It was a grand prix that had one main talking point. Felipe Massa slowing out of turn 4 and allowing team mate Fernando Alonso to take the lead and ultimately the victory. It was a move that ignited a lot of anger amongst fans who felt that they had been robbed of a true battle for the race. Team orders have been banned in Formula 1 since 2002 when Rubens Barrichello was ordered to let Michael Schumacher through for the win which he did metres from the finishing line. Ferrari had to do this swap. Alonso title chances remain feasible whilst Massa is well out of the picture. In a sense his poor season, including no points before yesterday since Turkey, cost him the chance to take the victory.
It was a shame for the Brazilian, one year to the day since the life threatening incident in Budapest, that he could not have taken a victory which would have been such a happy moment for him and for F1 in general. He was a dejected figure behind and he now faces the prospect of being a support act to the Spaniard for this season and perhaps for the next two seasons. We have seen instances of drivers swapping in recent seasons. Heikki Kovalainen let Lewis Hamilton through by braking early into hairpins at Magny-Cours and Hockenheim in 2008 which certainly came across better. Massa himself benefited when Kimi Raikkonen lifted for him in Shanghai in the same season. This did not cause much uproar however as the Finnish driver had no chance of winning the title and Massa was locked in a close battle with Lewis Hamilton for the championship.
Ferrari did what was best for their interests but it was the way it was done which didn't help their cause. Of course with radio transmissions now open it can lead to more revealing conversations. Massa came out of the hairpin and basically didn't accelerate and Alonso was able to sail by. The Brazilian made sure that the switch was as clear as possible. Had Alonso passed him under braking into a corner it would have made it look like a realistic overtake.
Now we don't hear all the radio transmissions so the complete picture is not clear and perhaps we will hear more snippets from FOM later this week but lets analyse what was heard
First of all, we had Alonso on the radio soon after he had briefly passed Massa before he lost the position. He said 'This is ridiculous' Clearly he felt he was the faster driver and should be allowed to take the lead.
Soon after, Massa had pulled out a 3 second gap. Rob Smedley came on the radio and had a strong message for his driver 'You have to give this everything, concentrate, keep this going and you can win' This suggests that Smedley felt that the only way Massa could win the race was if he pulled out a big gap to his team mate or else he would have to give way
Alonso began to close in and then came the message which seem to decide the race. Smedley came back on the radio and said slowly and clearly to Massa 'Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm that you understood that message' There was no reply broadcast.
Two laps later and the move came. Soon after Smedley told Massa 'Ok mate, good lad, just stick with him now. Sorry' This wasn't Smedley's decision, it probably was Stefano Domenicali or Chris Dyer who made the call but the Englishman had to be the messenger and i'm sure that wasn't easy.
This is different to what occurred in Austria in a couple of ways. Firstly, 2002 was legal and 2010 wasn't. However, 2010 was a move that Ferrari had to do but 2002 wasn't. We weren't halfway through the season, Schumacher had a big lead and Barrichello was actually one of his main competitors. Once the Brazilian had to concede the win it was clear that competition at the front would be very minimal for that season. Perhaps now team orders will have to be allowed. It was brought in after the circumstances of the Schumacher years where he always had the number one status. Let us be thankful for some of the good inter team battles that have been witnessed this season.
The World Motorsport Council will meet to decide whether Ferrari should face further punishment and remember this is where McLaren nearly got expelled from the 2007 season so don't rule out heavy sanctions. I don't expect any worse than loss of team points or a suspended sentence. We'll not know to August at the earliest. Amongst the furore, Ferrari showed strong speed all the way through the weekend and Alonso is now in the championship battle and unlike his four other rivals, he is the only man in his team gunning for the title.