Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa both claimed to be team players after the furore of their contrived one-two finish in yesterday’s German Grand Prix.
The two drivers had already departed Hockenheim when the race stewards hit Ferrari with a $100,000 (€77,000) fine for implementing team orders, which are outlawed under F1 rules.
The matter has also been referred to the World Motor Sport Council and may yet result in further sanctions.
Prior to the stewards’ decision, the duo had faced a grilling from the media in the post-race press conference.
Massa claimed the decision to allow Alonso by was made of his own volition, and nothing to do with a seemingly coded radio message from his race engineer Rob Smedley.
“Okay, so, Fernando is faster than you,” Smedley said on lap 47, which led to Massa opening the door for Alonso to pass two laps later when he slowed out of the hairpin.
Smedley then told Massa: “Good lad. Just stick with it now. Sorry.”
It all smacked of the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix when Ferrari ordered Rubens Barrichello to let Michael Schumacher pass for him to claim the win.
It is a decision Barrichello regrets to this day as it tarnished his reputation among the Brazilian public, but Massa refuted suggestions the same could happen to him.
“Absolutely not. I’m very professional and I’ve showed throughout my career how professional I am,” said Massa.
“You are professional as well, you work for a company. I believe you are doing what you have to do, so I’m professional and today I showed how professional I am. That’s it.”
Massa added: “For sure, you always want to win. That’s always what we’re working for. We don’t have team orders, so you just need to do the race that you can and if you cannot do that you need to think about the team. I think that’s the most important thing.”
The problem was Massa’s tone of voice and body language spoke differently, never more so than when he spurned Alonso’s offer of a congratulatory hug after they stepped out of their cars in parc ferme.
As for Alonso, he was asked whether he felt embarrassed to claim such a win, whether it was a “dirty” victory, and if it was “up there” with his triumph in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix that was later overshadowed by the ’crash-gate’ scandal.
The double world champion refused to bite on any of the questions, instead at one point responding: “We tried to do our race, as good as we can. We are professional drivers, we try to work in a team and to do the best we can every day, not only on the track but also between the races, at the factory.
“I think we’ve been doing a good job over the last couple of races and finally we had a strong Sunday with a strong result. I think we are happy with this.”
Alonso’s 23rd win of his career has moved him to within 34 points of championship leader Lewis Hamilton who finished fourth behind Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and ahead of team-mate Jenson Button in fifth.
These are a few of the questions the two faced from a sceptical press after the race:
Via a coded message it appears we’ve witnessed a clear case of team orders being handed out. To Fernando, do you feel embarrassed about taking such a win, and to Felipe do you feel angry about having to give up such a win?
Massa: “For sure, you always want to win. That’s always what we’re working for. For sure we don’t have team orders, so we just need to do the race that we can and if you see that you cannot do the race that you can, you need to think about the team. I think that’s the most important thing.”
Alonso: “Yeah, same. What’s important is the team result, so I’m happy.”
Fernando, where will this victory rank in your career? Is it up there with Singapore 2008?
Alonso: “I think you have a very strong result from Ferrari today, one and two, a very strong performance all weekend and if the final thought of the weekend is your question it’s because maybe you didn’t see the whole practice, qualifying and the race, so maybe it’s too early for you that Ferrari came back so strong.”
Fernando, what have you got to say to the people who would call this a dirty win and if you win the championship, a dirty champion?
Alonso: “Look at the overall races, there are a lot of points that we win sometimes and a lot of points that we lose sometimes. As I said, today was a good day, some other races were bad days for us, disappointing but as I said before, we need to remain focused, keep working, keep developing the car, not to be too excited when we win, not to be too down when we lose.”
The reality is, though, you couldn’t beat him on the track, so you had to get the team to do it for you.
Alonso: “If that’s your opinion.”
He had to give you this win, didn’t he, Fernando?
Fernando, why can’t you just be honest with us for once and just admit this win was handed to you on a plate today?
Alonso: “I was competitive on Friday, first position. I finished second in qualifying by 12 centimetres, I heard yesterday. Today I think we scored the fastest lap of the race, so overall I don’t think I was very slow this weekend.”
Felipe, Rubens (Barrichello) damaged his image a lot in Brazil when he did what you did today. Until now you had the support of the country. Aren’t you worried that now after you did what Rubens did you have deeply damaged your image in Brazil?
Massa “For sure not. I’m very professional and I’ve showed in my career how professional I am. You are professional as well, you work for a company. I believe you are doing what you have to do, so I’m professional and today I showed how professional I am. That’s it.”