When Rubens Barrichello gifted Michael Schumacher victory at the A-1 Ring at the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, the national anthems could barely be heard for the sound of booing from the crowd. It was not just that Ferrari swapped their drivers, thereby altering the result of the race, but that the Italian squad were so blatant about it.
By now, every Formula 1 fan should know that team orders are an ugly part of the sport that may never go away; however fans do not want to be treated like idiots and today Ferrari managed to do just that. The telling radio message came on lap 48, when Felipe Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley informed the Brazilian that “Fernando [Alonso] is faster than you . Do you understand that message?”
Alonso was at this point five seconds ahead of 3rd place Sebastian Vettel and 0.9 behind his team mate and as the pair came exited turn 6, Massa clearly lifted to let the double-World Champion through into the lead. Smedley would be back on his charger’s radio moments later: “that’s a good lad. Stay with him… sorry.” The pang of regret in Smedley’s voice obvious, the message clear – Alonso would win unchallenged, too fast for the opposition, his team mate nullified.Coming a year to the day of Massa’s near fatal accident during qualifying at Hungary, this should have been Massa’s day. Starting from 3rd on the grid, the Brazilian jumped the front pair via the turn 1 run off area – Vettel on pole (Red Bull), more concerned about Alonso, squeezed the lead Ferrari toward the pit wall, completely ignorant of the second red car. It was a great start that gave Massa a fantastic advantage over the pack; an advantage that he only lost when he pitted for new tyres – not counting the last 18 laps of course.
There were other great opening laps runs too – Lewis Hamilton jumped his McLaren team mate off the line and then forced a way by the Red Bull of Mark Webber into turn 6 to climb into fourth spot and behind him. Michael Schumacher also made a monumental start; the veteran was in 8th by the end of the first lap after starting 11th.
Sadly the Toro Rosso drivers went in the opposite direction. In the pack going through the hairpin at turn 6, Jaime Alguersuari swiped the rear of his team mate Sebastien Buemi; an incident that would catch out both Force India’s. The accident saw Buemi pull directly into his garage in retirement, while Alguersuari, Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi all pitted for new wings and tyres. An error in their pitstops would see both Force India’s in again a lap later; both cars had tyres incorrectly fitted. In the Lotus garage, glum faces dropped as Jarno Trulli lost power of track, this time a broken gearbox ending the Italian’s day on the eight tour of the course.
As the field settled down Massa held a small (but legitimate) lead over Alonso of 1.5 seconds, with Vettel 1onesecond behind the Spaniard; the rest of the top ten was made by Hamilton, Webber, Button, Robert Kubica (Renault), Schumacher and Rosberg (both Mercedes) and the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi.
Despite a quick scare and an off for Button at the beginning of lap 8, the order stayed exactly like this until the initiation of the pitstops on lap 13. Hoping to gain a spot on the hard charging Ferrari’s, Vettel pitted for new tyres, emerging ahead of Kubica’s Renault; however it would not be a successful tactic for the German – Alonso stopped for tyres just a lap later, but had more than enough of a gap ahead of Vettel to stay comfortably ahead. Massa, mindful of Alonso’s new rubber, pitted on lap 15 and maintained his position ahead of the 2005 and 2006 World Champion.
Webber – eager to try and jump Hamilton – came in on the same lap as Alonso, but instead of clear air the Aussie emerged behind Rosberg; Webber was not going anywhere. For a brief moment, Webber – still on cold tyres- found himself under pressure from Kobayashi; the Japanese driver desperate to find a way by pressurised the Red Bull driver into a mistake approaching the stadium, but Webber forcefully stayed ahead, eventually pulling away from the Sauber. As this happened in the pack, Hamilton stopped for new Bridgestone’s and beat Webber out – easy.
The cost of not clearing Rosberg after his stop became clear when Button finally pitted some eight laps later, the reigning World Champion leapfrogged the Australian and dropped in just behind his team mate and settled into a good pace on his new Bridgestone’s.
Massa on the other hand, was finding life far from easy on hard tyres. While the Brazilian struggled to get friction into his new rubber, Alonso was already up to speed and pushing; however with each corner Massa was gaining in confidence and gaining pace – the position was his.
With 18 laps down, those on an aggressive strategy included Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber), Nico Hulkenberg (Williams), Vitaly Petrov (Renault) and Kubica. The leading Renault changed to hard tyres at the beginning of the 19th tour and landed in a battle with Schumacher – for the rest of the lap, the pair battled (hard), yet the Renault driver came out on top.
The second Mercedes car, with Rosberg at the wheel stopped a lap later and beat out his more illustrious partner – the famed German would remain virtually silent for the rest of the day.
Petrov finally stopped for tyres on lap 25, coming out in 14th to battle with Kobayashi – whereas Schumacher could not get by Kubica, Petrov made quick work of the Sauber driver, instantly taking a spot away from the Japanese driver.
With 26 laps in the books Massa still lead from Alonso, but the Spaniard was still applying the pressure. Soon a period would unfold that saw both Ferrari’s set fastest lap after fastest – the race was on. Vettel would occasionally light up the screens, but not consistently enough to truly challenge the red cars. Behind the leading trio, a status quo had developed – from 4th to 10th, it was Hamilton, Button, Webber, Hulkenberg and de la Rosa (both still to pit), Kubica and Rosberg.
Of the top ten, Hulkenberg was trying something truly outlandish – starting the race on the more fragile soft tyres, the Williams driver had still not pitted. It would eventually cost him – de la Rosa was taking lumps out of Hulkenberg, slicing by the German on the 35th lap. Williams brought him in instantly, but the risky strategy did not work – Hulkenberg came out in 14th spot; race over. Hulkenberg’s stop would promote Schumacher into the points; it is unlikely to have been much comfort to the former Champion as Massa put a lap on him.
Not far behind the Williams car was Adrian Sutil; the Force India’s bad day would only get worse on lap 36 – the Force India spun in the stadium section in front of the baying fans. It would require a third stop for the German, who probably wanted to go home at this stage.
Pedro de la Rosa was the final stopper on the 53rd lap; his strategy failing like Hulkenberg’s as the Sauber exited behind the Williams. Rather than settle for 14th, the Spaniard on soft tyres caught Hulkenberg and forced his way inside the German rookie into the turn six hairpin – next up was the second Williams of Rubens Barrichello, but as the Sauber drew up on the veteran, they hit traffic.
Ahead of the battle for 12th, Heikki Kovalainen was touring around in his Lotus – the Finn let Barrichello through at turn six, but closed in on de la Rosa as the Sauber attempted a move. The pair collided, relieving de la Rosa of his front wing and damaging Kovalainen’s suspension – de la Rosa pitted for a new nose, but the Lotus was done for the day.
Lucas di Grassi would also drop out of the running late on with a damaged suspension. With 15 laps remaining, the Virgin driver lost his red and black machine on the exit of turn one – the rookie parked his Virgin Racing machine in the pits next time by.
As the fuel continued to drain, the times kept on dropping with fastest laps coming repeatedly; Vettel 77.1 seconds (lap 44), Alonso 77 seconds (lap 48), before Vettel finally dipped into the 76 second bracket on the 52nd lap.
In the midst of this fast running, the switch happened and the race win was sealed. Red Bull and Vettel anticipating a heavily demotivated Massa began to reel in the Brazilian with fastest lap after fastest lap. From six seconds, Vettel pulled the gap down to one second as the chequered flag approached.
Vettel set the fastest on the final tour setting a 1.15.8 lap, but despite his best efforts, the German could not produce enough to take 2nd place off of the Ferrari, crossing the finish line one second shy of Massa.
Alonso would take the chequered flag first by 4.1 seconds, but it was not a popular victory in any shape or form. Hamilton and Button took a quiet 4th and 5th place respectively, with Webber following in the second Red Bull. Both Renaults and Mercedes also made it into the points, headed by Kubica – Rosberg, Schumacher and Petrov sealed 8th to 10th places. Both Sauber’s and Williams’ took the first four non-scoring spots, ahead of Alguersuari and the luckless Force India’s with Timo Glock and Bruno Senna bringing up the rear. Senna easily had the beating of his temporary team mate, Sakon Yamamoto who retired after accidentally switching off his own engine.
McLaren’s steady run sees Hamilton maintain his Championship lead ahead of Button by 14 points, with the two Red Bulls tied on 136 points. Alonso reigned in the leading four, but until he can win races by himself, a title will not be deserving.
Cries of cheap would spread along social networks and forums; even the BBC were bombarded by disenchanted fans who felt as if they were cheated by Ferrari… and they would be absolutely right. It was a race ruined by Ferrari’s antics. This was Massa’s race, cruelly taken away from him by his own team and while Alonso may have the points, this win is a sour one and not deserving of a Word Champion.
There were sullen embraces in Parc Ferme between the Ferrari pair, as no one seemed to be happy – there were no handshakes and barely a word spoken. On the podium, the differences between the Ferrari driver’s were stark.
Race Rating: 1 out of 5
Hockenheimring, German Grand Prix (Round 11, July 25th)
1 ALONSO Ferrari 1h27m38.864s
2 MASSA Ferrari +4.1s
3 VETTEL Red Bull +5.1s
4 HAMILTON McLaren +26.8s
5 BUTTON McLaren +29.4s
6 WEBBER Red Bull +43.6
7 KUBICA Renault +1 lap
8 ROSBERG Mercedes +1 lap
9 SCHUMACHER Mercedes +1 lap
10 PETROV Renault +1 lap
11 KOBAYASHI Sauber +1 lap
12 BARRICHELLO Williams +1 lap
13 HULKENBERG Williams +1 lap
14 DE LA ROSA Sauber +1 lap
15 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso +1 lap
16 LIUZZI Force India +2 laps
17 SUTIL Force India +2 laps
18 GLOCK Virgin +3 laps
19 SENNA HRT +4 laps
R KOVALAINEN Lotus +11 laps
R DI GRASSI Virgin +17 laps
R YAMAMOTO HRT +48 laps
R TRULLI Lotus +64 laps
R BUEMI Toro Rosso +66 laps
|1. Lewis Hamilton||McLaren||157|
|2. Jenson Button||McLaren||143|
|3. Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing||136|
|4. Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing||136|
|5. Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||123|
|6. Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||94|
|7. Robert Kubica||Renault||89|
|8. Felipe Massa||Ferrari||85|
|9. Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||38|
|10. Adrian Sutil||Force India||35|
|11. Rubens Barrichello||Williams||29|
|12. Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber||15|
|13. Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India||12|
|14. Sebastien Buemi||Scuderia Toro Rosso||7|
|15. Vitaly Petrov||Renault||7|
|16. Jaime Alguersuari||Scuderia Toro Rosso||3|
|17. Nico Hulkenberg||Williams||2|
|2. Red Bull Racing||272|
|4. Mercedes GP||132|
|6. Force India||47|
|9. Scuderia Toro Rosso||10|