Felipe Massa has made a fresh allegation that Fernando Alonso was fully aware of the Crashgate conspiracy at last year’s Singapore GP. As reported in The Guardian, Massa told a group of Brazilian journalists on Wednesday, “It was the team and Nelson, but Alonso was part of the problem. He knew. We cannot know it, (but) of course he knew. Absolute certainty.”
Alonso has steadfastly maintained that he was always in the dark about the plan, and the FIA’s official verdict is that the scheme was known only to four people: Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds, Nelson Piquet Jr, and a certain Witness X (later revealed to be chief race engineer Alan Permane). It was Permane who ultimately corroborated that inside knowledge of the scheme was confined to this select group of four.
Massa has stated publicly that Piquet’s crash at Singapore, and the subsequent deployment of the safety car, cost him the race – and the championship. It will be remembered that in the pit stop shuffle during the safety car period, Massa’s crew were unable to disengage his fuel hose, with the result that Massa shot down the pit lane with the hose still attached to his car, like a giant umbilical cord. It appeared to be a return to the bad old days at Ferrari (before the Todt-Brawn-Schumacher era) when every pit stop was apt to play out like a 18th Century Italian farce.
Massa had been leading the Singapore race prior to the pit stop, but when he rejoined the race he was dead last. He was also given a drive-through penalty because of the incident. Meanwhile, Alonso went on to win the race. Ever since the Crashgate scheme came to light earlier this year, Massa has maintained that Renault (including Alonso) stole the championship from him, handing it to Hamilton by default. Lewis Hamilton, naturally, doesn’t quite see it that way.
Clearly, Massa has not been able to put the incident behind him. Cooler heads have obviously prevailed within the Ferrari management team, however. Within hours of his Brazilian remarks, Massa made a retraction of sorts on the Ferrari website, saying, “What I’ve said is the outcome of a hunch I’ve had and is not based on any concrete evidence. The FIA world council announced that there was no indication that Fernando may have been informed of what had happened and I respect this outcome. Obviously I’m very disappointed about what transpired last year in Singapore. I have already said several times what I thought about it and now it’s time to close that chapter and to look to the future. What is certain is that this episode will not mar in any way the relationship I’ll have with Fernando when we will be team-mates.”
Presumably, either Luca Di Montezemolo or Stefano Domenicali gave Massa a quick phone call to give him an urgent lesson in team protocol. Specifically, it’s not polite to accuse your new team mate of being a liar and a conspirator, especially after he’s already been cleared by the FIA. Surely, the Ferrari brass are also mindful of what happened the last time there was bad blood between Alonso and a competitive team mate. Rather than being a farce, the 2007 season at McLaren, with Alonso and Hamilton as the star players, more resembled an English Elizabethan play, at the end of which all the heroes throw themselves on on their swords. I’m sure that Luca di Montezemolo would not be amused to see a repeat.
Image by Vince Pettit, licensed through Creative Commons.