Handbags at dawn part 2: This time it’s Williams versus Ferrari

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Williams and Ferrari are going at it again
Williams and Ferrari are going at it again

Yesterday it was Nelson Piquet Jnr vs Flavio Briatore, today it’s Ferrari and Williams at loggerheads. Infuriated by Williams’ refusal to support Schumacher’s request for a test in the F60, Ferrari published a statement on its website saying:

Guess who opposed the test with the F60? A team that hasn’t won anything for years and yet didn’t pass over the opportunity to demonstrate once more a lack of spirit of fair play.

Them’s fightin’ words. But although seeing Williams and Ferrari trade blows is nothing new in F1, there’s something rather odd about Ferrari’s reaction.

To begin with, why is it only aimed at Williams when Red Bull also opposed Schumacher testing the F60?

I wonder if this has something to do with Williams splitting from FOTA at the height of their row with the FIA earlier this year. Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo, also president of FOTA (and not above letting off a little steam in this fashion), surely hasn’t forgotten Williams’ defection which could have fatally weakened the teams’ unity.

But throwing around phrases like “a lack of spirit of fair play” is perhaps not the smartest thing for a team with Ferrari’s track record to do. Particularly when you consider their track record with Williams:

1997 European Grand Prix, Jerez

No-one’s going to forget this one in a hurry. Schumacher was leading the race and on course to beat second-placed Jacques Villeneuve to the world championship. But after the final round of pit stops the Williams driver suddenly began catching Schumacher and launched an attack at the Curva Dry Sack.

Schumacher swung in and the pair collided – but Villeneuve survived, while the Ferrari driver slid off the track and out of the race. The FIA confiscated Schumacher’s points for the season – a penalty widely regarded as far too lenient – and Ferrari hit back at Williams by claiming they had colluded with McLaren to rig the race finish.

1998 Canadian Grand Prix

When Schumacher shot out of the pits during the race he failed to notice Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s Williams on the circuit, and shoved him off into the barriers. Patrick Head stormed over to the Ferrari pit and vowed to see the driver serve a lengthy ban for reckless driving.

The stewards penalised Schumacher but he won the race nevertheless.

1999 Belgian Grand Prix

With Schumacher injured, Ferrari were striving to keep Eddie Irvine in the championship hunt. The McLarens were running away with the race, and it fell to Irvine’s team mate Mika Salo to help Irvine into the best result he could manage.

Salo held back Williams’ Ralf Schumacher to the tune of nine seconds in the middle of the race, allowing Irvine to get out of the pits ahead of the Williams driver. Patrick Head blew another gasket, but once again there was nothing he could do about the situation.

2003 Italian Grand Prix

There were plenty of run-ins between Ferrari and Williams in the intervening period – often involving Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya. But the events that transpired in the run-up to the 2003 Italian Grand Prix threw the two teams into another fierce row.

Williams had emerged as one of the principal challengers to Ferrari, thanks in part to their Michelin tyres. But following an appeal by Ferrari’s tyre supplier Bridgestone, the FIA instructed Michelin to change the design of their tyres. The pre-race press conference was a hostile affair:

Ross Brawn (Ferrari): Our interpretation was not that the tread was constrained by only being measured when new. With the construction of the regulation I can understand how someone may wish to interpret that way but the construction of the regulation was not when?? it would have said, furthermore, when new, the tread would be no more than 270[mm]. It doesn’t say that. So we had an interpretation which was obviously different to the Michelin teams. We have a regulatory body??

Patrick Head (Williams): Why did you wait for 38 races before raising this point, if you had this view all the time? It seemed an odd time to raise it Ross.

Brawn: That tyre, as I understand it Patrick, you had at Monaco.

Head: It’s exactly the same mould, comes out of exactly the same mould that appeared in 2001 at Imola.

Brawn: Renault used different tyres to you Patrick. There’s a range of Michelins being used in Formula One. We weren’t aware of the problem so any suggestion that we had timed it is inaccurate. Bridgestone is an extremely ethical company and they were aware of this problem for some time and didn’t raise it to our attention. They were troubled with how to deal with it, and they came to us after the race in Hungary and said how can we deal with this problem, because in our view?? [laughing in the audience] Do you have to keep laughing? Thank you. In our view, they brought the photographs of the tyre in Hungary and said to us can you explain this to us and we asked Charlie for an explanation. He said to us he wanted to investigate it because he didn’t understand it. He didn’t understand what he could see on the tyres and went away, and the consequence was the letter that came out on the Wednesday after Hungary.

Head: I thought the consequence was a meeting at Maranello on the Tuesday, of the president of the FIA and the race director.

Brawn: As we know, paranoia runs rife in Formula One. Ron, quite rightly, said you need to look at yourself in the morning and ask yourself if you’ve got integrity. That meeting was set up weeks ago and was a meeting to discuss our business in Formula One. Some of that discussion has been discussed recently about the schedule that we should run in Formula One. It’s not uncommon for us to have meetings with the FIA to discuss things. To suggest that meeting was only about the tyres?? in fact we were asked not to discuss the tyres with Max and Charlie when they came, because they said they were dealing with it. They felt it was inappropriate to discuss the tyres, so I think to suggest that meeting was only held?? I don’t think Max would break his schedule to come over to Italy on a Tuesday after a race for a matter like that. So as I said, there’s a huge amount of paranoia in Formula One. We had an interpretation and we asked the ruling body for a clarification and that was the clarification they gave and I think all the suggestions of Machiavellian plots is just the normal paranoia that runs in Formula One.

For now at least, Williams has not responded to Ferrari’s attack.

Image (C) Williams/Sutton

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126 comments on “Handbags at dawn part 2: This time it’s Williams versus Ferrari”

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  1. Pedro Andrade
    4th August 2009, 20:33

    Sour grapes from Ferrari. I’m happy Williams took the stance they did, and I hope they don’t get bullied further by Ferrari.

    1. err.. I was gonna say sour grapes form Williams. Frank has been eating them ever since FOTA was formed.

      Frank Williams has not really shown that he likes to work “with” the teams as yet. I am not referring to Schu test, but rather to the recent FIA vs FOTA issues. Williams did not help matters, they got sxpelled form FOTa only later to beg to be returned to it. And the recent Concord agreement is excellent for all teams, and it wouldn’t have been possible without FOTA. So Williams should at least show some respect and try to work with the teams from now on…

      There is a bigger picture here and im not referring to Schu test..

      1. Don’t the teams exist to compete? Why should they work together. The FOTA should purely exist to allow all teams to have a say in the setting of regulations, and commercial arrangements. It shouldn’t exist in order for the different teams to “work” with one another.

        I find it rich that Ferrari is claiming that Williams is showing “a lack of spirit of fair play”. From my understanding Williams are perfectly entitled to say no. If anything Ferrari are showing “a lack of spirit of fair play”, by cracking the ***** because some of the other teams won’t play the way they want them to. The only team that benefits from Schumacher testing the current car is Ferrari.

        Secondly Ferrari has shown their inability to play fairly by bringing Schumacher in, instead of using one of their designated reserve drivers. Reserve drivers exist exactly for this reason don’t they?

      2. History is where you should look for the bigger picture with Williams, and Ferrari. Williams know that the only agenda Ferrari care about is there own, they were expelled from Fota, because they signed up , unconditionally, for 2009. Historically Ferrari have proved to be devious, and not to be trusted, Frank Williams has no other business than Motor racing, why would he align himself with a body that could potentially put him out of business?
        The words ‘fair play’, and ‘Ferrari’ have been proved by the existence of a technical veto, not to have any substance, Frank Williams has always known this, and after 40 years of being a fan of F1 so do I…….

      3. Pedro Andrade
        5th August 2009, 10:20

        Yes, I understand Williams’ departure from FOTA caused the team to become an outsider in the eyes of the others, and for resentment to arise in both sides. But this problem is unrelated to the FIA-FOTA-FOM war, so it should be treated as such by the teams. Ferrari’s comments were childish.

        And if Toro Rosso had to abide by the rules, Ferrari should too. We’ve all been complaining too much over the years that they do not.

        1. Williams has sour grapes because he has done bugger all in f1 for years. And cant handle the fact he had the chance to be as successful as Mclaren and Ferrari and screwed it. He had the perfect opportunity with BMW and turned it down, he had a similar opportunity with renault and even honda and was to stupid to push it. Instead Mclaren went totally opposite and now they are as big as Ferrari with MERC. Would BMW would have left williams dont think so Williams has a big following similar to mclaren.

          In relation to the test Williams were right in accordance with the rule. But i dont necessary agree with them. They are just worried because ferrari have overtaken them now and they will be now where again.

          1. i’ve got just 2 words for ferrari & shoemaker

            YOU SUCK!!!!!

          2. Frank Williams didn’t blow it.

            If Williams went with BMW (ie sold up, as BMW didn’t want to continue to be engine suppliers, they wanted total control of Williams) then Williams would be about to go under and pull out of F1, just like the former Sauber team are doing right now.

            If Williams had bowed to BMW, they would be in a far worse state than they are now. And let’s face it, this year at least, Williams are improving.

          3. i’ve got just 2 words for ferrari & shoemaker

            YOU SUCK!!!!!

            91 race wins for Schumacher and 209 wins for Ferrari say otherwise.

  2. hee hee hee, this is going to be good.

  3. Red Bull were not targeted as Ferrari said yes to allow Alguesuari to test

    “Just for the record, the Scuderia Ferrari had given its approval to let Alguersuari test, but it seems even in this instance someone decided to stick to the precise wording of the regulations.”

    source: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/77551

    I would have MS test the car but I’m a Ferrari fan and are biased but if it had been made public at the time I would have said the same for Alguesuari so he could gain experience. Also Keith I think you’re probably right about the FOTA issue being part of this with Williams becoming the FIA and Mosley’s new lapdog’s.

  4. I am a Ferrari fan, and I don’t see the purpose of this attack. Ferrari won’t gain anything from it, as sniping will make Williams less likely to reverse their decision on the Schumacher test ban. And although Williams aren’t FOTA members, they’ve signed the Concorde Agreement, so it’s not exactly a political move. Montezemelo has always been a bit of a prima donna though.

    1. I am also a Ferrari fan, but Im DISGUSTED by Ferrari attacking Williams like this. It is one thing to cordially ASK for an exception to the rules, but they should be ashamed of themselves for throwing out insults like this when they dont GET an exception. I too thought that Williams was being stingy and bitter about it, but rules are rules, and that is their right

  5. This is a disproportionate reaction from Ferrari. They act as if they own the sport.
    If we end up with Todt “Newman” in charge of FIA it will be the day of fire and brimstone.
    Lets hope this does not come to be.

  6. Ferrari have, I think, missed the point. They wanted the rules bent for them and didn’t get their way. That shows the sport still has some integrity. If Ferrari doesn’t want to play by the rules, it shouldn’t play.

    1. do you not remember what happened recently when Williams pulled out of FOTA? Frank did not help matters much. I dont think this is as simple as you say it is. This problem goes even further back to when FOTA was created. Thats where the root of the problems are between Williams and Ferrari. btw if it wasnt for FOTA strong stance you would now be licking Mosleys #$% so you should thank the persistence of Ferrari, McLaren, and all FOTA teams EXCEPT Williams, for the latest Concord agreement.

  7. Ferrari’s comment is just for the show.
    It would have been nice to have the exception to show the FIA that this testing ban is nonsense; but it was almost obvious someone would complain and “stick to the rules”.
    Also, RBR’s answer is obvious: they have a shot at the championship, why favour other team to fight with them for the big points?

    1. Why would they need to show to FIA that their own idea of having a testing ban is nonsense?

  8. Robert McKay
    4th August 2009, 20:52

    Between this and their childish rant on the new “GP3” teams, Ferrari are coming across as a bit pathetic. I think the expression is “they need taking down a peg or two”.

  9. Thanks for the history lesson- as a relatively new fan I was aware of the 1997 incident, but none of the other stuff.

    1. You’re welcome – the full teams’ press conference from the Italian Grand Prix is definitely worth a read! I’ve just put it on the drop.io:


  10. I wonder if this has something to do with Williams splitting from FOTA at the height of their row with the FIA earlier this year. Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo, also president of FOTA (and not above letting off a little steam in this fashion), surely hasn’t forgotten Williams’ defection which could have fatally weakened the teams’ unity.

    Yes well I think Montezemolo is indeed letting out steam from Williams treatment of FOTA during the crisis. As I mentioned above if it wasn’t for FOTA strong stance the recent concord agreement (which is pretty good I might add) would not have been possible. This reaction from Ferrari has nothing really to do with the F60 test. That is a minor issue.

    But Simply Frank Williams and his inability to work with FOTA and the teams. I would suggest for Frank to wake up and work with the teams, I am not talking about F60 test but all other matters. Failing to do so would not be good for Williams in the long run.

  11. Robert McKay
    4th August 2009, 21:08

    What exactly is it Williams have done “against” FOTA? They’ve said no to the Schumi test, which two other FOTA teams said anyway.

    And the only other thing is not siding with FOTA because they had a contract they had to honour.

    Hardly as if they’re out to fight against them, is it?

    1. Williams came up with some lame excuse why they “needed” to sign, but of course they simply wanted to. They were the biggest proponents of the budget cap the first time it came around (2007/2008).

      WilliamsF1 are probably still pretty sore that their much wanted budget cap was again thwarted by Ferrari.

      Williams is working to bring KERS back for next year. When all other teams (so far) agreed not to use it.

      Williams threatens not to stick with the summer stop again even if the other teams decide for one again.

      They simply seem to be looking for any possibility where they can take a position contrarian from the other teams yet preferably aligned with Mosley’s.

    2. because they had a contract they had to honour.

      I suspect it had more to do with the £14.5m they got from Ecclestone in January – just as you said at the time!:

      So are Williams recieving this money on the basis that they will sign the Concorde agreement in the future?

  12. Bigbadderboom
    4th August 2009, 21:43

    Although I want to see an up to speed Schu, and I think Alguersuari should also have tested (for safety reasons), we have to remember that although Fota appear to be having a bit of a love-in at the moment, F1 is an incredibly competitive sport. Williams just exercised their right. I’m not sure the FIA would have sanctioned it anyway, it would leave the future open to abuse.

    Agree with them or not….The rules is the rules! If we need to change them or challenge them, then that is the role of Fota, but you can’t turn a blind eye mid season, or expect others to bend the rules for somebody elses benefit.
    I think schui has enough class to get up to speed through Friday and Saturday morning anyway! I really hope he mixes it up :)

  13. How can Ferrari insult Williams in this way? It’s a very inappropriate way to vent frustration, especially considering the history between the pair, and who committed the ‘sins’ in the past.

    My opinion on this episode seems to differ from that of the majority of people though.

    Most probably, the reason why Williams didn’t grant them a permission hasn’t got to do with past rivalry, but more with money. Williams pushed for this rule because they knew they couldn’t benefit from mid-season testing due to being on such a tight budget. So allowing this concession would have been a blow below the belt for them, because they can’t afford it and as a reuslt, be disadvantaged.

    1. I expect that’s part of it – there’s only 14.5 points between them in the constructors’ championship, but that’s three whole positions, which could add up to a lot of money:

      3. Ferrari 40
      4. Toyota 38.5
      5. McLaren 28
      6. Williams 25.5

      1. Good observation

  14. here is how I see it:

    Williams are racing Ferrari fair and square on track this season!
    Ferrari have two reserve drivers which they chose not to use knowingly!

    if Ferrari do test with the F60 and slick tyres they will gain a huge amount of valuable data as whole (forget Schumacher for a sec) which WILL help their pace for the remainder of the season!


    its rather beack and white and i have every bit of sympathy for Sir Frank!

    Ps, for those who are bashing Williams for leaving FOTA and signing the Concord: well, Williams ONLY exists as an F1 team! they have NO other purpose (no billionaire backing or car manufacturer) so they simply could NOT risk not signing the agreement!

    1. Perhaps they missed a more constructive solution here – they could have collectively agreed to let everyone test for one day.

      1. That’s far too sensible a solution though; there’s no drama or discord involved! ;)

  15. I’m a fan of Red Bull and I am actually a bit dissapointed that they said no to letting Schumi test the car. It is not like he is going to threaten them on the track. He will only do as good as Massa but i don’t think he will out perform anything Massa did this season.
    He should have been allowed to test the car. As for Williams, they are just being grudgefull.

    1. It is not like he is going to threaten them on the track.

      I wouldn’t be so sure – Raikkonen was ahead of the Red Bulls last time out.

      1. Kimi would never admit but I think he was pushing extra hard for Massa. Plus, Vettel and Webber had a bad day on race day.
        It won’t happen again.

    2. i’d say red bull’s stance would simply be due to the parallels with the Algusuari situation rather than fear of competition. but of course i could be very wrong

    3. Ferrari could take points off Red Bull and deny them a championship or two. No small matter there.

      1. But then Red bull themselves stated that they need other teams to improve and finish ahead of Brawn too.

  16. “a lack of spirit of fair play” – a rather blinkered view when you consider their ‘fair play veto’ and their ‘fair play extra $$$’.
    Fair play is when ALL teams follow the same rules and conditions.

  17. Take any other sport, it has rules and people follow them. What is it with F1 that at the drop of a hat, rules must be tinkered with on the fly?

    Imagine a game of soccer where the rules change every year, but get bent when Man U bring on a sub. All teams get together to vote on whether to allow goals or to enforce the offside rule because the ‘sub’ is a past great. Nobody could follow it.

    Formula 1 is becoming a joke.

  18. The retrospective is priceless. The tires issue at Imola, was, in my view, the most egregious example of a team litigating their way to a championship. There was a clear case that Williams and Montoya were about to overhaul Ferrari in performance and this redesign scuppered the championships for Williams. It completely messed up the front-end aero as well as the set up theory of the Michelin runners.

    And it took a lot of gall back then to talk about the tires. At that time Ferrari were receiving bespoke tires from Bridgestone, while the other Bridgstone runners got whatever came off the truck. And Michelin was generally not as competitive.

    1. That tyre issue back in imola was caused by the FIA. Ferrari asked for a clarification, and the FIA confirmed the rule inturn telling the Michelin tyre used on the williams to be redisgned. As for Ferrari and Bridgestone the other teams were jordon and minardi. Ferrari were the only ones testing and designing. Sour grapes from williams. The other thing to note here is Ferrari were not only successful because of the tyres. They had the best driver in the world and the best car. Ruben was never close to schumi. On the od weekend he was even or quicker like austria which was unexcusable. Otherwise schumi was the best driver on the grid by a mile.

  19. I would now be glad to see the back of Ferrari and the tifosi marketing dollar. Their unnatural leverage over F1 is no longer any good for the sport or the spectacle. Montezemolo is is like an Italian soccer player … a pussy on the deck claiming a foul. Bring on hard budget caps and Ferrari’s demise.

  20. Oh shut up Ferrari. Thank you for reminding me why I hate you.

    You ask for everyone’s approval, fair play. It’s then perfectly within their rights to disagree with you. When they disagree with you, suck it up, and just hope that your seven times World Champion at driving an F1 car will somehow be able to drive an F1 car in three weeks (no… really?!)

    If you cared so much as to whether anyone would block you from testing, then why didn’t you just not bother asking, and go ahead and do it anyway? You are ‘above the sport’, remember?


    1. HounslowBusGarage
      4th August 2009, 23:28

      Ha Ha ha ha!!!
      well done.

    2. Oh shut up Ferrari. Thank you for reminding me why I hate you.


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