Montezemolo defends driver switch

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has defended his team’s decision to change the order of its drivers during yesterday’s German Grand Prix.

The stewards of the meeting fined Ferrari $100,000 for the move. The World Motor Sports Council will investigate whether the team acted improperly by giving a coded instruction to Felipe Massa telling him to let Fernando Alonso past.

Montezemolo said:

I am very happy for all our fans who finally, yesterday, saw two Ferraris lead from start to finish as they dominated the race. The result is down to the efforts of all our people, who never give up. Now we have to continue working like this, to improve the car so that is competitive at all the circuits we will encounter.

Alonso and Massa also did very well, giving their all throughout the weekend. The polemics are of no interest to me. I simply reaffirm what I have always maintained, which is that our drivers are very well aware, and it is something they have to stick to, that if one races for Ferrari, then the interests of the team come before those of the individual. In any case, these things have happened since the days of Nuvolari and I experienced it myself when I was Sporting Director, in the days of Niki Lauda and not just then?óÔéĽ?Ş

Therefore enough of this hypocrisy, even if I can well believe that some people might well have liked to see our two drivers eliminate one another, but that is definitely not the case for me or indeed for our fans.
Luca di Montezemolo

2010 German Grand Prix

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182 comments on “Montezemolo defends driver switch”

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  1. “Alonso and Massa also did very well, giving their all throughout the weekend.” – Montezemolo

    Lap 49 must of slipped his mind. Poor sap!

  2. Uh oh! When first Michael Schumacher, and now Bernie Ecclestone come out publicly defending Ferrari’s decision, you know it was immoral.,19528,12433_6280597,00.html

    1. To be fair to Bernie, he’s saying that the rule should be scrapped and not defending Ferrari’s actions.

      This is different and something many would agree with.

    2. Schumacher’s interview after the race made it seem like he found it amusing :D

      Thanks for the links btw.

      Oh, and Bernie is clearly wrong, if what Ferrari did was legal, it would still cause a lot of people to be upset and a media frenzy. (as it did in 2002)

    3. Brundle is also calling for the FIA to get rid of this rule in his BBC Blog, as well as Andrew Benson.

  3. Massa was only around 12 points (old system) behind alonso before Hockenheim. i think the new system confuses people into thinking the gap is massive.

    1. Totally.

      When you think that Kimi was 17 points behind with two races to go in 2007, it does make you feel even more sorry for Felipe.

      1. Well… Felipe was around 80 points down on the championship leader. Which is over 30 points down on the old system. With 8 races to go and 5 very competitive drivers in front of him, his chances of winning were next to none.
        Raikonnen had a chance as there were only 2 self destructive drivers in front of him in an equally competitive car.

        Do you honestly believe Felipe has a realistic chance of fighting for the WDC given his current form and championship standing???

        1. He got the betetr of Alonso (and the rest this race) Why wouldn’t he be able to do it again?

          Obviously the car is completely transformed. It’s now stable and faster than the Red bull.

          Massa is the perfect driver to put the fastest car of the field on pole and win from pole.

          With his good starts (and Red Bulls poor starts) he could even come from P3 and jump into the lead.

          Besides, I think Alonso is doing even worse on engines than Massa is.

        2. I see your point of view. Alonso has got 2 titles, so he probably is best to take the fight to the rest.

          But to me, this was a race too early to start favouring one driver over the other. The other teams now know what hand Ferrari have dealt.

  4. FIA throw the kitchen sink at ferrari NOW please….

  5. To me the most astonishing thing is Ferrari’s lack of contrition. They are not appealing the fine and so de facto are admitting that they broke the rules. But there has been not one word from anybody at Ferrari saying something like “we got it wrong and shouldn’t have done it”. Instead there have just been variations along the lines of “we are a long established team, we don’t like the rule so we will do what we want”. That lack of contrition probably more than anything is what annoys me. The rule is a poor rule, but so are lots of others and teams should not be able to pick and mix which rules they obey. If they had admitted they shouldn’t have done it then in the circumstances I would have been content with a light punishment. But because of the “we should be able to do it” attitude I hope that the FIA throw the book at them…. unfortunately I don’t think that they will.

    1. Contrition won’t do the team any good now. Accepting that what they did was wrong will perhaps give some sort of satisfaction to me and millions of other fans but it will cost Ferrari dearly.

      Accepting their fault will mean even stricter punishment by the WMSC. WMSC is not going to give them a lighter punishment just because the accused has shown remorse. Since you see, Ferrari have a history of team orders. Any remorse and admission of guilt will not be taken seriously by the WMSC or the fans.

      Mclaren were very quick in suspending the engineer who was involved in spygate and Ron Dennis himself called Max Mosley and confessed about all of Mclaren’s activities. And the team got the harshest possible punishment from the WMSC.

      Ferrari have already made a big mistake. Accepting it isn’t going to undo it. They just have to stick to whatever story they have cooked up, and pray that WMSC doesn’t disqualify them from this year’s championship.

      1. But if their defence is that they did nothing wrong, aren’t they torpedoing it by not appealing the stewards’ judgement from Hockenheim? The current position appears to be “yes we broke the rules but we didn’t do anything wrong” which the WMSC may not look kindly upon.

        1. Ferrari’s stand as I see it is, “yes, we made a mistake, and we will pay what you want us to, please don’t punish us any more”.

          That is why they have mutely accepted the stewards’ penalty.

          1. “mutely accepted the stewards’ penalty”

            Well, apart from Luca!

  6. The car should never have passed scrutineering anyway. Watch the end plates on the Ferrari’s and the Red Bull in the onboard footage. The end plates flex downwards because of the amount of wing behind them, you can see it at high speed.

    1. Have you got any footage of that? I’ve just been watching the F1 forum again and for both Ferrari and RBR they seem to flex only a very tiny amount it seems.

      Certainly nothing in comparison to McLaren in 2008 for example.

  7. Ok, so “The team comes first” Seems to be the line from ferrari. Fine.

    But as far as im concerned, the fans should come first, the fans where robbed of a proper fight between the two drivers, and robbed of a real result, without us, they would have no f1, they wouldn’t be here, there would be no money from sponsor who pay the team, to put the product on the side of the car, so the fans see it.

    And Ferrari are team who’s whole image is based on F1, a team who dont market there cars because the use F1 as a giant ad for their products, and without the fans, they wouldn’t have that. so they should try should be trying harder not to pee us all off by thinking they are the most important thing in the sport.

    Im rambling, that probably didn’t make sense, it makes sense in my head, so hey ho.

  8. Make all teams have a minimum of X amount of fuel, then they can’t run out -OR- use this “save fuel” order as part of strategy

    1. They have different engines

      1. i have been wondering this, as it would contribute to the explanation of Red Bull’s quli pace compared to race. As the Renault engine is less fuel economic than the ferrari or mercedes, they effectively need more fuel at the start of the race, and therefore their pace is relatively slower than their quali pace (i’m sure some clever fuel-corrected calculations can support this) than the slightly lighter fuelled McLaren’s for example who are slower in quali, but then even out at the start of the race and are often able to keep pace to the front even tho in quali were 0.7s per lap slower.

        i have also wondered why more teams don’t go for hard tires to begin with. As it seems that a long stint on heavy fuel with long lasting tyres then a dash to the end on super-softs would be the fastest way to the end?? obviously losing a few spots on the grid to pay for it, but able to leapfrog all the front runners at the two thirds distance when they swap to the softs? what do you lot think about that?


    Jerez 1997: McLaren order David Coulthard to let Mika Hakkinen past to win
    Australia 1998: McLaren order Coulthard to let Hakkinen past to win
    Belgium 1998: Jordan order Ralf Schumacher not to race Damon Hill for the lead
    Austria 2002: Ferrari order Rubens Barrichello to let Michael Schumacher past to win
    Monaco 2007: McLaren order Lewis Hamilton not to challenge Fernando Alonso for the race win
    Brazil 2007: Ferrari manipulate Felipe Massa’s pit stop to put Kimi Raikkonen into the lead so he can win the world title
    Germany 2008: Heikki Kovalainen lets McLaren team-mate Hamilton through so he can win the race following an error in team tactics
    Singapore 2008: Renault order Nelson Piquet to crash to cause a safety car period that helps Alonso win
    China 2008: Raikkonen hands Massa second place behind Hamilton so he is in a better championship position heading into the final race

    once again, i am astounded by the hypocrisy displayed by casual fans. “my guy is squeaky clean, your guy is as dirty as it gets.” pathetic.

    even if we set aside the ethical issue and focus on legalities, the bbc list post-2002 shows a score of:
    ferrari: 2
    mclaren: 2
    renault: 1

    of course, the popular english-speaking opinion is that mclaren and hamilton can do no wrong, and always the victim of evil conspiracies. hamilton chops another driver, or runs him clean off the road, and he’s “brilliant” but when schumacher did it he’s a menace. time and time again, the team has been found guilty of lying, cheating and stealing. where was your moral outrage then?

    1. If Kovalainen at Germany is on that then why not Heidfeld at Montreal the same year? Or Toyota’s attempt to switch their drivers around in 2006? And shouldn’t we count McLaren telling Hamilton to let Alonso past at the start of qualifying in Hungary in 2007? And… and… and…

      But even if that list were complete I don’t think that since article 39.1 was written we’ve had a situation like yesterday’s. That was, to all intents and purposes, Austria 2002 all over again. Team mates on the same strategy, both in contention for the world championship being told to swap positions.

      So I don’t agree with you when you say the reaction is pure “hypocrisy”. I think Ferrari have pushed the interpretation of the team orders rule further than anyone else has up to this point – and they may be about to get their fingers burnt because of it.

      That’s my point of view at the moment. I’ll do more on that in article after I’ve had chance to think it through fully.

      hamilton chops another driver, or runs him clean off the road, and he’s “brilliant” but when schumacher did it he’s a menace

      The way I see it, Schumacher pushed the boundaries of acceptable driving standards further than what had been seen before, in some respects at least (e.g., he obviously didn’t invent ramming your championship rival to win the title).

      Once he did certain things and got away with them, his rivals and their rivals had no choice but to copy him. They’d be fools not to, otherwise they’re just giving the opposition an easy means of beating them.

      It’s clearly wrong to suggest that only Lewis Hamilton has adopted Schumacher’s tactics as his own. Fernando Alonso, Robert Kubica, Felipe Massa… – we’ve seen them all chop other drivers and push them off the track. I don’t like it now any more than I did 15 years ago but these are the standards of driving the FIA is happy to tolerate.

      1. thanks for taking the time to reply. i hope the site is doing well with these spikes in interest.

        as for dirty driving, all i wish to add is “1989, japan, turn 1.”

        now that i’ve had a day to digest yesterday’s incident, my opinion is there’s a method to ferrari’s recent madness.

        i think ferrari wanted a change in how race control and stewards manage the race, and by taking the alonso/kubica incident to it’s maximum, they got that change. by the way, the sport is better with the 90 second timer on such decisions.

        similarly, i think ferrari wanted transparent team orders in the sport. i also think the sport is better for it, since subterfuge cannot add integrity. since the rule is obviously un-workable, i’ll eat my hat if team orders are banned in 2011.

        to that end, ferrari was prepared to take the brunt of the backlash to get the changes they wanted, while maximizing the chances of one of their drivers winning the title. alonso and massa will go unpunished, and ferrari are willing to throw away anything less than 1st place in the constructor’s championship.

        1. What a load of rubbish!

          “i think ferrari wanted transparent team orders in the sport.”
          No, The only reason we know about this, is because Smedley and Massa didn’t like it, and made it so obvious, If it had happened how Stefano had wanted, we would never have known.

          “to that end, ferrari was prepared to take the brunt of the backlash to get the changes they wanted”
          Then Luca would have openly said that he was against the rule, in fact, so would have Stefano, considering he was probably behind the decision.

      2. Plus you have the opposite happening as well, where drivers deliberately drive off the track to gain an advantage. Kimi at Spa et al.

  10. ferrari haven’t broken a rule technically speaking just the spirit of the rule. They haven’t gained points and it is up to them on the order their drivers finish. In valencia hamilton overtook a safety car, broke a rule, beat rivals by doing it. This was unsafe, far worse and if any points are taken he should lose all points from valencia.

    1. Ferrari have very definitely broken rule 35.1, and have as much as admitted this by not appealing the judgement of the Hockenheim stewards that this was the case.

    2. Hamilton passed the safety car ‘just’ after the line.. it was pretty much touch and go and hard to say whether he did it deliberately or not… perhaps he did, I don’t think its clear cut though. He got penalised, but Ferrari were just unlucky at Valencia. It happens sometimes.

      This is different. Ferrari take the public and the stewards for fools by saying it was Massa’s decision alone to move aside. It’s that refusal to admit they did wrong that gets people.. something Hamilton admitted to at Melbourne 2009.

    3. From what the Stewards ruled, they broke 2 rules. The team order rule was obviously infringed. The team instructed Massa to let his team mate pass him (asked for confirmation of order understood). It may be a case for the judge to decide how hard the evidence is when Massa, Smedley and the team stay with their line, that it was a voluntary desicion by the driver.
      The other rule Ferrari evidently broke (look at the bad press everywhere from Italy to Britain to the whole wide world) is bringing the sport in disrepute. That one is very easy to prove and to penalize with watever penalty the FIA feels fit the crime.
      Last time they got 1 million and TO were not even illegal as such, so Ferrari might be into a lot heaverier fine as well as possible suspended race bans and points losses.

  11. In defence of Luca, there is nothing else he can say now, is there? The mistake was made on Sunday, if Luca were to expect the mistake on Monday, that would only be compounding on their original mistake.

    Do you not realize why the stewards were able to penalize Ferrari? It wasn’t because of the team orders. The team orders were coded instructions and hence Ferrari & Massa are not lying when they say it was Massa’s decision alone. What caused trouble for Ferrari was Smedley’s apology. He said “Sorry” to Felipe which allowed the stewards to point out that this is indeed a case of team orders.

    It was this apology which allowed stewards to interfere in the matter!! If Luca were to say sorry, and show contrition, he is only inviting the full wrath of the WMSC.

    Just rewind back to 2007 and see what happened with Mclaren.

    Mclaren were very quick in suspending the engineer who was involved in spygate and Ron Dennis himself called Max Mosley and confessed about all of Mclaren’s activities. And the team got the harshest possible punishment from the WMSC.

    Ferrari have already made a big mistake. Accepting it isn’t going to undo it. They just have to stick to whatever story they have cooked up, and pray that WMSC doesn’t disqualify them from this year’s championship.

    1. Disagree. Smedley asked Massa to confirm if the latter understood the transmission “Fernando is faster than you”. Since we can reasonable assume that Massa is capable of understanding the actual words, given that his English is fine most of the time, it can be assumed they had another meaning.

      Given what happened subsequently the balance of probabilities would lie in favour of it being team orders.

    2. Looking back at my Tweets from yesterday I see that before Smedley had said “sorry” I’d said “Is that code” and “If Massa lets Alonso past here there’s going to be a right old row.” There were a lot of similar remarks flyign around at the time. I think it was pretty obvious before then what was coming.

      1. Jonathon Legard said (I know most of you mute him, so…) after Smedley’s can you confirm you understand that? “I think we understand that!”

        1. That’s actually a really good benchmark: if even Legard can understand the hidden meaning, then there’s a hidden meaning.

          1. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

      2. I see your point. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out what the coded instruction means.

        But when one talks about article 39.1, one isn’t dealing with a person of reasonable intellect. One is only looking for plausible evidence which directly violates the wording of the rule.

        Smedley’s “Fernando is faster than you” (however obvious it might be to each and everyone of us) does not violate 39.1. But his apology “sorry” after the ‘overtake’ clearly violates the rules. Without the apology, Ferrari would only have broken the spirit of the rules, not the rules per se. But thanks to the “sorry”, they did break 39.1 and got the penalty.

        1. “Do you understand?” is pretty much an idication that Smedley did not just mean that “Alonso was faster” (which he really wasn’t anyway)

          Also, again, the remark from Smedley that they could “still” win the race when Massa was comfortably ahead of Vettel. All of a sudden he started doing fastest laps like a bat out of hell.

          Obviously there was reason for that sudden and (in a normal situation) unneeded urgency.

  12. the rule is only broken if they directly told massa to move. They didn’t, the only communication was alonso is faster than you. Massa moved over of his own accord. We know this is not true but cannot be proved. Only the spirit of the rule has been broken but this happens on a technical side all the time.

    1. That is why the steward brought in the “bringing the sport into disrepute” rule as it is easy to prove and very open in the scope of penalies given.

  13. team sport. If the drivers title is above all then when new parts are brought to a gp then both must have them if not both should use old parts. RB used team orders during the front wing debacle. I don’t care which ferrari wins but want to win both titles so give the advantage to the driver most likley to win even if bin laden was in a ferrari.

  14. sorry can be argued to mean sorry i didn’t help set the car up so you were faster than alonso. We know what it meant but cannot be proven. To break the rule it would have to have been along the lines of sorry for making you move over. Sorry on it’s own can mean anything, no rule broken

  15. This team order thing is so unfair to the fans. Just think of all of those who placed bets on the race in favour of Massa. They lost out and ferrari are to blame as they are so arogant as to think that the fans dont matter. bad form ferrari, bad form!!!!!

    1. I think if you’re going to bet on F1, you should know in advance that there is a chance of Ferrari doing this. There’s no skill in betting if you don’t do your research.

    2. Whoever betted for a Ferrari 1-2 with Massa in front can only blame him/herself for losing the money.
      Remember, that after the first 2-3 laps Brundle already discussed how the wrong car is in front and it will be interesting to see how Ferrari change positions.
      Who not expected that does not understand the sport enough to place bets with a calculated risk.

  16. The corruption is in the F1 establishment; they enforce the rules with a blink and a nod in one case, a wrist slap in the next, and massive retaliation in the next. Utterly arbitrary. The one commonality is a general bias toward Ferrari. You’ll never find one of those red things in my garage!

    1. nor in most of our garages, i don’t know anyone personally who can shell out ÂŁ100,000 on a car when the saloon on their driveway cost them less than a fifth of that!!

  17. Is instructing one driver not to attack his teammate as illegal as instructing somebody to allow a teammate past? A quick dictionary brush-up on the semantics of the word “interfere” (as found in the FIA team orders rule) seems to suggest that both are equally out-of-order.

    Yet personally, telling teammates to hold station at the end of a race constitutes sensible team tactics, with the teammate who’s leading at least earning their place at the top of the order.

    Whereas this place-swapping business seems a much more insidious affair; for me it shows a team directly altering what’s currently the order of their cars on-track by way of coercion. The tactical usage of pitstops to change track position (ie, bringing in the lead car a few laps earlier back in the days of refueling), or the aforementioned “do not overtake” situation seems to me to be more acceptable even though they are equally illegal.

    It is a strange way of viewing it though as they are both technically to the detriment of the F1 spectacle. Eddie Jordan was remarking post-race about how Ferrari had stolen a potential duel from the viewers and racegoers, but every time a team tells its drivers to hold station, the same theft takes place.

    I think it’s as though the notion of “team orders” isn’t half as bad as the overt nature in which they are carried out. That artificiality can be stomached in small amounts as long as it is imperceptible enough.

    It’s an interesting argument and i’ve enjoyed reading all the views on here over the last few days. I’ve been watching F1 since the mid-90’s as a kid, so i like to think i’m more than a casual viewer. Although the short-term nature of my F1 memory see me unwilling to participate in these combustable issues the majority of the time.

    Due to growing up with the seemingly neverending Ferrari dominance of the early 21st century, i don’t care much for the team. The arrogance that the team and Alonso continue to exude isn’t doing anything to change my personal view towards them, but this entire issue isn’t as clear-cut as it first appears.

    1. “Is instructing one driver not to attack his teammate as illegal as instructing somebody to allow a teammate past?”

      It must be the same thing as you mention, there is certainly some interference by not allowing a driver to attack. McLaren did this at Monaco 2007 (although people seem to be citing the Kova examples, there is no radio message I know of for this one) and should have been penalised then… but they weren’t.

      There is one simple way out of this, that is to allow team orders and remember that F1 is also a team sport (there is a constructors championship I believe!), and let them decide whether to have a number 1 driver or not. We have to remember that this regulation was brought in completely different times, when there was only one quick car and one of the drivers had a contract that said he couldn’t win.

    2. “Is instructing one driver not to attack his teammate as illegal as instructing somebody to allow a teammate past?”

      No, see as I mentioned in a previous comment, see the FIA press release from Monaco 07, ‘hold station’ is not a contravention of 39.1.

  18. It only seems so much dirtier because it’s Ferrari, they’re both well out in front, and it robs Massa of what would have been a highly popular victory. It happens in code up and down the paddock, you know. Doesn’t make it any less bitter to watch, but don’t bring the old Alonso vs Hamilton debate into it.

    I know many of you are staunch British fans, and likely detest Fernando to the sole of his shoes, but this is Domenicali territory. You don’t think all drivers voice their displeasure when a slower teammate is in front? How about Button and Barrichello last year? Alonso can whine on the radio all he wants, but that’s because he knows he needs wins to get his championship back – he would have accepted second place, no qualms whatsoever, and been happy to know that with Ferrari’s renewed pace, he was back in contention.

    With all my heart, I want Webber to win the WDC. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Fernando take his third, to give some of the more one-eyed McLaren fans here – who label Teflonso a whinger at every opportunity – something else to cry about.

    1. Just because someone’s British (as slightly under one-third of this site’s readership is) doesn’t mean they automatically dislike Alonso. One thing I’ve been struck by since this happened is the number of people saying they used to like him, but after things like this and Singapore, they’ve gone off him. And that’s not so hard to understand, is it?

      1. True that, he was the new plucky pretender challenging Schumachers dominance back in 2005 (-ish)and i supported him wholeheartedly to begin with.

        But his particular interpretation of “hotblooded latin” started to grate after a while – with his frequent in-cockpit gesticulations whenever anybody put up a fight being particularly irritating.

        He’s too good a driver to be continually trying to get assistance from all quarters, and it results in him appearing to think he’s better than everyone else.

        And like Keith mentions, unsavoury events seems to follow him about. Much like Hamilton actually, and i don’t really like him either.

        1. I was very much a Alonso supporter in 2004-2006 and through 2007 (sure the way he went along it at McLaren was not very good, but Hamilton did his own part as well). After Singapore it was hard to really feel good about him.
          I was happy when Alonso commented on making a lot of mistakes and realising that now when looking back to 2007 at the start of the year (Hamilton did the same). And i was starting to like Ferrari for their drive to compete. Now it has gone back to feeling bad about this way to win at all cost from both Ferrari and its driver(s).

          As in the Docvee blog posted above, Massa could just have ignored it and faced the concequences afterwards, like Webber did in Turkey.

      2. I understand that, but, there’s no such thing as a perfect racing driver when it comes to desirable personality traits. However, it seems on this site that anything the Spaniard does is met with derision and contempt, while equally Hamilton is portrayed as a Saint who can do no wrong. I would assume this is largely because of McLaren’s 2007 season. It’s a shame, because I love this site and your articles Keith, but I know I don’t speak alone when I say some of us non-Brits get a bit sick of it. I mean, what was Alonso supposed to do, slow down and refuse to overtake Massa?

        1. Alonso and Hamilton, no matter what situation they are found in, are always going to be the two drivers which most people either love or despise. Some people see Alonsos heated team radios as showing human emotion and showing how much he wants to win, others see it as moaning. Same with Hamilton. Plus they’re both very successful and with success brings the love and hate.
          I wouldn’t say Hamilton is always portrayed as a Saint though… not anywhere. His haters always come out given half a chance – some british, some not.
          Alonso overtook Massa since he slowed (because Massa was asked). To me neither should have done it and had more of a backbone but Ferrari issued the order and so should be duly punished. I agree though, if Alonso knew nothing then yes, what else was he supposed to do? I don’t think Alonsos complaints were asking for a team order, but I can’t prove that any more than anyone else can disprove it and it still seemed odd he said them just before the incident. And as well when he asked if Felipe was okay when they’d finished. Nice comment but strange. Maybe he was just being his usual flamboyant self though.

  19. NOW that ferrari are openly defending their anointed choozen number one driver ALONZO…expect the other F1 drivers to focus on him intensively….
    I dont think he will win the champioship this year
    as everyone will go all out to race him

  20. Looks like Luca and Dietrich went to the same Management School !

    1. But Mateschitz actually stepped in and corrected his right hand man Marko.
      He clearly stated that as a team owner he wants both drivers to fight it out between them on track come what may.

      It seems Mateschitz understands Brandimage, and sporting emotions require the team to make it a fair fight even if that means losing out on the title in the end.

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