incident, but oh well.


Ferrari have always acted as a team - this is no news (unless F1 is new to you).

If you go back to any driver line up, they have always favoured the driver with the best chance of winning the championship.

Irvine and Schummacher/Salo,

Schummacher and Rubins,

Kimi moved for Massa,

Massa moved over for Kimi and Alonso.

Granted, using the rules/loopholes of F1 in directly in the placing of the car, but its been going on for years up and down the grid on the technical side.

All part of the F1/team game from here on in i fear.


I agree with Tom 100%. A penalty for an infringment like Red Bull had should not be allowed to be used to ANY teams advantage. That was an absolute joke.

Whilst I am sick of Ferarri "playing" Massa as they do, I don't think the gearbox thing is that big a deal other than Mass being screwed with again.

I wish there was some way that drivers had to be treated fairly. Team orders I begrudginly accept in certain circumstances but in regards to Ferarri, what they do to and how they treat Massa is an absolute disgrace.


This kind of comment really does get my goat. The option RBR chose in Abu Dhabi is available to every team on the Grid. You could qualify 10th and still choose to start from the pits with a changed setup. The reason teams don't do it is because starting from the pits is far worse than starting from 24th!

You don't start at the same time and don't get the opportunity to make places up on the run to Turn 1. Instead, you only get to start once all the starters are past the pit-lane exit. How smart do you really need to be to understand what a massive disadvantage this is???


question is much more complex. can't be analyzed solely on finishing positions. remember that the result was enormously affected by the safety cars. without them Vettel wouldn't be so successful in the race.


Again - sorry to repeat - but starting from 24th with a car that will only work at the front is worse than a car starting from the pits with new gear ratios and downforce settings to allow it to overtake.

Vettel would not have finished 3rd had they not changed the settings, probably 9th at best.

So where was the disadvantage? He got a clean start, and avoided any first corner drama, and then his car was optimised to overtake.


i'm sorry but starting 24th with a car that is set-up for leading a race with a top speed in the bottom 4-5 of the grid on used soft tyres is not as advantageous as starting from the pitlane, on fresh tyres and with a reconfigured aero set-up to allow for better slip streaming etc...

Also, being out of the starting grid would also have removed the element of any coming together in the first corner.

Comparing starting from pitlane vs start 10th is one thing, pitlane vs 24th is whole different ball park!!

When you look at the full facts between starting in the pitlane over starting at the back of the grid, as per SV situation from the other week, you can not say there was no advantage to be gained.

To turn your point around - if its such a disadvantage to start from the pitlane, then why did RB take the option?


I completely disagree. Red Bull chose to penalize itself further by starting from the pit lane. The fact that there was potential in the car to go faster is a nice thing for Red Bull, but you have to have some allowable way in general for cars to fix obvious last minute problems in exchange for some penalty, so they can get in the race. You can't make a rule that says "it's OK to start from the pit lane to fix something but not if it makes the car faster" You can't police that. At best, in engineering contest of the sort, you make the rule and, and if half the grid starts starting from the pit lane, then you change the rule, but the way it is now, it's fine.

Most people get upset one way or the other because they favour one driver or the other. If you're thinking about rules changes for the future, put the other driver in that position. If Fernando had started from the pit lane would you have felt as bad?


A rule that states cars disqualified from qualifying are only permitted to start from the pit lane IF a mechanical error is found, and only if like for like parts are used in repairs. changes to the mechanical or aerodynamic set-up are not allowed, would work.

Don't forget, Vettel wasn't given a grid drop, he was disqualified, same as Hamilton in Spain.

If he had been dropped 5 places, it wouldn't have mattered as much, as his set-up would just have sufficed. But Red Bull set up to run from the front, his car was changed to do otherwise. Therefore, his penalty just wasn't.


You are right in my humble opinion. There is a penalty for running light on fuel, but this should not omit the driver from further penalties (next grand prix) if they break further rules such as parc ferme setup.


Since we're splitting hairs, after application of the penalty the Red Bull was still in parc fermé. Red Bull then used a completely separate regulation and made the choice available to any car on the grid and start from pit lane after taking the car out of parc fermé.


Can't agree more on this point. Once you have decided on your configuration for qualifying, you should not be able to change the set up thereafter.


Frankly, they don't bother about anything or anyone besides Santander's interests.


Vettel's car was still in parc ferme after the first penalty. By taking it out of parc ferme, he was punished further, since now he needed to start from the pit lane.

While I'm not terribly offended by either maneuver, what bugs me most is that Ferrari punished another driver to get an advantage for some one else. Also, their actions directly affected other drivers who may have created a race strategy based on thinking they are starting on the clean/dirty side of the track. I wouldn't mind it if incurring penalties deliberately in order to gain advantage was forbidden. However, like I said, I'm not terribly offended by these incidents either.


I can't agree. Vettel was punished, but we know that Red Bull set their car up to run at the front, as a consequence of their double DRS feature.

So Vettel's car in Abu Dhabi had shorter gear ratios, as the double DRS on the Red Bull would have allowed for greater speed on the straights, while the car could run with more downforce. Once in the race, the greater downforce through the corners would negaite the disadvantage on the straight.

But to overtake, you need straight line speed. I think in Austin, Vettel was about 9km/h slower than Hamilton, but the added downforce allowed him to build a gap through the corners that Lewis couldn't close up.

So in Abu Dhabi, starting at the back would have meant he would have struggled to overtake, due to the slower straight line speed. Plus, speed through a corner won't help when following another car and stuck in traffic. While DRS would have helped, Vettel would have been powerless to catch some of the faster cars in front, as even with double DRS, he would have had a speed advantage of only a couple of km/h more, sue to the lower gear ratio.

But starting from the pitlane, the team could change the entire set-up, adding new ratios, taking off downforce and preparing the car for starting at the back, essentially eliminating the severeness of the penalty.

What should happen, is that if a car is disqualified from qualifying, then it permitted to start from the pitlane ONLY if a mechanical error is found, and only if it is replaced like for like (gear ratios for example). Aerodynamic settings should not be altered.


Two safety cars in Abu Dhabi helped Sebee as well


Conversely, one might say that the Ferrari action penalized Massa (whilst the Red Bull action didn't penalize Webber). Not saying that Ferrari was wrong, just that they weren't JUST giving Alonso a boost...

Starting from the pit lane was still a penalty for Vettel (of course, it it was such a good deal, I guess other drivers would do that!)

I agree though that both these cases were within the rules, but may point towards future rule changes to close these loopholes.


My question is is it right for it to be a 5 place penalty - the same as dangerous driving, colliding, and blocking, just for a gearbox - something which teams always get penalised for...


It's to stop teams deliberately tinkering with gearboxes post qualifying to set the cars up with different gear ratios to aid their qualifying position. For example, make 7th gear longer for faster top speed on the straights to overtake if they qualified badly.

Remember the days when cars has a completely different set up for qualifying compared to the race? Different tyres, different fuel, etc.


Yes - those were the good old days when engineers were allowed to shine. There were even 1000hp "qualifying engines". If I'm not mistaken, drivers could even change into the "spare car", and there were arguments over which driver should the spare car be set up to. There were cars with 4 front wheels, cars with 4 rear wheels, cars with suction fans, . . .

Cars had such varied performances over different parts of the circuit, overtaking was a natural result.


I only vaguely remember the days of qualifying fuel, tyres and so on, and I can understand why they were banned. But I don't understand the current rule of not making any changes between qualifying and the race. It seems to me that all it does is compromise the car setup for both, denying us the spectacles of better qualifying and of better racing.


It has to be a large enough penalty to stop the richer teams taking it willy nilly.


The point of the engine and gearbox penalties is to try keep the costs down and to prevent what used to happen where the top end teams would use multiple engines and/or gearboxes every weekend.

Even at 5 grid places the penalty is small enough to be worth it in some scenarios for the teams that can afford it.


In my opinion there's a big difference in taking advantage of a penalty you have already received and manufacturing a penalty to gain advantage. Also, if Red Bull had done this to Mark Webber in aid of Vettel, I doubt the media would be showing them as much leniency as they seem to showing Ferrari.


Finally some sense in this thread.


Are you kidding me? The media butchered Ferrari in Germany 2010, and Alonso in particular. I don't think it's a secret that the media (the British press in particular) isn't very fond of Alonso.

Disagreeing with the only sensible move to keep the WDC alive is one thing, but to claim that the media is more lenient towards Ferrari than Red Bull is beyond ridiculous. If there was any fairness in the media, then the Red Bull team would have been completely butchered over the fact that their cars for the past three years have been pushing the boundaries of legality, the same way Ferrari has been bashed and attacked over the past 12 years.



ANYONE who thinks RB wouldn't throw their grandma's under a F1 car if it meant they could win a race should Google "Red Bull F1 Controversies "

The list Is endless, and clearly cements the wreckless regard RB have for F1 rules, the sport and fellow drivers.....What a Shame

Even more shameful is the FIA's lack of action


I don't think Mark would agreed to it, and if he had no choice would have complained rather openly about it to the media.


Red Bull pitted Webber early in Abu Dhabi as soon as Vettel approached him. This put Webber into traffic and definitely affected his race.

All of the teams prioritise their championship contending drivers at this stage of season, sometimes its just a bit more obvious! They are fighting for what is probably the biggest prize in Motor Sport.......losing is NOT an option.


I take your point, but don't you think there is a difference in asking a driver to pull aside for his team mate or pitting him to get him out of his team mates way and manufacturing a penalty that effects not only the drivers of one team but a couple others on the grid too? Team orders are a part of the sport, and I thought the ban on them was rediculous, but what's to stop this happening every race? I know it was exceptional circumstances, with the championship on the line, but (and I'm getting a bit pedantic here, I know) every race of the season could potentially decide who wins in the end.


Probably, but with good reason. Red Bull have arguably been developing their car towards Vettel even when Webber was way ahead of him and getting better results earlier in the season. Webber was their best bet for the championship by Silverstone and RB hung him out to dry by focusing everything on Vettel instead.

By contrast, the situation with Ferrari: Massa has not been getting the results he should have and Alonso has been getting results beyond what he should have. If Red Bull had pulled such a stunt, it would understandably be viewed with the same disdain as the Schumacher/Barrichello incident at Austria 2002.


Wade, I understand you like Webber as do I. But it is important to note. In 2009/2010, RBR management (Marko and Horner) made it clear in a public statement that the team and car was being built around Vettel. Vettel was their immediate future. It has always been the case so it is no surprise when calls are made which support Vettel over Webber. Though it is not to a lot of peoples liking, they did state it back then and it will not change. Fair play to Webber that he has always given as good as he can. (and only averages 0.1 sec off Vettel in 2012 qualifying). Pretty good and not worthy of some comments he gets on various sites.


What is new ? RBR = Team Vettl since he won Monza for Toro Rosso.

At RBR MW has shown his strength by beating that boy more than once....... To use his own to quote: " not bad for a No. 2 "

What a fuss abt. gearbox, it was the only clever solution to solve a prob. Although maybe on the edge of being unfair, Scuderia played it clear: no lies, no funny storys......




Ferrari should have been punished, because it affected others drivers behind Alonso.


There is no need for any punishment.

A odd race and New tarmac means grip levels will be low. Hence ferrari took the right gamble and it paid off

Who cares about other drivers ? such as force india or williams. ferrari have only 1 target (WDC) with slow car and poor grid slot ferrari need to do something else and they did it

I cannot understand why many people here and in other sites make a meal out of thing. All i know is because fernando alonso and ferrari invovled in this people create controversy.

Massa have no rights to complain either he has been paid by ferrari and he is too slow (Performs once in 17 or 18 races). Hence massa need to support and obey ferrari


What about Lotus Kimi lost three places at the start instead if gaining at least one that he normally does. What about Bruno Senna and Jenson Button going backwards before they even started to go forwards. Very short sighted comment.


We are being critical of the rules for allowing it. Not so much Ferrari or Alonso.But certainly they affected many people's races by starting them on the dirty side & again not just Raikkonen.


I hope you're not suggesting that the Ferrari move affected Kimi's start. Raikkonen qualified ahead of Massa so the gearbox penalty had no effect on him. Jeez, some of you won't hesitate to take a swipe at Ferrari and Alonso. It seems as if some of you didn't even watch the race.


Controversy seems to follow poor Alonso doesn't it? The only team he's been at where there wasn't some sort of scandal was Minardi.


At the end of the day all other drivers were moved 1 place up. Because the odd numbers were on the dirty side, that's what the controversy is. If there was any other track all those who would be moved ahead wouldn't have a problem with it.

FIA cannot punish someone because the other drivers are moved 1 place up the grid.

Plus, they cannot impose any punishment because it's not illegal what Ferrari did.


We've been down that road before. As soon as you try to stop things like this (as with team orders), teams just become more sneaky. Surely it is better that it is all out in the open?

If you're saying you'd like to ban things like this (and team orders), then what you're really saying is "I want the wool pulled over my eyes so that I can't tell what's going on". Because teams have always found ways of manipulating things to their advantage, and always will.


Should Lotus be punished as well? After all, Grosjean caused a few people to switch sides. I don't think so. Fernando was actually displaced from the clean side by him in the first place.


But Grosjean case was a real problem with the gearbox not a manufactured one like Ferrari that's the difference even though its legal.



Ferrari were transparent when consulting Charlie Whiting. If he had said no to begin with, Alonso and Massa would have stayed at their original positions.


Yes sir! that is it!


Can I just mention something that I didn't hear any commentators mentioning. Hulkenberg was the only driver to spin his wheels starting for the warm-up lap. It seemed a no-brainer to me to lay down rubber for grip on the dirty side. You could clearly see two black lines from his grid box after that which allowed him to gain a place on the dirty side.

As for what Ferrari did, I thought it was unsporting, but only because they made Massa move back after he had a great position and out-qualified Alonso. That's what happens when you're #2 though, no stopping that.

There's nothing wrong with what they did, any other circuit and other drivers would be happy to move forward. There's definitely nothing wrong with what Vettel did in Abu Dhabi.

Out of interest, would Ferrari's move have been illegal with the old team orders rule? I remember some wording like "affecting the outcome of the race". Probably not, just a thought.

Craig in Singapore

Interesting. There's a rule that specifically says you're not allowed to do practise starts during the warm-up lap. If a driver were to spin their wheels off the line when starting the warm-up lap, it may be construed as a practise start and could invoke a penalty.


Spinning tyres to lay down rubber on the warm up lap can compromise tyre life during the first stint. There's always a price to pay.


I have seen drivers do what Hulkenberg did on the warm-up lap before. However, thinking about it, this hasn't been done since Pirelli have come into the championship.

Not confirmed, but definitely can't recall drivers doing this, they're more interested in a final practice start before they take off on their lap. I seem to recall they do this now to calibrate their launch controls. I seem to recall DC talking about ensuring that they have the right amount of wheel spin on the incline/decline that their particular grid slot has.


In my opinion this is completely illegal.

If a team wishes to deliberately use the rules to gain a competative advantage, just because they don't like the way things have panned out, they should be invited to the back of the grid but still under Park Ferme regulations.

This is another example of an issue that can make a mockery of F1. Where the h**l are people's brains? If I wanted to see a staged production I would go to see a Shakespere play because at least one would know what to expect for one's money!


You may have wanted to say that it *should* be illegal. The way the rules are currently written, it wasn't.


Had they lied and said they had a suspected oil leak on Massa's gearbox, nobody outside the team would ever know. Their real mistake it seems was to admit to what they did.


Absolutely normal move. Most of the teams are already pushing and mocking at the regulations, so why would Ferrari be bad?

Shall we remember "Maintain the gap, Mark" after hearing from Horner: "We will *never* use team orders" after Ferrari fiasco in Germany?

Let's remember the floor holes ahead of the rear tires used in Monaco which were deemed illegal afterwards, but no points taken?

Let's remember all types of wings flex, etc (curiously, only Red Bull pop up)?

That's part of the game. If you take opportunities out of the equations, it will become boring.


Agree, but how to police it. Teams can make up any reason they like to break a seal, or similar. And then say, "oops sorry, guess the gearbox wasn't broken like we thought."


Barry, after reading your post I have changed my mind re the gearbox thing.

You make a very good point. WHat is the point of qualifying if a team can mess with the results to get the number 1 driver ahead of the number 2 who had the cheek to qualify ahead of te "no 1" driver...

Good point.


In your opinion it is "illegal", i.e. against the rules, except... it isn't against the rules.

Opinions are great things aren't they, but they don't often survive encounters with reality.


Technically of course, you are correct but I admit to being old fashioned enough to expect a degree of honesty in the sport I follow, much like cycling and the Lance Armstrong affair!

The gearbox rule is clearly designed to encourage reliability and reduce costs. to use it to improve your competitive advantage is, or should have been, deemed illegal by the FIA on behalf of the other teams and the followers.

However, I agree this does not fit your idea of "reality" but one man's reality is the other man's madness!!


Great piece James. Glad you did it.

I want to say that the first corner played a big part in winning/losing places at the start. Whoever went on the outside, benefited. Those we went on the inside lost a few places due to being boxed in.

Also, interesting fact about the "qualifying engines". Any teams used to do that? Who and which season was that?

All the best. Can't wait to get your book again. Want to see what new things you put in there. Will make great reading in about two years.


Special qualy engines were a standard feature in F1's later turbo engine days. They were called "grenades" and designed to produce maximum power for three laps only: one to warm up, one to set a time and one to get back to the pits!


It was during the era of no cost controls and manufacturer teams such as Toyota (as an example) these engines were used for one quali and then binned.


Trying to conflate Ferrari significantly and directly penalising one of its drivers against rival teams to give a minor advantage to his teammate (in the process also significantly and measurably affecting many other drivers who were not part of either championship contender) with Red Bull taking a driver who was already on the back of the grid and moving him to the pitlane (which no effect at all on his teammate's or any other driver's position) is a bit of a stretch, James.

Also, I would strongly dispute that there was anywhere near a two place difference from starting on the dirty side. The race showed that the McLaren and Red Bull were near identical; McLaren lost precisely one place to Red Bull on the start. Drivers further back may have lost more, but that had more to do with other cars getting in their way or those drivers making a bad start, than the true penalty to an unimpeded driver as demonstrated by Hamilton vs. the Red Bulls.


There was a noticeable difference between the cars starting in the first 3 or 4 even numbered grid slots. I don't think its as simple as saying the drivers in odd numbered grid slots just got a better start. Mark Webber managed to gain a place, after all.

Craig in Singapore

I find your post a little confusing. Firstly, 4 other drivers were affected by this move, not "many" (I have not included Alonso in this count, of course). Secondly, if you're arguing that these 4 were affected because they went to the other side of the track, then only 2 were negatively affected, while the other 2 were positively affected.

Finaly, in your second paragraph, you refute your own argument from the first paragraph, by saying the negative effect wasn't really an issue.


Err, that should say "with no effect", not "which no effect".


I think it is quite fitting how it played out in the end. In the last two races both Vettel and Alonso got the same number of points (3rd/2nd and 2nd/3rd).

It will be interesting if the teams come together and try and add in new rules to prevent something similar happening in the future. Otherwise every time a number 2 driver out qualifies a number 1 driver we may see more self-imposed penalties at the business end of a season.

I do wonder how Weber would have reacted if Red Bull tried something similar with his car!

I just hope for the final race we see no engine failures from either Red Bull or Ferrari, or any surprise grid-penalties.


It was also quite interesting how Narain's car caused a safety car in Abu Dhabi allowing Vettel to make the podium, whilst in Austin, Narain helped Alonso's day by ensuring Hammy could catch Vettel for the win.

In 2010 Alonso went into the last 15 points gp ahead of Seb. In 2012 Seb will go into the last race 15 points ahead of Alonso.

It should therefore be quite fitting the Alonso wins the WDC, with Narain playing some role. Me hopes.


13 points that is in 2012


i personally dont see what all the fuss is about. F1 is a team sport and fair play to massa for not slating the ferrari. i can see ferrari keeping massa beyond 2013 - would ferrari really want the "spoilt little Vettel" who i cant see would ever agree like felipe.

tricks like this have always come from the red team and always will. Was Schumacher really the villain at Ferrari or just keeping his paymasters happy? this puts a new light on things looking back at that era.


Yeah, no way could they handle a spoiled Vettel when they've already got a spoiled Alonso (throws hand in the air because there's a car in front of him).


I'm sure there will be anti-Ferrari talk out there but every other team would have done the same. Red Bull did effectively the same thing last race. They had no problem but started Sebastian from the pits so they could change almost anything on the car. At least Ferrari did it openly and made no pretences. What did Massa lose in the end? Nothing. He finished fourth. Would he have finished third maybe but he would have been asked to move over anyway. And Red Bull would have done exactly the same. Remember "Mark if Seb gets a run don't fight"/

And from when does it matter what happens to other teams on the grid when one team makes a tactical decision. They were free to do the same.


"At least Ferrari did it openly and made no pretences."

I don't really see what pretences there were when Red Bull did it either. Horner was pretty open about it.

As far as other teams I doubt Red Bull would seriously have pulled Marks' gearbox to counter but I could see how some of the other cars that were impacted by the trickle down effect might be a tad peeved.


Why should Ferrari care about a trickle down effect. Teams do what is best for themselves. Red Bull started Seb from the pits because they could change gearing ratios etc so he could overtake. Was that unfair to all those guys in front of him. Yes. But too bad. They could have don the same.


Where did I say Ferrari should care?


Red Bull did not do "effectively" the same thing last race, as what they did did not purposfully penalize Webber. Also, did Red Bull also not do things openly in Abu Dhabi? It seemed pretty widely known Sunday morning what actions they had chosen to take.


yes but there was nothing really wrong with their car. They could have fueled it up and started from last but they said that they had to "inspect the car". They acted tactically and that gave Seb the chance to go through the field. Good move Red Bull. Massa has been sucking for 90% of all races. He has nothing to lose and Ferrari is out of the constructors title solely thanks to him. Why not try and secure the drivers championship?


I don't have any issues with what Ferrari did. That being said, I have never been a fan of the gearbox rule. I wish the gearboxes were treated more like engines with a certain allotment per season. Maybe just treat the engine and gearbox like a combined drivetrain, with a certain allotment per season.

At any rate a change to an engine or gearbox once qualifying has begun should incur parc fermé penalty, a change equals starting last or from the pit lane.

Actually, now that I think about it, any change made post qualifying should force the driver to start from the pit lane and there should be no promotions for the field behind, just leave an empty grid spot.


An empty grid slot has the unfair side-effect of advantaging the driver behind, who can immediately move ahead of the opposite car in his row. This also introduces a safety issue, because he will be accelerating faster than those around him and so will be less able to avoid a stalled or spun car ahead.


The scenarios are completely different. Red Bull maximized a penalty. They did not move Webber out of the way to make Vettel's life better. They did not choose to run out of fuel in order to get a penalty so they can start from the out lane.

One team manipulated the rules the other made the best of a bad situation. For red bull it was damage limitation.

I'm surprised you even compared the two circumstances.


I completely agree as well. These two scenarios couldn't be compared.

Vettel got a penalty and started from the pit line, his position wasn't changed after the gearbox changes. Moreover, any changes to the car IS NOT granting the success otherwise every team could do that after a bad classification, can't they?

What Ferrari did - is gaining a position and gaining "for sure" advantages vs others "quick" guys behind.


Couldn't agree more. These are hardly comparable. Ferrari's actions aren't against the current rules, but can be considered unsporting.


Totally agree.

Ferarri actions quite different from Red Bull staring from pit lane. Maximising car ovefrtaking potential when demoted to the back make things exiting and seem fair game to me. On the other hand, manipulating whole top ten grid is just a cynical dsiregard of the spirit of the sport.

As a test case, let's assume Mclaren (in my opinion the benchmark team for fairness and sporting spirit) were facing both these situations. I think they would have done what Red Bull did but not what Ferrari did.


Haha @ Kashif. "Mclaren (in my opinion the benchmark team for fairness and sporting spirit)

The same team that were fined the biggest fine in the history of the sport for copying Ferrari's car?! Yes absolutely the benchmark for fairness there Kashif


So true. Red Bull tried to gain an advantage, deliberately running with less fuel than required. Totally unsporting behavior which, if passed unnoticed, would affect not only 5 drivers but the whole grid. Then, under punishment, RBR modified the car and with such advantage again, this time for real, affected the whole grip. Additional punishment to start not from the back of the grid but from pit lane was a joke..

On the other hand, Ferrari was honest from the beginning. In the same scenario RBR would just lie about it anyway.


Renault admitted it was their problem not RedBull's and they also said it was not deliberate. So RBR made the best use of the situation, where as Ferrari creates a situation to suit it. I hope Vettel wins thrid WDC.


They had some 1.5 litres of fuel. Stewards couldn't get it out.


Ha-ha. Man, you're funny.
I talked about that RBR didn't try to cheat on fuel, if they did - they wouldn't stop the car on the track. [mod]

[Please be careful - Mod]


Yes blame the stewards now.

Red Bull did something which was within the rules and so did Ferrari. Move on.


Are you for real?


Totally agree !!!!!!!!


Totally agree.


I think when you impact other cars and do it deliberately it stinks!! Red Bull made a mistake and started there modified car from the pits, it didn't impact anyone else!! Massa and Alonso should have been made to start from the back or the pits!!

Vettel took punishment for his teams miscalculation, Massa and other drivers on the grid took the rap for Alonso and Ferrari nonesense!!! Massive difference James!!


It's not so easy. RBR did actually impact other cars as well. Since SV qualified first - his penalty changed everyone from clean to dirty and vice versa.

Shot from the hip - If you get a penalty - leave the spot empty, i.e everyone start where they should have been???


Cool idea. Start where you qualified.


+1. surprised that someone like James could even begin to compare the 2.i know you needed to play to both sets of fans but neutrals like me would like to see you call it as you see it


I'm not drawing parallels they are very different


It impacted every car Vettel passed.

No difference at all.


Not the similar case, difference between clean and dirty side was dramatical in Austin in comparison to other tracks.


+1. Also, EVERY TEAM and DRIVER on the grid would have done the same as Vettel and Red Bull in Abu Dhabi if they were starting at the back anyway.. it is the blindingly obvious thing to do. If another team and driver were in the same position and did not do the same then they are VERY VERY stupid


I never picked up that Ferrari had done this, to get Alonso on the clean side of the track. Very clever.

I also think it's a bit dodgy - this must have impacted four other cars, reversing their clean/dirty start positions. I guess two were happy and two were livid?

Going to watch the race again, without a toddler running interference and breaking my concentration.


It's within the rules.

But it's not a stunning advert for the team or manufacturer.

And it can't be easy being a Massa supporter or sponsor.


Or a client of Santander Bank.

I wonder what kind of cheap-shots they take on their clients to increase shareholders wealth....


It didn't occur to me that Red Bull could have done the same to move Alonso back over again. Mind you, I'd have loved to have seen Mark Webber's reaction had they tried!

It's also hard to have much sympathy with other drivers who lost out as, apart from pole, it's the luck of the draw which side you end up on. Nobody can aim to qualify in an even rather than an odd numbered slot.

In the end, it's all just 'gaming the rules'. Which is what F1 nowadays is all about and also goes on everywhere, in all areas of life. It's what Starbucks, Amazon and the rest are doing. And what the banks were up to as well. Whether it's desirable is, of course, another question. But it's a fact of human nature that the more complicated the rules, the more time and effort is spent in getting round them instead of doing something actually productive. Something rule-makers usually forget.


"....In the end, it’s all just ‘gaming the rules’. Which is what F1 nowadays is all about ...."

It always has been, its not a new thing.

Even the design of the cars has been to maximise loopholes and gain advantages from the Formula, or Rules



The thing is Red Bull would have been weighing up the benefit of doing that versus the cost of effectively gifting Alonso another place jump when he'd had a relatively poor qualifying performance.

I'm not sure they would have done it in the end if they had the time anyway but obviously talked about it publicly to see if they could bluff Ferrari out of doing it at all.


While it's more or less up to luck if you end up on the dirty or clean side of the track, you should nevertheless be able to know this in good time before the race so that you can make your race strategy accordingly. If the assumption was that drivers on the dirty side lose around 2 places, that would certainly play a role in how they approach the race. What Ferrari did ruined all that preparation for the drivers affected. I don't think it made much of a difference in practice, but as a matter of principle I think it was somewhat dirty. Understandable, nevertheless.


I have less problem with Red Bull's move in Abu Dhabi - 9 times out of 10 Vettel would still have got no further than the bottom half of the top ten, even with the optimised setup. The circumstances of the race (safety cars, front-runners breaking or spinning off) played into Red bull's hands, and would have done so even if they hadn't changed the setup. They also didn't negatively affect other competitors.

I don't think the option to make changes is something that should be closed off - in changeable conditions, for example, it offers more variation and therefore interest for the fans if there's the option for drivers to change their setup to match what they think might happen weather-wise. If anything is done, it should just be to prevent drivers who have taken a penalty from changing their setup.

Ferrari OTOH deliberately manipulated the grid to advantage their #1 car, disadvantaging their #2 (although Massa did also move onto the clean side of the grid) and a bunch of the other cars. It was cynical and unsporting.

Unfortunately I can't see much that can be done to stop someone doing it again - if a team wants to pretend there's a problem with the gearbox it would be very hard for the FIA delegates to detect.


As everybody thinks the penalties for gearbox and engine "failures" is too high why not change these to 4 places for the gearbox and 8 places for the enginge. No changes to the rules and everybody stays on the same side as they qualified.


James, on this rare occasion I disagree with you. The scale of the abuse of the rules between the teams is vastly different.

Vettel is not the first driver to have been given a grid place penalty and then opted to make changes to the setup and as a further compromise opted to start from the pitlane rather than their (back of) grid slot. eg Glock, Germany 2009 . There is a precedent for this and although they benefit through making desirable changes they are further penalised by not being able to make up places off the start.

Separately, Red Bull’s decision to start Vettel from the pitlane didn’t adversely affect anyone else.

Ferrari’s decision to break one of Massa’s gearbox seals is, for me, worse than their team orders abuses in the past; they didn’t just swap their cars on track, they made Massa move back 5 places in order that Alonso moves up 1. This has never been done before, there is no precedent. There were further adverse affects to other drivers as you detail.

Finally, Red Bull made the best of an adverse situation they didn’t intend to happen; even correctly fuelled, Vettel would have easily qualified in the top 3, if not pole, on merit. Alonso qualified in 8th because the 8th fastest time in Q3 was the best he could achieve.

Is the answer to Ferrari’s abuse of the rules to remove the idea that other cars are promoted in these grid relegation situations? Slots vacated remain so. Surely there are only a few cars relegated each race such that it would be highly unlikely as to run out of grid slots.


"Slots vacated remain so." - that would have suited Ferrari fine, Alonso was only on the dirty side of the grid due to Grosjean's penalty. I suspect it was that penalty that gave them the idea in the first place.

The bigger travesty here is that the sides of the grid are so different on this track, if I were a team boss in this situation I'd have been calling for an in-line or rolling start, but I'm not sure the current regs allow for that except in bad-weather.


I'm not directly comparing them, it's clear they are different because other people are affected by the Ferrari move

I only raise the Abu Dhabi one to say its another loophole that played badly with fans


Starting from the pit lane is a penalty, a big penalty. Using a penalty system to move up the grid is not. I think it has compromised Alsonso's 'fighting' season.


So in your opinion other people aren't affected by the Red Bull move to 1) run with below minimum required fuel and, 2) to modify a car under punishment without any real further punishment ?

Are you really saying that affected no one else ?


"In fact they will have gone through the procedure carefully with the FIA’s Charlie Whiting and Jo Bauer to ensure that they satisfied the regulations. They broke the seal on the cross-shaft, which is at the back of the gearbox and drives the final drive."

HHAhAahaHHAhAH..... what the...??! Ok so I guess it went like this between Charlie and Stefano:

SD: Hi Charlie, just wanna check.. Felipe will get a 5 grid penalty if the seals are broken, yes?

CW: Yes, that's right.

SD: And that's fully within the regulations to get a penalty like that, with no other way to get away with it?

CW: Sure.

SD: Right *ticks off a seal right in front of CW*, there you go. Can you grant Massa a 5 grid penalty now?


When they were first making noises about Massa's gearbox having 'an issue', my immediate reaction was that it must be deliberate to help Alonso. At least they were honest about it. Quite a shrewd and cunning move on their part, if rather cynical and possibly unsporting. However perfectly within the current rules, whether you like them or no.


I have mixed feelings with both Ferrari's and Red Bull's decisions. I can easily see them as clever interpretation of the rules. However, not everything that is clever is positive. It would be interesting to see would the wording of the rules be proposed to close the ...hmmm... "holes". I would be in favor of that to prevent these semi-sporting behaviors, for lack of better words.


Maybe the five place rule should be a four or six place rule?


Its legal but doesn't smell right.

Surely the answer is to make the penalty for changes to gear boxes either 4 spots or 6 spots? Also any penalties should be an even number of spots.


Any other team would be penalized for not giving its drivers equal rights (think McLaren in Hungary 2007). That move was bad for sport and affected few other drivers. Ferrari could do anything and just walk by, and it has always been like this.


As no great fan of Ferrari or Alonso, it left me conflicted. I love this kind of exploitation of the rules, the more ridiculous the better.


Great article, it takes the emotion out of it, which is what the fans have great abundance of right now when discussing this issue.

There is 1 omission though. Alonso made a great start and was up to 5th from his 9th place grid slot on Sunday after the first lap was completed. So it was beneficial to him.

To me, this is what F1 is about, innovation, and sometimes that means being innovative with the rules. Ferrari broke the rules and then used the penalty as an advantage. Good on them for keeping the championship alive, any way they could.

Ultimately, imagine if they used that kind of thinking to develop a more consistent car 😉


To me, what Ferrari did is worse than what Red Bull did. Ferrari's premeditated penalty affected other drivers, plus it shows complete disregard for Massa. Red Bull already had a penalty that wasn't premeditated. They got smart and decided to make the rules play in their favor.

Somehow, though, it doesn't really bother me. I guess we're used to these jenanigans, at least I am.

One must realize that in both cases a risk was taken,.and it could have backfired on them. All in all I'm happy, Lewis Hamilton won and as a big fan of him that's all that mattered to me.=)


People here are only interested in anti-alonso feelings

Because Fernando alonso and ferrai are invovled people make huge Fuss out of nothing.

Massa is simply not good enough to win WDC for ferrari (For once he had glorious chance in 08 F2008, yet he blew it)

I am happy because ferrari have made the right decision to stay alive in title contention going to Brazil

If RBR or any other team have done this, people would be praising then for being clever.

Massa should have no complaints either, he has been paid by ferrari, because massa is not good enough to win WDC (Even races for the matter), he has to support other side of the garage irrespective of the driver. (Rubens is good example for him)


The rule(s) should be changed so that a driver can't benefit from penalty applied to their team mate.

Eg in this scenario Alonso should have stayed where he was on the grid and the driver behind him moved forward two spots to fill the gap.


Storm in a teacup - he would of just had to move over during the race anyway


the FIA will likely change the regulations anyway in response and the teams will find some other way to get around them - but for me, this is one of reasons I love the sport - #neverboring


It's a strange one, given some incidents that have happened before, I'm a little surprised by how little stick Ferrari have actually taken for this. Interesting to see.


I wonder if it had been slightly different situation with Massa ahead of both Alonso and Vettel and the move had meant Alonso moved to the clean side and Vettel moved to the dirty side;

a) how would red bull react?

b) what would the fans think then?

Tornillo Amarillo

If any other team do the same again, it would be a stupid situation.

FIA needs a general rule of respect of the sportiness and the fans that prevails in every single scenario in the future.


The rules are riddled with loopholes like this. I fail to understand how the FIA justify their position as the writer of the rules when these loopholes are exposed.

Ferrari were correct to prevent special qualifying engines, gearboxes, etc, but they made a mistake on how the rule should be written. It should have suitable wording to say that every engine or gearbox must start at least 2/3/n races. Yes - some teams will build a special engine for qualifying and maybe run it a Monaco and Turkey, but that's no big deal for the fans and doesn't add to the teams costs. The same rule conditions could easily apply to any other components they choose to limit on grounds of cost.

As for this latest loophole - that also can be closed by possibly changing the placement of the seals and by wording which says the penalty is only incurred when the actual casing of the gearbox is different after the change.

The trick about using a pitlane start to be able to modify gear ratios etc also needs to be closed.

FIA need a Philadelphia lawyer 🙂


To quote someone I read before:

"What is legal does not necessarily mean it is ethical/moral".

Nonetheless, it was a good strategy and a perfectly legal one, but like in everything else, it is the principle of the action that changes everything.

Red Bull's action last race cannot really be considered a loophole since every one who has started in the pitlane has done it. This one is unprecedented.

While it may have built up the excitement for us fans by brining the championship fight to the final race, acts like this should never be repeated again.


Redbull have been keeping webber out of play all year in more creative ways!


This is good thinking by Ferrari. It is not the first time a F1 team do this and it won't be the last. As long as there are rules; people will find loopholes to give themselves an advantage.

An easy solution to this is to give an even number of grid penalties instead of odd ones. Problem solved.

What do you think, James ??


that would still move FA to the clean side unless you let him move two places up right?


They did nothing wrong and this is about a WDC. Red Bull have switched parts from W to V, made W pit at times to help V, and more than that, they have done anything they can to make the car faster, by playing with rules and the exact wording of the regulations.

This is no different.

Unfortunately, it won't make any difference whatsoever as Alonso has no way to claw back 13 points in Brazil.


I won't bore you with the maths, but he actually has *many* ways to claw back 13 points!


I think Massa's renewed contract probably have a thorough number of clauses that specifically describe that he must help the number one driver - Fernando Alonso!

On the hot topic of Vettel vs Alonso. I think Vettel deserves to win because he never got help from Webber. On that point, Alonso's first 2 champion was won on his own and so he deserved it. Thats how I see it.


...whilst not a breach of the specific rules, it's surely a breach of rules around "bringing the sport in to disrepute"...?

They have deliberately manipulated the grid to their own advantage.

At the very least, they should have a) been made to CHANGE the gearbox rather than sitting back feeling pleased with themselves and b) prove there was something wrong with it.

What Redbull did the previous race doesn't really compare at all - Vettel still had to come back through the field.

I like the suggestion made above about any breach of parc ferme conditions require pit lane start - and leave empty slot. The 5 place penalty for g'box is daft.


James, do you think that this episode will prompt the FIA to change the rules surrounding the intentional breaking of rules (or breaking one without sufficient cause)? If the penalty was dropping someone to the back of the grid, Ferrari would have less incentive to ruin Massa's race like they did.

Or does that just bring us back to the whole team orders saga - where a team couldnt behave like a team and manage the order of their drivers?

dimitar kadrinski

A lot of people seem to be kind to what Ferrari did this race, but it should definitely be changed for next year. I was just wondering what would your reaction be in brasil if massa and vetel get close at some point (i bet Ferrari can make this happen) and there is a collision.... If they can make massa wallow 5 place grid penalty then most certainly they can make him take vetel out next race. It is the same, they would not mind the penalties to massa if any. I am a huge alonso fan and really really hope he can be the WDC this year, but things like this are ruining it. He should have out-qualified massa regardless of the supposedly race-biased setup (which didnt work in the race any way). Perhaps the pressure is building on to him and he can not deal with it...


I think there are two issues here.

One, the "clean" vs. "dirty" side of the grid-- this is a recurring theme at every race, and while it rarely seems to have as much effect after the lights go out as it does before, perhaps the grid should be power-washed two hours before the start at every track-- make everyone equally unhappy.

The other is that Ferrari and Red Bull both took advantage of weak penalties to benefit themselves-- call me crazy, but a penalty should be, well, a penalty.

In Ferrari's case, I think tampering with the seal should have kicked Massa to the pit lane or the back of the grid, but then how do you deal with a legitimate gearbox failure during qualifying?

As for Abu Dhabi and Red Bull, first, I think McLaren should still be kicking themselves for not doing in for Hamilton in Barcelona what Red Bull did for Vettel in Abu Dhabi-- but the fact that Vettel could be excluded from qualifying, and because of that, put a new engine, transmission, rear wings, front wings, etc. (which he didn't, but there's nothing in the rules that would have stopped Red Bull from dropping Engine #9 in his car), on his car with no (effective) penalty is ludicrous.

Maybe "exclusion" should equal a 24 grid-spot penalty, and a 2 (or 4-- all grid spot penalties should be even numbered) grid-spot penalty levied for each system altered. However, the penalty count would carry over to the next race.

Bit complicated, I know, but assuming Vettel changed front/rear wing, gear ratios and engine map, that would be 24 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 for 32, he'd take a 24 grid spot penalty in Abu Dhabi, and 8 grid spots at Austin.

Also note that by reducing the Parc Ferme penalties, you have the option of making minor alterations to your car for the race if you got your setup hideously wrong, without being kicked all the way to the back.

Just some late-night alcohol-infused ideas.


Goodness, people get upset about the silliest things. Both moves were perfectly fine and in accordance with the regulations. The FIRST thing you learn when racing is that there s no "spirit" or "intention" of the regs- just what is written. Both teams would have been stupid not to do what they did.


The tactic worked because the penalty was five places, moving a driver from one side of the grid to the other. You could reduce the effectiveness of this tactic by making the penalty four or six places, moving the driver back but not swapping sides.


This would only have further penalized Massa, and still put Alonso on the clean side.


Desperate times, desperate moves so Ferrari did what they thought was best for Alonso & it proved right.

Its leagal but I feel for those other drivers on the grid who were unfairly done by Ferrari manufacturing this penalty.

Let's hope for a clean, good & exciting race in Brazil so that the winner is worthy be it Alonso or Vettel.



How this is different to asking the 2nd driver to bring out the safety car to help the no 1 driver in the team?


Apart from it being completely different, it's also totally unrelated. Happened in a different team, who had no hope of winning the championship anyway, and a totally different year.


Well, similar sentiments here to the rest of the web I suppose.

Hate it or love it, the rules are the rules and teams race to win. If they found a loop hole in the rules to gain them advantage, only an idiot of a team principle would decide not to exploit it, if so he is not fit to lead his team. Gone are the good old days..sport is a business now, you win, you get paid a bonus, simple as that.

Do you think they care what you think? Of course not. As long Charlie was happy, what was there to stop them? How is this any different to when the likes of Newey and Brawn craftily found loop holes in the rules to design components that were later found to be infringements? We laud them as geniuses, which is true, but the fact of the matter is, in both cases, loop holes were found...to the benefit of their teams and to chagrin their rivals.

This is a team sport, and people always forget this. I still cant understand the whole call for team mates to race each other when one of the pair has no bloody chance of winning the championship...maybe footballers should start tackling their striker just before he tries to score.

As I am sure, many people dont grasp the simple physics of teams sport, my suggestion is to limit each team to just one car. Problem solved. You have 24 teams and all out racing each other. I like this, I'm growing tired of all the debates as to why one team favors one driver to the other.


What can F1 do to stop this?

In Red Bull's case, they went from 24th on grid to pitlane which is a self-imposed penalty of about 15-20 seconds. If they are taking a self-imposed penalty then it is correct that they get some advantage back.

In Ferrari's case, again they took a self imposed penalty. And they gained some advantage back. Only thing is that in this incident, at a team level - the team are penalized and given a small advantage back - similar to Red Bull. But at a driver level - Massa gets all the disadvantage whereas Alonso gets all the advantage. In the Red Bull case, at a driver level - it was Vettel in both cases which made it a little fairer.

I think it boils down to whether you think F1 is a team sport or individual sport. For me it is a team sport first and hence I agree with both the decisions that the teams took.


I think a better solution would have been to keep Massa in the same grid position and dock him 5 places at the end. At least the other drivers would retain their hard earnt positions.


Alonso.... you chicken 😀


At the very least Ferrari _tried_ something this time. A very welcome change after the 2010 finale where they realized their pitstop mistake and did nothing other than tell Alonso "We know you are gifted so overtake the cars in front of you" from the comfort of their pit wall. We all know how that ended ... in tears!

Is it fair? To be debated. Is it within the rules? Apparently so. This is F1 people, top of the motorsports piramid. He who hesitates, masturbates.

Bring on Brazil!!!


I don't think Ferrari were too harsh on Massa. Despite a huge drop in form, they kept faith in him and gave him another chance. Of course, you naturally feel sorry for the guy, but it's give and take situation, fair and square.


To those who feel it's not fair towards Massa: let's not forget he's had a truly aweful year for Ferrari and brought them almost no points in the constructors. Yes, he was faster than Alonso in COTA, but let's not forget he was slower in almost every other race and has only been in the running to become WDC once: before the season started and everyone was at 0 points.

Most people would say his performance this season is unworthy of a Ferrari seat.


First the Crashgate now the Penaltygate..... Alonso seems to rewrite the records for all negative reasons... am so glad Kimi is back this year 🙂


The issue would be moot if there were some way to clean the dirty side of the track, at least off the start line. Is anybody at the FIA thinking along these lines, or is that too practical?


I think nobody is asking the really interesting question.

This situation arose because Massa qualified higher than Alonso. In fact he was faster in Q1, Q2 and Q3.



New difuser not working at all and as only alonso had it for the Q's and the race u hqve your amswer.


Sorry for that bad writting, i answered from my mobile phone



I know your opinion James, but for me it doesn't matter really who was more wrong, Ferrari or Red Bull. Vettel would never charge to 3rd place from the back of the grid if he had the same car that was used in qualifying.

Alonso would never be in P4 from P8 had Ferrari not plat a dirty trick on Massa.

Both teams will do everything possible and impossible to win and it is because they know that the other side will never play safe.

Red Bull, in particular, is a team that is almost impossible to like and support. I do not know how large is their fan base, but I do not like Horner who is one of the most arrogant team principals, I do not like Vettel who has the biggest ego and behaves like a child and I do not like Marco who treats people as if they were mere tools.

I am a Ferrari fan, but it is more and more difficult for me to support them because of how they play. They should develop the best car and accept the fact that they might start from the dirty side, but they will be fair to Massa. You never know how things will develop in the race, but you have to have certain values.

McLaren at least is allowing both drivers to race. Lotus looks good this year, but they fight for nothing. I think everything changes when the team is in a position to win the title. I liked Red Bull when they joined F1, but they became a monster with no moral principles. Ferrari is probably not far off, but at least everything is very open at Ferrari.

Who to support? Nobody is pure in this world.......nobody will have high moral values in this sport. Just not easy to be a fan when this sport is making you look like an idiot.

I do not know what is legal and what is not....but I am almost sure that many cars have won titles by knowing that they have something that is completely illegal and they found a way to hide it. I cannot prove, just have this feeling.

I did not support what Ferrari did to Massa. Poor guy....


AlexD, you meant to say that Ferrari should just build the fastest truck...


A dirty disgusting move by Ferrari. It leaves a very very bad taste in ones mouth.

You cannot compare this to RBs Pit Lane start in AD because in this case Ferrari demeans a second driver, Massa, in the worst possible way.

I would also suggest that this brings the sport in disrepute.

This is a very slippery slope Ferrari is perched on. What next get Massa to crash out ensuring a victory for Alonso. Oh wait its already been done before.

I would add that the sport has teams of two cars. What Ferrari are forcing other teams to do is to use a second driver/number 2 driver to drive shotgun for the number one driver. I just think this was never the intention of the sport. Where does it all end. Are we to have every race someone rearranging the grid positions to suit themselves.

You would never see Mark Webber do this.

Alonso is such a great driver this just seems so unnecessary. Alonso already has a few distasteful incidents in his past that he was just overcoming.

Alonso should have said no to this and either won or lost the championship with everyones admiration for his massive efforts this year. Now all I feel about Alonso and Ferrari is disgust and contempt while previously I was a big fan of Ferrari and recently of Alonso also.

Shame Ferrari Shame....


Well i appreciate team orders. Its the Team which spends millions so that they secure Title. Drivers are the means to take the car to victory. so why would i spend millions of dollars and in the end see two clowns of your own team fight each other and hand the title to the other team , as Vettle and Webber did to each other in Turkey few years back. looking back ,had redbull lost the title then , they d ve to look back at that race and thought of only they had intervened and asked the better driver to take the car first to the finish line.

Ferrari were well within rules to do that. Redbull are no saints either, you know the nose flexes but cannot prove it.

On the other side, what ferrari should ve considered is while this manouver would have been acceptable if it going to put them in direct fight with the rival for the championship without compromising others. But that move cost three drivers who had earned their place on the fair side of the grid to move on to the dirty side, who had to suffer even though they had nothing to do with the title fight but were fighting for constructors and drivers points with nearest rivals.

Had Ferrari reasoned that their move ll cost drivers and hence we ll not make that move, i guess respect for Ferrari would have been taken to next level.


RE: looking back ,had redbull lost the title then , they d ve to look back at that race and thought of only they had intervened and asked the better driver to take the car first to the finish line.

Yeah, If they had done that, Mark would be a world champion now.


Exactly... At least the title belongs to Redbull...


The two incidents, RB's and Ferrari's are chalk and cheese, anyone claiming they're the same is really showing their bias.

Ferrari deliberately manipulated the grid, affecting other teams/drivers.

Then they seek praise for being open about it ? A very very bad day for F1


i wrote a post a couple of months ago about gearbox penalties. i think they should be dropped and a conservative minimum weight limit placed on geartboxes. this would limit the use of exotic materials and another arms race which costs money.

as for rhe stunt by ferrari. well the long view is that ferrari shouldn't have done it. it's pretty clear that the gearbox rules weren't designed to favour one teammate over another or in fact to disadvantage other drivers.

it all seems like a good idea at the time but history tends to take a dim view of such tactics.


Ferrari cheated, they cheated F1 and again, they cheated us fans.

They should be simply charged with "Bringing the sport into disrepite" Especially poignant as F1 had just arribed in the USA, then this is almost to happen, and go unpunished.

There is zero correlation between Ferrari's cheating and Red Bull making an innocent mistake, then "making the most of a mess" by totally legally adjusting the car slightly to optimise it for the race. Being sent to the back for a Q3 issue is draconian anyway, you should just be sent to p11.


Being fed up will all rules bending and controversies I find myself very rules-aligned at the moment.

And in my thoughts - if rules permit such "cheating" (or call it - clever thinking) - then it must be eradicated and punished in a harshest of ways - banning the violator from racing.

I can understand such decision by Ferrari, but hey, we (fans) watch F1 for exciting races and not for controversial pre-race games... want to play games? Fire up "F1 2012" and enable cheats, but please keep such behavior off realworld tracks.


No one has pointed out the obvious. Massa going back 5 places also promoted 5 further up the grid. Ok, some were placed on the dirty side, but they potentially had one less car to contend with in front of them into turn 1.


Thanks for the post James. There is a clear distinction between Red Bulls actions in Abu Dhabi and Ferraris in Austin.

Red Bull did not directly effect any other car by its actions and was a tremendous gamble that proved fortuitous only as a result of 2 safety cars.

Ferraris decision at Austin directly and unfairly effected the result of Lotus, Williams , Mclaren .Kimi Raikkonen went from 4th to 7th. On the clean side he probably would have challenged for 3rd given Lotus' excellent starting performance of late and in that situation he would have finished 3-5. Instead he finished 6th and now brings him closer to Hamilton in the drivers championship.

Under no circumstances should a team or driver directly effect ( positively or negatively) the position of another through a deliberate act of using the regulations to better his or her position. This should be the case in each and every team sport. To circumvent this any time an FIA seal is broken a part needs to be wholly removed and/or repaired and proven -otherwise the driver starts from the pit lane . Perhaps they can consider 20 sec added to race time as discussed on your good site in the past. Please pass this on to Jean Todt- fans not happy.


To me it is surprising that Ferrari's tactics have caused such a big reaction. Such scenario(tactics) is written in the rules. Just like the safety car rules a few years ago, it was clear before the season, that somebody is going to "crashgate".

Only thing I would complain on, is the nature of standing starts. It is disappointing, that as long as there is no scandal, nobody is even considering a different solution to the problems. How come?

It is obvious that leaving half of the grid on the dirty side is not very logical. Keeping in mind that a driver can affect only his own performance, therefore it is not his "fault" that he falls on the dirty side. Do we need the luckiest or the best competitors to benefit?

Perhaps, a flying start should be introduced to reduce the importance of starting on the clean lane. It should have been perfectly clear after the bitter ending title race of 1990, that dividing the grid into good guys and bad guys is not the brightest idea.


I actually thought Ferrari's move was quite inspired!

I don't see why the FIA don't allow the drivers to pick whatever grid position they want based on the qualifying position.


Red Bull had the choice of starting from 24th under parc ferme or the pitlane with a free hand to change the setup - they took the latter, nothing unusual or underhand about it.

Ferrari's actions are simply the latest example of their approach of treating F1 as a team sport, where the drivers must do whatever necessary to help the team win. Yet again, this has offended the sensibilities of many in the English-speaking world (where the majority of teams are based), who have a different philosophy that sees F1 as a competition between individual drivers as athletes, and any attempt to sabotage one driver to assist another as fundamentally unsporting, even corrupt.

It is hard to say that either philosophy is wrong; Ferrari have held theirs consistently since the earliest days of the sport. However when two such different approaches to sport meet in the heat of competition, then mutual disgust, outrage and contempt is the likely outcome.


Rules is rules and no rules were broken, end of case.

At the end of the day if you create a rule you must be able to monitor and enforce it, this is why we have the return of team orders.

If Adrian Newey had come up with something radical (again!!) within the rules that nobody had thought about then we would be calling him a genius ( again!!).

Vettel starting from the pits was thrilling and fantastic, Alonso still in the hunt at the final race, mouthwatering. The rules seemed to have produced a classic season, why should we complain.


It's clever thinking.


James I take it you were in Austin? How was the vibe from the two pit garages of Ferrari and Red Bull? Who's calm, who's desperate? Who's hot, who's not?


Yes. RBR mechanics very happy with constructors win, management a little deflated.

Ferrari encouraged, everyone very tired!


I enjoyed this feedback as it felt like it brought me closer to the teams. I would welcome it if you shared more on the relative moods of the teams and the different groups within each team (engineers, mechanics, management) up and down the pitlane.


Thanks for that James - great insight. Any signs of each side relishing/dreading an Interlagos decider?


Given the forecast of rain for Saturday and Sunday Red Bull have the most to lose....


As I understand it, any team can choose to start from the pitlane from any position on the grid. I'd debate whether an advantage was gained from that. Starting from the pitlane is always a gamble as you guarantee your driver will be in last position after the first corner and you would need to rely on the race craft and fortunate race events such as safety car to really make progress. When looking at the Red Bull decision you have to take into account their uncanny good fortune in the race, would there have been any controversy had Vettel finished 8th/9th?

However, Ferrari chose to deliberately hamper one car which changed the complexion of the grid and result of qualifying for a number of drivers. There was no gamble involved as Alonso was getting a very clear advantage. I wonder how this is different to Alonso deliberately holding back Hamilton at Hungary in 2007 during qualifying, for which Alonso received a penalty for impeding another driver. How is this incident not impeding another driver (albeit in the stewards office)?


Alonso's move at hungary was never against the rules, that was the only time in F1 history when a driver got a penalty without breaking the rules and in the end it cost him the wdc, a sad day for F1 that was...


Blatant cheating by Ferrari in my opinion and they should have been penalised. Nothing wrong with the gearbox at all and it affected everyone behind Massa. Nothing like the Red Bull incident were they had a force majeur accepted by the FIA and didnt affect anyone else. If Alonso were to win the championship due to this move(which apart from a mechanical failure for Red Bull, is not likely to happen)it would really stink. Whats the point in qualifying when you can just move your cars around afterwards?


It's not cheating - the rules clearly allow it!


James, do you think they should not allow the team to race the gearbox with the broken seal and force them to change the gearbox?

Would that be enough a deterrent to minimise the use of such tactics?


My personal feeling on Ferrari's tactic is that they should be penalised for unsportsmanlike behaviour and bringing the sport into disrepute. Perhaps having all their constructors points removed would be a suitable punishment? It is unsporting to deliberately invoke a penalty to get an advantage - penalties are there to penalise bad behaviour and to prevent the teams and drivers from taking dangerous or undesirable actions, but this just becomes a mockery if used in the way Ferrari did at the weekend. The underlying problem is that no set of rules can rigidly account for everything, clever individuals will always find loop holes and ingenious abuses of the system. The only way around this is to have leeway in the rules and a human element to judge situations that fall outside the 'hard and fast' cases. For example this weekend given Ferrari's actions it would perhaps have been more suitable to give Massa a 10 sec stop-go penalty to be served within the first 10 laps instead of a 5 place grid drop. This way Massa is still penalised for the gearbox transgression, but the team doesn't benefit and other drivers not affected by a change in the grid.


It is impossible to tighten rules so much that a team like Ferrari can't give advantage to one of their drivers over the other.

However, it it's done openly, at least spectators, viewers and sponsors can understand the mindset of the team and their reputation for sportsmanship will suffer accordingly.

This article is the first that I have read that implies that Red Bull deliberately short fueled Vettel's car to get him sent to the back of the grid.

Renault cannot be happy with this at all because Christian Horner publicly blamed Renault saying it is they who specify the fuel quantity at each stage of the weekend.

Surely the situation was that Red Bull gained an advantage which only clawed back some of what they lost because of the error in fueling ?

If that's the case, it's entirely different from the cynical manipulation we saw from Ferrari last weekend.

Ferrari have form dating back years with their avowed No1 and No2 driver status and have often pulled strokes to gain an advantage.

Ironically this was most apparent when a certain small Frenchman was running the team............

Poacher turned gamekeeper !


The fact that most of the F1 media think this type of behaviour is not only acceptable but totally understandable, demonstrates a complete absence of logical rational thought. Time to sort bottoms from elbows me thinks.

It was wrong, W-R-O-N-G, wrong.

Christian Stewart

The real controversy regarding the grid is the disadvantage accorded to those who are unlucky enough to end up off line. If you qualify second, the car that qualified third shouldn't be better positioned at the start than you.

The solution is easy. On those circuits where such a disparity exists, each side of the grid ought to start level with each other. Problem solved.