Massa takes grid penalty for U.S. GP that promotes Alonso to clean side of grid
Title-chasing Spaniard promoted to seventh on the grid
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: November 18, 2012 7:18pm
Alonso will no longer start behind Massa for the U.S. GP
In a stunning development ahead of this evening's U.S. GP, Ferrari have triggered a five-place grid penalty for Felipe Massa that will move Fernando Alonso from the dirty side of the grid.
The FIA have confirmed that a seal on the Brazilian's F2012 has been damaged - a sufficient 'offence' under the terms of the Sporting Regulations to prompt a grid penalty that promotes Alonso from eighth to seventh and on to the clean side of the grid.
Red Bull have confirmed that they will not be reacting in kind and triggering a demotion for Mark Webber that would see Alonso return to the unrubbered dirty side of the grid.
A spokesman for Ferrari told Sky Sports F1: "This decision has been taken to maximise the potential at the start for Fernando which is normal in a way because you have seen yesterday that starting from the dirty side of the grid is very poor there. Fernando is going for the championship and we need to do all the best we can to help him in this fight.
"We share the decision with the drivers, Felipe accepted the decision. Of course it's not the best thing that you can be told, on the other side I can tell you we made this decision with complete transparency knowing that in Ferrari the interests of the team comes before everything else. And Felipe proved again to be a strong member of the team who shared the spirit of the team and we would like to thank him publicy for this."
News that Ferrari were considering triggering the penalty broke on the morning of Sunday's inagural race at the Circuit of The Americas and has already been widely condemned. However, speaking in the wake of the official announcement, Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle admitted that he could appreciate the logic of the decision:
"It's a bit unsporting but they're here to win the championship and with your racing head on it's a no brainer. Tactically there's at least eight to 10 metres of starting difference between the two sides of the grid.
"It's their last chance this afternoon or the championship's over."
Following qualifying, Massa and Alonso were scheduled to line up sixth and eighth respectively - with both drivers on the 'dirty' side of the grid which, because it isn't on the track's racing line, hasn't been rubbered in. However, the penalty means that both drivers will line up on the racing line of the start-finish straight - with Alonso seventh - where more rubber has been laid down.
Somewhat ironically, Massa himself spoke of the fears of starting from the dirty side of the grid on Saturday night, telling reporters: "We did a practice start there at the end of qualifying and it showed that acceleration was worse even than from a wet track."
According to Sky Sports F1 commentary expert Mark Hughes, writing in the Sunday Times, such is the disadvantage of starting from the dirty side of the grid that 'Red Bull's analysis suggests that the blunted acceleration resulting from the extra wheelspin would cost the equivalent of three grid rows.'
Statement from Ferrari:
'We've decided to accept the penalty normally associated with the gearbox change on Felipe's car which means that he'll get a 5 place grid penalty. The reason for this was for strategy considerations, with the objective of maximizing Alonso's start potential given that he's still in with a chance to win the Drivers' championship. We saw yesterday that starting from the dirty side of the track would have been penalizing: there was a significant risk of finding ourselves too far behind the leaders at the end of the first lap. It was a decision agreed by both drivers.
'We've always maintained that the interests of the team come before that of the individual drivers and this has always been our very transparent policy. Felipe has fully comprehended the reasons behind this decision and so he's once again proven his total dedication to the team - something for which we would publicly like to express our gratitude.'