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Massa gearbox penalty best decision of the season
Wednesday 21st November 2012, 18:38 by Daniel Chalmers
Ferrari’s strategy was controversial and brutal, but for me it was the best tactical decision I have seen all year.
In the end it worked a treat as Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa finished the race 3-4. Certainly a result Ferrari would have been very happy with at the beginning of the event.
It was a decision that made perfect sense on every level. Alonso is the driver in the championship hunt. Unless Red Bull completely capitulated there was no chance of the Ferrari winning the constructors title. In other words better to forget the constructors, and do everything possible to win the driver’s championship.
So quite rightly the focus on Sunday morning was on how the team could give Alonso a better chance, of gaining a result that would keep him in the championship hunt.
Had Ferrari opted to keep Alonso in eighth place on the grid, his race could have ended up being completely different. What’s certain is that he would not have exited turn one in fourth place.
The dirty side of the grid wasn’t so bad in the end. However most of the drivers on that side of the grid lost at least one position.
For Fernando the best case scenario on the dirty side of the grid would probably have been exiting turn one in ninth place.
Getting a podium from there would have been extremely difficult. Firstly he would have had to overtake both Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean. Who knows how that may have turned out.
He would also have had to overtake old nemesis Michael Schumacher. Since Michael is good buddies with Vettel, I doubt he would have made life easy for Fernando.
Plus there were also the likes of Nico Hulkenberg and Kimi Raikkonen who were extremely competitive in this race.
Furthermore there was also a chance that Jenson Button could have leapfrogged Alonso too from 12th on the grid, with the pace that had he showed.
We saw some of these names in a very close gaggle during the opening stint of the race. One highlight in particular was Schumacher, Grosjean and Raikkonen three abreast down the back straight. Those were the sort of fights Alonso would have had to get involved in.
Fernando would surely have left Austin more than 13 points behind Vettel. Had Alonso got caught up in an incident, Vettel might already have become a three times world champion.
By starting on the clean side of the grid, it gave Alonso a pretty simple stress free race to the podium, which keeps his championship hopes well and truly alive.
In all honesty I think Ferrari would have been extremely foolish not take the gearbox penalty for Massa. When you are up against a combo as formidable as Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel, you have to try everything possible within the rules.
It might not endear you towards some of the fans but that’s not the aim of competing in F1. The aim is to win championships.
Ferrari did not actually break any rules at the weekend. I suppose you could see it went against the spirit of the regulations, but when has the spirit of the regulations ever existed in F1?
At the end of the day F1 has always been a team sport. Had this been F1 in the 1950s Massa would probably have had to give Alonso his car, if the Spaniard had broken down during the race.
Huge credit must go to Massa though. If he hadn’t had out-qualified Alonso this opportunity would never have arisen for Ferrari.
Furthermore he drove brilliantly to finish in fourth. Ironically chances are that he probably wouldn’t have finished any higher, had he started from his original grid slot. So he didn’t really lose out in the end whilst Alonso gained plenty.
Had I been in Stefano Domenicali’s shoes I would certainly have used exactly the same strategy. I am sure that even those readers who didn’t agree with what Ferrari did, would reluctantly admit that they would have done the same thing too.
I am sure all the other team bosses would have done the same thing as well, even if they wouldn’t actually admit it.
If Alonso goes on to snatch the title on Sunday, then Ferrari deserve to give themselves a pat on the back for the decision they made in Austin.
It could end up being regarded as a championship winning decision.