Alonso moves forward as Massa takes penalty

2012 United States Grand Prix

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Circuit of the Americas, 2012Fernando Alonso will start from seventh on the grid for the United States Grand Prix after Ferrari decided to change the gearbox on Felipe Massa’s car.

Massa will take a five-place penalty for changing the gearbox, dropping him from sixth on the grid to eleventh. Alonso in turn will move up from eighth to seventh.

Significantly, both will now start from the clean side of the track, which is expected to confer a significant advantage over those starting off-line.

Ferrari issued the following statement: “We’ve decided to accept the penalty normally associated with the gearbox change on Felipe?s car which means that he?ll get a five-place grid penalty.

“The reason for this was for strategy considerations, with the objective of maximising 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.”

The FIA confirmed Ferrari “broke one seal on the gearbox of car number six, driver Felipe Massa. The seal was applied on the [right-hand side] cross shaft cover.”

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2012 United States Grand Prix

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161 comments on Alonso moves forward as Massa takes penalty

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  1. Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 18th November 2012, 17:05

    Desperate times…

    Certainly the right decision though. Seems to be a huge difference between the two sides of the grid.

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 18th November 2012, 17:15

      @red-andy even if the motive is valid as the dity side of the grid is really bad, it’s a hideous move.

      • PJ (@pjtierney) said on 18th November 2012, 17:21

        I see no reason why this is a “hideous move”. Ferrari are competing to win the Drivers’ Championship, and are giving Alonso every legal aid/advantage possible to do just that.

        Ferrari are simply Playing to Win.

        • crr917 (@crr917) said on 18th November 2012, 17:23

          What if the rest of the field start playing to win? How many grid alterations in the last minute are acceptable? :D

          • PJ (@pjtierney) said on 18th November 2012, 17:26

            The rest of the field isn’t fighting for the championship, though if Red Bull were to do the same to Webber (no point, he’s already ahead and can hold up Alonso anyway) it’d be perfectly legal (and funny to see).

            Also shows up how much of a joke the gearbox rule is anyways. Give them X amount of gearboxes (6 possibly) that they can use throughout the season, like they can with engines.

      • iBlaze (@) said on 18th November 2012, 17:25

        I think it’s a pretty smart move. Hypothetically speaking, if the cars on the dirty side of that part of the grid lose two places and the cars on the clean side gain two, then before the gearbox change the two Ferrari’s would be running 8th and 10th after lap 1. Now they’d be running 5th and 9th. Alonso the big gainer of course and crucially ahead, whilst Massa doesn’t lose out too much from where he would have been either.

        Although I can understand why this move will upset some people…

      • It’s entirely within the rules – and it’s entirely within F1’s sporting traditions, such as they are.
        Every team (and particularly Ferrari’s competition for the championship this season) attempts to push the rules as far as they are able.
        As for team mates helping each other, even the great Fangio won championships by ‘borrowing’ the other car half way through the race.

        And no, this is not the same thing as deliberately crashing. Not even close.

        • Tricky (@tricky) said on 22nd November 2012, 20:07

          I don’t agree that it is within the rules or sporting traditions.

          McLaren were found guilty in 2007 of compromising one of its cars. The stewards decision was:
          “The actions of the team in the final minutes of Qualifying are considered prejudicial to the interests of the competition and to the interests of motor sport generally. The penalty to be applied is that such points (if any) in the 2007 Formula One Constructors Championship as accrue to the team as a result of their participation in the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix wilt be withdrawn.”

          No reference was ever made in the report to “team orders – so I really don’t understand why Ferarri have been allowed to do it this time. The only difference is Massa’s consent.

    • the_sigman (@sigman1998) said on 18th November 2012, 17:45

      The difference is 4-5 position if the even side of the grid gains 2 places.

    • mateuss (@mateuss) said on 18th November 2012, 17:56

      Part of me was hoping they do do it, so maybe the silly rule is changed.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 18th November 2012, 21:58

      At least they were honest about it.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th November 2012, 22:47

        @hohum Have our expectations really fallen so low that we now praise people for not lying?

        I don’t give out points for not attempting to cover up the undeniable.

        • HoHum (@hohum) said on 18th November 2012, 23:05

          keithcollantine, it’s sad but true.

        • M Dickens (@sgt-pepper) said on 30th December 2012, 19:50

          @keithcollantine Good point, I think we’ve become very accustomed to teams operating (arguable) team orders in the shadows, particularly while team orders were banned (a la Ferrari’s denial in Germany 2010).

          The only thing I wonder is if Massa has truly managed to get some pace back, and there’s a similar situation in 2013 with Massa fighting of the championship (I know unlikely, but theoretically possible), would they do they same thing? Are they pragmatic, or is Alonso’s No.1 status written indelibaly in stone?

    • Jarv F150 (@jarvf150) said on 19th November 2012, 8:27

      The FIA should just let the driver/team pick the grid positions they want; fastest driver obviously getting first pick.

  2. HoolyF1 (@hoolyf1) said on 18th November 2012, 17:06

    Cue conspiracy theories about Ferrari orchestrating this to help Alonso

    • necrodethmortem (@necrodethmortem) said on 18th November 2012, 17:19

      It’s not a conspiracy theory. Apparently they didn’t even bother to actually change the gearbox, they simply broke the seal.

      • HoolyF1 (@hoolyf1) said on 18th November 2012, 17:37

        Ye I see that now. It wasn’t entirely obvious earlier but at least there wont be any sort of controversy if Ferrari just blatantly do it

    • the_sigman (@sigman1998) said on 18th November 2012, 17:46

      Every single team would do this.

      • HoolyF1 (@hoolyf1) said on 18th November 2012, 17:50

        Exactly. I’m a Ferrari fan and I actually do like Massa a lot. But he’s got to take on for the team

        • OEL F1 (@oel-f1) said on 18th November 2012, 17:53


        • Jonny C (@loomx92) said on 18th November 2012, 17:59

          Yes… I can agree with taking one for the team. But how many times has he taken one for the team now? Even back to ’07 giving up a home victory for your team mate (once again for the championship).

          I know it’s the sensible thing to do being Ferrari, but my heart just breaks for Felipe having to do it over and over again.

          • LoreMipsumdOtmElor said on 18th November 2012, 18:21

            One per year seems alright to me, considering he put himself in the position where he has no chance of winning the title. MSC/BAR is another story though, as he had to give up wins even though the championship was wide open at those points.

  3. deanmachine (@deanmachine) said on 18th November 2012, 17:07


    • dam00r (@dam00r) said on 18th November 2012, 17:10

      I agree! Absolute genius move.

    • Alex (@alexde) said on 18th November 2012, 17:21

      Yes, genius, like a well-planned crash to bring in safety car.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 18th November 2012, 17:25

        @alexde I have to admit that’s what I was reminded of when I first heard the rumours.

        • Jayfreese (@) said on 18th November 2012, 17:52

          Sabotage?! I’m not, but it is not good to be a Massa’s fan these days, even when he sweats hard to qualify in front of his team-mate. Sad for him and brazilians.

        • Really horrid example considering organising a crash is not considered legal as it is like match fixing plus asking a driver to put his well-being on the line is also not allowed.

          The closest thing you can compare this to would be team orders where one driver lets his team mate past, which also happens to be legal.

        • @keithcollantine – Dont know whats the fuss is about. Its just a loop hole in sporting regulation which Ferrari made use of. Now how is it different from Redbull finding a loop hole in Tech Regulations and making use of it? If what Ferrari did today is called as not in spirit then i would name double diffuser,DDRS,Blown Exhaust as also in same category

        • astonished (@astonished) said on 18th November 2012, 18:19

          Flexibility is pretty latin, but people in Emilia Romagna (where MAranello is) and Lombardia (where Monza is) are proud of their celtic heritage. And I guess planning skills

          They might have decided to let Felipe ahead of Fernando to have the option to choose sides by using the gearbox rule.

          People where discussing yesterday that there was NO way to choose sides…. Well there is one.

          You can revisit the Spanish TV interview to FA after qualifying…..

          “F, is there any specific reason for qualifying worse thatn Felipe?”

          “Yeee, no, no just he did better”

        • Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 18th November 2012, 18:31

          This is not the right example fixing a crash is illegal whereas changing a gearbox is permitted and it cost 5 place penalty ,
          There is two reason behind this decision:
          1)getting Fernando ahead of massa ASAP(team order )
          2)getting the two Ferrari on the clean side of the grid which is an advantage in this case
          i don’t know why it is always dramatic when it comes to Ferrari ,In the last GP Red Bull decided to start Vettel from the pit lane to make some set up changes to his car (it is legal according to the regulation) & no one mentioned the conspiracy theory

          • John H (@john-h) said on 18th November 2012, 18:36

            Completely agree with this. It’s a clever move by Ferrari and nothing more IMO. I like the fact they have been honest about it at least, instead of parking the (Red Bull) car on the last lap due to ‘a problem’.

          • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 18th November 2012, 22:11

            It wasn’t a conspiracy, because it didn’t affect Webbers race at all really, whereas Massa could have potentially been on the podium with all the pace he had today.

        • JerseyF1 (@jerseyf1) said on 19th November 2012, 0:14

          @alexde @keithcollantine

          It reminds me more of the Olympic badminton, in which two teams played badly intentionally to try to get a better route to the final.

          Would the stewards have had scope to not hand out any grid drop penalty in the knowledge that the seal was broken intentionally or was the penalty automatic without scope for the stewards to not apply it?

          From Ferrari’s point of view I can understand why they did it and I guess it’s one of the quirks of the rules even if it isn’t within sporting spirit. I do wonder, however, how much more explosive it would have been if Red Bull had done it, given the comments when they started Vettel from the pit-lane in Abu Dhabi and made changes to the car!

      • Dion (@infinitygc) said on 18th November 2012, 17:26


      • + 400

      • OEL F1 (@oel-f1) said on 18th November 2012, 17:41

        Got me thinking why Crashgate was illegal in the first place, do the rules state that you’re not allowed to crash on purpose?

        • Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 18th November 2012, 17:45

          If I remember rightly Renault and Piquet were hauled up under Article 151c, which covers “bringing the sport into disrepute.” Pretty much a catch-all regulation for doing something the FIA takes a dim view of (it’s what McLaren were charged under for Spygate, among other things).

          • Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 18th November 2012, 17:50

            Actually, it was just Renault who were hauled up, given that Piquet was (entirely wrongly) absolved of responsibility for his actions because he went to the FIA about it twelve months after the fact.

          • OEL F1 (@oel-f1) said on 18th November 2012, 17:50

            Ok I suppose that makes sence

        • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 18th November 2012, 17:46

          The thinking was purposely endangering marshals lives I believe, and the intention of race-fixing, which I think is against the rules, or at least ‘brings the sport into disrepute’

          • John H (@john-h) said on 18th November 2012, 18:38

            The thinking was purposely endangering marshals lives I believe

            Not forgetting shards of carbon fibre flying into the grandstand.

        • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 18th November 2012, 17:54

          Who’s to say that if Ferrari cannot produce evidence that Massa’s gearbox was indeed faulty in some way the stewards take a dim view and consider it an action that could bring the sport into disrepute?
          Personally I like the tactic but there’s a risk it could backfire…

      • Snafu (@snafu) said on 18th November 2012, 17:54


    • dot_com (@dot_com) said on 18th November 2012, 17:56

      Very clever move. But I can’t help feeling like Ferrari are always a little shady in the way they handle their team orders. They never just come out and say what they’re really doing, they attempt to hide behind some bs excuse that no-one believes. Great move though – they need everything they can against the red bull.

  4. Anonymouse said on 18th November 2012, 17:08

    First time he out qualifies team mate for real and he is forced to start behind him

  5. MNM101 (@mnm101) said on 18th November 2012, 17:08

    what conspiracy theories ? it’s obvious what their doing, and not surprising

  6. Does anyone know how often this has been done solely to improve grid position in the past?

  7. Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 18th November 2012, 17:08

    Now Red Bull to make Webber start from the pitlane and move Alonso back to the dirty side. :D

  8. That’s just ridiculous. I really want to hear their official excuse.

  9. Luis Barros said on 18th November 2012, 17:09

    Ridiculous Ferrari. It amazes me how they always find a way not to respect the sports rules. Ferrari disgusts me

    • DaveF1 (@davef1) said on 18th November 2012, 17:16

      lol. Red Bull and McLaren have disrespected the rules many a times but I bet it was one of those teams you’d be cool with it, right? Maybe you should watch bowls, everyone is friendly there and no one breaks the sporting rules.

      • necrodethmortem (@necrodethmortem) said on 18th November 2012, 17:29

        No, I dislike any team that does such things equally. I do like the intrigue it brings though, it’s a big part of why I love F1. Quite hypocritical of me, I know, but oh well.

    • PJ (@pjtierney) said on 18th November 2012, 17:23

      There’s nothing about this that’s against the rules (unless there’s something in the rulebook about hindering one team member in order to assist the other).

    • Bob (@bobthevulcan) said on 18th November 2012, 17:44

      The move is within the rules, and I can understand why they’re going out of their way to gain an advantage – Alonso’s WDC and Ferrari’s WCC 2nd place are both at stake – but I do agree that it leaves a bad taste in the mouth (still, I am in no mood to debate the “spirit of the rules”, a phrase which has already become a point of contention on the forums).

      • foleyger (@foleyger) said on 18th November 2012, 18:34

        I don’t know how anyone supports Ferrari. They always bend the rules and rarely get punished. Austria 02, Hockenheim 10, this, Monaco 06. They also broke the curfew in India.

        • They are not bending any rules. They are following the rules perfectly.

          Want to blame someone? Blame the guys who wrote the rules.

        • RamboII said on 19th November 2012, 0:35

          They got punished in Monaco 06. They didn’t break any rules in 02, the rules got changed after that and they didn’t break any rules now.

  10. I truly hope there is some *real* reason to change the gearbox and it is not just a trick to move Alonso one place ahead and to the clean side.
    If this is the case it would be shameful and will lose any remaining respect for Fernando.

  11. Very wise, very unfair.
    I wonder if they asked Massa if he was ok with the strategy before deciding.

    • Commendatore (@commendatore) said on 18th November 2012, 17:26

      Ferrari is just following Lotus’ example! Check the original quali position of Grosjean! :)
      But it’s always easier to spit at Ferrari… as they are the oldest and most succesful team in F1, so nothing surprising for me.

    • Its not unfair… everyone behind Massa moves up a spot and it does not affect those ahead. How is it unfair?

      • It is unfair as Massa gets to start 5 positions behind where he qualified despite doing everything correctly and not having his gearbox broken.

        • @fixy Massa’s job as an employee is to do what management decides is best for the team. Considering how the race finished, it definitely was best thing to do from the teams perspective. Massa put himself in this position by failing to keep ahead of Alonso in the points.

          • @infy It is unfair. Whether he supported the decision or not is irrelevant. Ferrari altered a result pretty much like Renault in Singapore 2008, at least not putting other people in danger. Whether it was useful or not is another matter, and it was in the end, but with hindsight it’s easy to say so. Yesterday the choice left many questions: what if Massa, who started in the midfield, was caught in a crash? Ferrari could’ve lost 2nd place in the teams’ standings to McLaren.

      • joebloggs said on 19th November 2012, 17:38

        @infi – it’s unfair because it penalizes several other drivers who have nothing to do with Ferrari. Several drivers behind Massa who were on the clean side were moved to the dirty side, which totally screwed their chance of a good start.

  12. MNM101 (@mnm101) said on 18th November 2012, 17:11

    are teams allowed to inspect their cars when under parc ferme conditions ?

  13. As they’re not cheating, I don’t really have a problem with this. From a sporting point of view this is not right, but sometimes you’ve got to do, what you’ve got to do. I’ve never been big on this kind of sportsmanship myself. I don’t see how this is any worse than time wasting in football (legal time wasting that is).

    • Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 18th November 2012, 17:16

      Agree. Red Bull have never been too concerned about the “spirit of the rules” with their flexing bits that somehow pass the load tests (also legal, btw), so I don’t see why we should bother with it now.

      Loopholes are there to be exploited in an environment like F1. Come next year I’m sure this will be illegal, but for now it’s absolutely fine.

      • Isn’t that the thing though? Folks jump on RB for breaking the “spirit of the rules” when in fact all the teams do it, just that RBR does it better, usually. How many people jumped all over McLaren in 2010 for their F-duct? That hugely broke the spirit of the rules. Oh wait, it’s Mclaren, it’s okay…

    • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 18th November 2012, 17:34

      But this is different; this is deliberately hindering someone elses race to aid anothers for no apparent reason; as far as anyone knows, there isn’t anything wrong with Massas gearbox, so there is no actual reason to change it, other than to help Alonso.

  14. Alfie (@alfie) said on 18th November 2012, 17:13

    Haha, it’s not unfair, it’s a good tactic..

  15. It’s brilliant, but it’s also very very cheesy.

    Though this does show how brilliant Fernando has been this season. The race hasn’t even started and Alonso has already gained 2 positions! Greatest driver of our generation :)

    (boy, so many people talk about how unfair RB was to pit Webber to make it easier for Vettel to pass, and here’s Ferrari doing much worse to Massa lol)

  16. Daniel Thomas (@iamdanthomas) said on 18th November 2012, 17:14

    It’s no more ridiculous than team orders, but is exactly what LDM means when he talks about having ‘one rooster’ in a team. Why is anyone surprised? It makes perfect sense for them to do this.

    They’re not disrespecting the rules or being sneaky – they’re losing five places and gaining one. It’s a matter of priorities.

    It also illustrates how little Ferrari care about the WCC, as they are willing to surrender 2nd place to McLaren to give Alonso a better shot at the WDC.

    • Kremer (@kremer) said on 18th November 2012, 17:21

      It also illustrates how little Ferrari care about the WCC, as they are willing to surrender 2nd place to McLaren to give Alonso a better shot at the WDC.

      Exactly my reaction. Sacrificing everything for WDC.

      • DaveF1 (@davef1) said on 18th November 2012, 17:25

        Don’t Ferrari get extra money regardless of where they finish in he WCC? Red Bull already have it in the bag so they won’t get first. In terms of the prize money, I doubt there is little difference for Ferrari whether they finish 2nd or 3rd.

        • PJ (@pjtierney) said on 18th November 2012, 17:30

          Ferrari also get a bonus on top of the Constructor position. (either 17% of something or £17 million, I can’t remember which but I read it somewhere).

          • JerseyF1 (@jerseyf1) said on 19th November 2012, 0:26

            Ferrari do get a bonus, but since this is regardless of finishing position (I think) the actual difference between 2nd or 3rd is the same size regardless of this fact so Ferrari are no less financially motivated than without the bonus.

    • Andrei (@andrei) said on 18th November 2012, 17:29

      they’re losing five places

      Or not. Massa is a great starter and they know it. ;)
      Anyway, in words of Professor M: “Oh no, it’s happened again…”. Poor Felipe.

  17. StefMeister (@stefmeister) said on 18th November 2012, 17:17

    May not be the most popular thing to do but its the logical thing to do.

    Everyone is expecting the left side of the grid to be really low grip & for everyone starting on that side to go backwards. Ferrari need Alonso to move forward at the start so they need him on the clean side.

    If I were running Ferrari I’d have likely done the same.

  18. wonder if they will find ,front wing tips flexing at high speed? RBR sure know how to play the rule book….the leading edge rolls over on hard braking …

  19. Polishboy808 (@polishboy808) said on 18th November 2012, 17:20

    Is anyone surprised? Great strategy by Ferrari, a little unfair though. At least this means that theres a shot at this championship still being close going into Brazil, whereas if Alonso started on the dirty side it would probably be over. This is great for those that want a close championship, and awful for those wanting a Vettel championship.

    • JerseyF1 (@jerseyf1) said on 19th November 2012, 0:28

      What about those just wanting a fair championship?

      • marenostrum said on 19th November 2012, 2:37

        No worries, just tell Redbull to stop cheating and to stop inhibiting Mark Webber’s progress to aid Sebastian’s, and we’ll all have a fair championship. How does that grab you?

  20. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 18th November 2012, 17:22

    Because of such dirty games, that Ferrari are playing, they don’t win championships anymore.

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