Part three of unravelling the complicated world of Formula One
There have been a number of scandals in recent years, and while these are best left in the past they are often mentioned by fans or referenced to by other people, so it is useful to at least understand what they are.
1) 2007 – Spygate
Involving: McLaren and Ferrari
This came about when it was alleged that McLaren were in possession of confidential technical information belonging to the Ferrari team. McLaren were called to an extraordinary meeting of the World Motorsport Council (WMSC) in July of 2007 for being in breach of Article 151c (bringing the sport into disrespute). They were found guilty, however there was no penalty as there was insufficient evidence. The matter was then referred to the FIA Court of Appeal as others found that the no penalty was unfair as McLaren were clearly breaching rules.
E-mails between Fernando Alonso (McLaren driver at the time), Pedro de la Rosa (test driver at McLaren) and Mike Coughlan (senior engineer) were presented as evidence and the result of the second hearing was that McLaren were fined $100m and excluded from the 2007 Constructors’ Championship.
In 2008 both teams released a statement saying that all disputes are now over between them (however, seperate court proceedings were continued against Nigel Stepney, the Ferrari engineer implemented in the case).
Rivalry between McLaren and Ferrari has always been big (see later section) so this particular incident was also big between McLaren and Ferrari fans and occasionally some references are still made to 2007.
2) 2008 – Crashgate
During the 2008 Singapore GP, Renault ordered Nelson Piquet Jr to crash, meaning that the Safety Car would come out and team-mate Fernando Alonso could subsequently use it to his advantage. Piquet Jr crashed on lap 14 off the lap, at the time shrugging it off as a mistake. Because of the position of the crash, a Safety Car was a necessity and Fernando Alonso, having made his pitstop, used this to his advantage and went on to win the race.
When Renault let Nelson Piquet Jr go after the Hungarian GP of 2009, he made his allegations that Flavio Briatore (Managing Director) and Pat Symonds (Executive Director) had ordered him to crash deliberately. Renault were called to face an extraordinary meeting of the WMSC, and just before this hearing Renault announced they would not be contesting the charges and that Briatore and Symonds had left the team.
At the trial Renault were handed a two year disqualification, however this was suspended for two years and would only be carried out if they were found guilty of a similar offence. Briatore was handed a permanent ban from working in F1 or any other FIA goverened motor sports, while Symonds received a five year ban. Both bans were later overturned in court, however neither can work in F1 until 2013, or other FIA sports until the end of 2011.
3) 2009 – Liegate
Involving: McLaren and Toyota
In Formula One, if the race is under Safety Car conditions you are not allowed to overtake. An incident on the last couple of laps of the Australian GP in 2009 brought out a Safety Car, which in turn led to ‘Liegate’. Jarno Trulli (Toyota) was in third place, with Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) behind him. Trulli went off the track, meaning Hamilton had no choice but to overtake him, however, Trulli soon regained the position. After the race, the stewards said that Trulli had overtaken under the Safety Car and added 25s to his time, demoting him from his podium position of third to 12th. Trulli stated that Hamilton had slowed down and pulled over, so he had overtaken under the impression that the McLaren driver had a problem. Hamilton told the public that the team had told him to let Trulli repass. Hamilton then changed his story and told the stewards that the team had told him no such thing and he had not consciously let him pass.
Both drivers were summoned to a stewards’ inquiry before the Malaysian GP. Hamilton continued to insist that the team had not given him orders to let Trulli repass and that he had not intentionally let him pass, despite being played audio from his team radio which clearly showed that he was not being honest. In the end the stewards disqualified Hamilton from the race, and excluded McLaren from getting any constructor’s points from that race due to the fact they had misled them. McLaren’s Sporting Director, Dave Ryan, was suspended and McLaren once again found themselves in front of the FIA for being in breach of Article 151c. They were handed a suspended three race ban which would only be enforced if a similar offence was committed. Dave Ryan was later sacked and Hamilton issued an apology for his part in the scandal.
4) 2010 Team-ordergate
Team orders have been banned in Formula One since 2002, after an incident which saw Jean Todt (then team boss of Ferrari) told Rubens Barrichello to pull over and let team-mate Michael Schumacher pass him so that Schumacher could win the World Championship. During the 2010 German GP, a similar incident appeared to take place on track. Ferrari driver Felipe Massa was leading the race from team-mate Fernando Alonso (who was closer to his rivals in terms of Championship standings). The controversy started when Massa received a message over the radio from his engineer Rob Smedley. The message “Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm that you understood that message?”. It appeared that Massa did understand the message as, at the next hairpin, he slowed considerably and Alonso was able to take the lead. Smedley then reappeared on the radio and said “Ok, good lad. Sorry”.
Ferrari denied that team orders had been used. Tensions were obviously high and Massa looked uncomfortable in the post race press conferences, attempting to side step the issue when questions were asked.
Later Ferrari were fined $100,000 for the use of team orders, and had to face the FIA at an extraordinary meeting of the WMSC. The fine stood, but Ferrari kept their points.
Article 39.1, which forbade team orders, has since been removed from the regulations after it was agreed that team orders are always going on in one way or another in teams, just not as blatantly as the Ferrari incident. However, Article 151c is still in place, so teams cannot abuse team orders.
Anyway, those are the ‘gates’ of the past four years. As said at the start, these are best left in the past but are sometimes brought up or referenced. So now you know!
Obviously all 24 drivers are fighting each other on track for position and there are rivalries between teams and drivers, but some have been more prominent than others. In the past there has been Prost vs Senna and Schumacher vs Hakkinen, but more recently there have been rivalries between Alonso and Hamilton, and Webber and Vettel and the most famous one of all: Ferrari vs McLaren.
Fernando Alonso vs Lewis Hamilton
This rivalry started when they were team-mates at McLaren for the 2007 season. Fernando Alonso joined the team, having just won the 2006 World Championship with Renault, his second successive title in two years. He could be forgiven for believing he would be number one at McLaren, and this was certainly what it said on his car. However, he didn’t bargin for having Lewis Hamilton has a team-mate. Hamilton had been involved with McLaren from a young age, and after successfully winning the GP2 Championship, he graduated to F1 in 2007, becoming McLaren’s number two driver. Hamilton finished on the podium for the first nine GPs, winning his first F1 race in only his sixth race. He soon launched himself into a strong challenging position to fight for the Championship.
While there were suggestions of tensions between the team-mates throughout the year, it became clear at the Hungarian GP that relationships were really falling apart. During Qualifying for the event, Alonso held up Hamilton in the pits, meaning that Hamilton didn’t have time to set another qualifying lap and therefore lost out on pole (which went to Alonso). It came out afterwards that Hamilton had been the one to initially ignore an order from the team to let Alonso pass him. However, Alonso was punished for his pitlane move and was relegated to sixth on the grid, promoting Hamilton to pole.
This is where tensions also appeared to be fraught between Alonso and then team boss Ron Dennis, as more started to come out about ‘Spygate’ (see above). Despite the fact he was contracted for 2008, Alonso left McLaren and returned to Renault at the end of the 2007 season.
Mark Webber vs Sebastian Vettel
Back in 2007, during a wet race at the Japanese GP, Sebastian Vettel recklessly crashed into Mark Webber, ending both of their races when they were in podium positions behind the Safety Car. Webber was obviously annoyed, and said after the crash “bloody kids, f*cking it up”.
During Sebastian Vettel’s Championship winning year in 2010 (Red Bull were also Constructor’s Champions) there were obvious tensions between the team-mates, as both were in close contention for the title.
Rule number one of Formula One: do not take out your team-mate!
During the Turkish GP in 2010, Webber was leading a Red Bull 1-2. Vettel tried an overtaking move, but appeared to move across too soon, sending Webber and himself into a spin and off the track. Webber was able to continue, but Vettel was out of the race. The collision also handed a 1-2 finish to McLaren.
Another incident occured at the British GP, when, after Vettel damaged his wing in practice, the team took the decision to take Webber’s (new) front wing and give it to Vettel, suggesting that Webber was definitely the number two driver. Webber went on to win the race and after doing so, came on the team radio to say “not bad for a number two driver”.
In many interviews toward the end of the season, Webber insisted that he would never be best friends with Vettel, but at the end of the day they are there to compete with each other as both want to win the championship. Both Webber and Vettel will continue with Red Bull for the 2011 season.
Ferrari vs McLaren
The rivalry between Ferrari and McLaren goes way back. It has been heavily publicised as things have heated up between them on and off the track. In recent years we have seen them fight against each other for the Championship (2007 – Kimi Raikkonen vs Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, 2008 – Felipe Massa vs Lewis Hamilton). In 2009, a year which saw Brawn GP (now Mercedes GP) and Red Bull Racing fight it out for the Championship, both Ferrari and McLaren found themselves playing catch up and their rivalry continued against each other for third in the Constructors’ Championship – McLaren won that particular battle). There is also a traditional rivalry between fans of Ferrari (the Tifosi) and McLaren.
These are just a few of the key rivalries in Formula One at the minute, however there are of course more.
COMING UP IN PART FOUR: