Opinion: Ferrari stands in glass house, hurling stones

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarSaturday, September 8th, 2007

 
 

Time for a few blunt words on the subject of the escalating McLaren-Ferrari feud. Brits on Pole has a pretty good idea where it stands on this one – and it’s nowhere near the Scuderia.

Indeed, whatever McLaren are alleged or proved to have done wrong, we will still have considerable trouble taking lessons in sportsmanship and fair play from a team whose lead driver thought it reasonable a year ago to park up at La Rascasse in an unashamed, petulant and downright dangerous attempt to scupper his competitors’ racing.

As is often the case, we thought David Coulthard had it about right when he commented a few weeks ago that it would be nice if the same rules were applied to Ferrari as to everyone else.

The admittedly not necessarily unbiased ex-McLaren driver was talking about the constructors’ penalty served up to his old team after Hamilton and Alonso trod on each other’s toes in the Hungaroring pit lane.

DC, out to make mischief at an otherwise rather tedious pre-Istanbul press conference, suggested Ferrari’s actions in forgetting to fuel Massa in Hungary could equally well be read as an attempt to benefit Raikkonen – if anyone was in the mood for making trouble for them.

A driver we have great affection for is Schumacher’s former rear-gunner Rubens Barrichello. It is a matter of great regret to us that he is having such a hard time at Honda when we would like to see this seemingly cheerful and endearing individual having the same kind of Indian summer to his career that Coulthard is enjoying at Red Bull Racing.

Perhaps those Ferrari supporters up in arms about the use of team orders at McLaren would like to think back to his treatment in Austria in 2002 and the exemplary way in which the Ferrari management admitted its error of judgement gracefully, took its punishment and willingly paid its enormous fine.

Not.

This is why the sight of Jean Todt hopping up and down with outrage that someone may just have been less than even-handed and sportsmanlike in the cut-throat and money-driven world of elite motorsport is one of the more comical absurdities to come out of this mess.

So much for team orders. If you want to talk about technical regulations, then maybe we could discuss flexible floors that blatantly contravene the rules. In the debased currency of the FIA, do they have the same value as lightweight gearboxes? More? Less? It would be good to have some transparency on this subject.

The fact is that we think that Ferrari should go out there and prove their superiority to McLaren on the race track – if they can. The term “put up or shut up” comes to mind.

After all, the team has secured the services of “frowning Finn” Kimi Raikkonen, once hailed as the only man even remotely capable of troubling Michael Schumacher.

Did his defection not leave his former employer Ron Dennis in the uncomfortable position of having to fill his second car with an untried rookie?

It appears this has not been the cause for satisfaction Raikkonen’s patron Luca Montezemolo might have anticipated.

We have no special insight or inside information into what’s going on into the moment. No, our only interest in all this is as passionate fans of the sport who have trouble knowing what to do with their Sunday afternoons between the months of October and March.

Maybe this is ignorance. But we find it very hard to see how, given the complexity and evolutionary nature of a Formula One racing car design, that McLaren would have been in a position to get all that much out of Ferrari’s technical information.

Apart from the satisfaction of having got one over on them, something they may in fairness be regretting now.

We are also thoroughly enjoying the most competitive season of racing since we got involved with the sport. To have a drivers’ championship that could go any one of four ways at this late stage is thrilling.

Strangely enough, the sight of grown men carrying on like a pack of spiteful school bullies, because their God-given right to win has been taken away from them through the talent and bravado of a couple of superb young drivers who have the audacity to compete for someone else, is not improving things one jot.

Ferrari and its allies throughout the world of Formula One would do well to consider the effects of ruining the competitiveness of this season.

Fans driven away by the metronomic precision of yet another Schumi victory have been coming back in their droves thanks to the talent of Fernando Alonso, the personality of Lewis Hamilton, the likeability of Felipe Massa and the nerve of Kimi Raikkonen.

The dominance of “the other Italian team” (as they were always known to phlegmatic Minardi fans) has come close to ruining the sport once this decade, at least for fans in this country.

And now it looks like their arrogance might run it close a second time.

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