I do not like Ferrari.
First of all, it’s important for me to say that I understand that there are a lot of passionate Ferrari fans who make up this community and I have great respect for all of them. However, I’ve been criticised by some people recently for saying that I don’t like the team and don’t enjoy to watch them win. So if you really want me to justify why I don’t like Ferrari, I will gladly do so.
I have been following F1 for as long as I can remember. 1996 was the first season I can truly remember watching races clearly in my mind and so that gives you an idea of the seasons, races and drivers that I have watched over the years. For the vast majority of these seasons, I would identify myself as a neutral who has had no personal favourite team or driver. I admit to being big fans of Hill, Coulthard and Raikkonen (although only in his early years) throughout my youth but up until this season I have not had any major emotional investment in any team. Except for one. Ferrari. The one team above all others I love to see fail and hate to see win. There are a variety of reasons for this. Some of you may not like what I have to say or like the views that I hold about their team, but I’m going to be completely honest with you about it and explain why in the most detailed and reasoned way that I can. So, here goes:
1) Ferrari dominance during early ‘00s sucked a lot of excitement out of Formula 1
As I imagine a lot of you here will not need reminding, the early 2000s were a period of utter Ferrari domination. From 2000 to the end of 2004, my Sunday afternoons involved cooking Sunday dinner with the family and doing some homework before sitting down in front of the telly with said dinner to watch Michael Schumacher in his Prancing Horse romp away from Pole Position to an inevitable easy victory 90 minutes later. Schumacher and Ferrari won the titles with 1 race to spare in 2000, with 4 races to spare in 2001 and 6 races to spare in 2002. After a much tighter and more exciting title season in 2003, Ferrari struck back with merciless vengeance in 2004, winning 12 of the first 13 Grands Prix. That meant that Ferrari had claimed the Drivers Championship 5 years in succession and the Constructors Championship 6 years in succession.
While I am by no means arguing that they didn’t earn their success, such prolonged domination was terrible for the sport. Hardcore fans were sick of seeing Ferrari continue to produce the best car and casual fans and the general public looked at these repeatedly predictable and boring processional races and thought ‘why the hell would anyone want to watch that?’. And they were right. This was F1 at its least exciting and only a delusional hardcore Tifosi would claim that it was good for the sport or its image. And before you say anything – no, this was completely different from Red Bulls dominance over the last two years. Or Brawns the year before. The races back then were on the whole far less eventful than those we’ve seen over the last two seasons and F1 fans weren’t as internationally united through the internet as they are now, meaning if you were an F1 fan back then practically every single image you saw of F1 in the media was of a Ferrari, often driven by Michael Schumacher, winning yet another race. I, and quite a few others across the world, just got sick of it. Formula 1 was completely oversaturated with Ferrari. Whether you think it’s right or wrong, having one team turn single-handedly your favourite sport into a predictable bore each and every year has a serious effect on your opinion of them.
2) Ferrari’s un-sporting or anti-racing mentality
The United States Grand Prix of 2005 became the biggest farce in Formula 1 history and was one of the most embarrassing and damaging incidents in the entire history of our sport. After safety concerns about Michelin tyres through the high speed banked Turn 13 on the Indianapolis circuit, the teams and the FIA failed to reach a compromise which forced all 14 Michelin-shod cars to abandon the race on the formation lap leaving only 6 Bridgestone-shod cars to compete. Shortly after the race began, ITV’s Louise Goodman found and interviewed Paul Stoddart (Team Principal of Minardi) and asked him about the discussions there had been between the teams prior to the start. Stoddart said:
“We had enough time this morning to put a chicane in which is what was requested. It would’ve allowed all teams to compete and race. Nine out of the ten teams agreed this morning not to race unless that chicane was put in.”
Those nine teams were, McLaren, Renault, Williams, BAR, Sauber, Jaguar, Red Bull, Minardi and Jordan. The only team who did not agree to the compromise? Ferrari. Ferrari’s position was that they had done nothing wrong as their tyres were perfectly safe, so why should they suffer when it was the Michelin-shod teams who had the problem? While you could say that they had a point, what resulted from that failure to reach a compromise was the farcical 6 car race that we all saw unfold before our eyes. Ferrari may have scored 18 points for a one-two finish (their first of that season) which took them straight back into contention for the Championships, but Formula 1 lost a large part of its soul that day. While you cannot blame Ferrari for causing the crisis initially, you could argue that their apparent disinterest in putting the interests of the sport as a whole above their own interests as a team contributed in a significant way to the embarrassing situation we saw that day.
There are a couple of other occasions when I’ve been truly angered by the way some Ferrari personnel have acted since 2005. At the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, Felipe Massa was battling with Championship rival Lewis Hamilton when Massa out-braked himself coming into the chicane, leaving the door wide open for Hamilton to pass. Immediately afterwards, Massa tried to stick his car into a gap that was always going to disappear and struck Lewis, spinning him around and putting him stone-dead last. While the replays immediately afterwards showed it was clearly Massa’s mistake, they also showed one of the Ferrari guys (I can’t remember his name, but you know the one I’m on about) cheering at Hamilton being taken out in the incident. Cheering your driver taking out his main rival? That’s really sporting of you. In this era of safety, showing pleasure in seeing a rival involved in a collision, especially when it’s the fault of your own driver, is simply inappropriate.
Similarly, at the Monaco Grand Prix last year Alonso wrecked his chassis in the Saturday Practice session meaning he wasn’t able to make it for qualifying, putting him dead last on the grid for the race. As Fernando now had to battle his way through the slower cars in order to make up all the positions he’d lost, he soon found himself behind the Virgin of Lucas di Grassi. Lucas was for all intents and purposes a legitimate competitor for Fernando. He was ahead of him on merit and Alonso was going to have to pass him on the track if he wanted any chance of scoring points, there was no reason why Lucas should move out of the way and wave him through. Inevitably, Lucas could only hold the faster Ferrari back for so long but just after Fernando managed to get passed him, we heard Stella tell him over the radio: ”Good job on that wanker, good job.” Seriously, Andrea? Lucas di Grassi is doing his best trying to do his job as a racing driver and keep your man behind him despite the massive performance difference between his car and yours and that makes him a w*****? That’s pathetic. How dare you say something so degrading about a fellow competitor, particularly when he’s done nothing to warrant it. Hearing that and getting that all too familiar vibe of self-important elitism really angered me. I don’t get that same sense of arrogance from other teams and so situations like these do absolutely nothing towards making me feel any love towards Ferrari as a team.
3) “Rubens, baby, can you confirm that you understood this message to let Michael pass for the Championship?”
Austria 2002. Michael Schumacher has a large lead in the Championship as the season enters the middle phase of the calendar. Rubens Barrichello has been consistently the slower of the two Ferrari drivers but not here. After going winless in 2001 and being outperformed throughout the season so far, Rubens arrives here and dominates this race from the front. He has beaten Michael on merit and this looks like this may be a turning point for the Brazilian in the season. But as the laps remaining counter ticks down towards 0, there’s a lot of activity spotted on the Ferrari pit wall. The perennially happy-looking and not-in-the-slightest-bit-unfriendly Jean Todt looks increasingly agitated. This time last year, he told Rubens to move over for Michael so that his lead in the Championship wouldn’t be damaged as badly as it would be had Rubens finished ahead of him – surely they aren’t considering doing the same today, not when this is for the lead? But, alas, as the two Ferraris headed up the hill towards the finish line for the last time, the two F2002s suddenly bunched up. In front of a packed grandstand and millions of TV viewers all over the world, Rubens Barrichello was forced to give up a deserved victory mere metres from the chequered flag – just so Micheal’s Championship lead would stand at 27 points instead of 23. It was team-orders at its most unnecessary and most disgusting form. Everyone around the world who had watched that race knew Rubens had earned that victory, what difference would one less for Michael make? It confirmed what everyone already knew, that Michael Schumacher was the only Ferrari driver who was ‘allowed’ to win Grands Prix and fight for the Championship. That day left a bad taste in the mouth of myself and the many others who witnessed it, as well as provided ammunition to F1s already vocal critics at that time.
Flash-forward to 2010 and because of this very incident, team-orders are now officially illegal. Exactly one year to the day since Felipe Massa almost lost his life in a horrific accident at Hungary, he finds himself leading the German Grand Prix comfortably from his teammate in 2nd. After taking the lead from the start of the Grand Prix and leading throughout, Felipe baby looks sets to take a glorious and emotional victory which will kick start his Championship ambitions and allow Ferrari to move closer to the powerful Red Bulls in the Constructors table. Unfortunately for Felipe, behind him is his more illustrious team mate Fernando Alonso. Alonso is ahead of Felipe in the Championship, but not by an insurmountable margin. Still, even though it’s the mid-point of the season and there are a LOT of points still up for grabs in the remaining races, Ferrari decide that Felipe is not authorised to win races while he has Fernando as a team mate, and Stefano orders Massa’s own race engineer to give his driver the Five Words of Death. In front of 100,000+ German fans, TommyB89 and Katy and millions watching around the world, Ferrari deliberately swap their two drivers around ensuring there will be no emotional victory for poor Felipe. What was looking like becoming a brilliant feel-good story for Formula 1 was transformed by Ferrari into an embarrassing, shameful incident that once again served only to benefit ‘the Team’ at the expense of the sport. I’ve got nothing else to say about this shambles.
4) Never fear, ‘Ferrari International Assistance’ is here!
And now I come to the final but most important reason why I just cannot bring myself to like Ferrari. First of all, before you all accuse me of being a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, I don’t seriously think that the FIA get together and plot ways in which they can help Ferrari to win. If the FIA really were deliberately biased towards Ferrari, we’d all know about it as Formula 1 itself would have completely broken down and folded by now. However, the fact remains that Ferrari have indeed been the beneficiaries of a number of contentious and very debatable stewards rulings and regulation changes over the years. And by ‘number’, I’m talking at least nine. Let’s have a look back, shall we?
1) Sepang 2002: Juan Pablo Montoya and Michael Schumacher collide into Turn 1 at the start. Montoya leaves Schumacher plenty of room on the inside, Schumacher still understeers into Juan, costing the Ferrari driver his front wing. Despite replays suggesting a racing incident at best, Michael’s fault at worst, the Williams driver is the one who receives a drive-thru penalty.
2) 2003, Michelin tyre controversy: I’ll let Keith explain this one – ”But after the Hungarian Grand Prix the thrilling chase for the championship is needlessly spoiled. Ferrari and Bridgestone protest the Michelin tyres on the grounds that they deform beyond the maximum tread width during the race, even though tread widths are only measured before the race. The FIA revises the rule with immediate effect, and forces Michelin to change the tyre construction they have been using since 2001.
The result is that Ferrari win all the remaining races of the season.” …as well as both Championships.
3) Monza 2006 Qualifying: Fernando Alonso in the Renault is given a grid penalty for ‘impeding’ Felipe Massa in Q3 despite never being less than about 2 seconds ahead of the Ferrari at any point during the alleged incident. The penalty is particularly heavy for Fernando who is locked in a close battle with Michael Schumacher for the Driver’s Championship. Renault run the engine hotter than they’d like to try and minimise points loss but engine fails. Schumacher and Ferrari wins the race.
4) McLaren spy-gate 2007: Ferrari’s biggest rivals are handed an astonishingly unprecedented $100,000,000 fine for having unauthorised access to some confidential Ferrari information. McLaren are disqualified from the Constructor’s Championship, handing the title to Ferrari.
5) European Grand Prix 2008: Felipe Massa is released from a pit stop right into the path of a Force India. Stewards decide not to penalise Ferrari on track but opt to fine the team instead. Massa wins taking the full 10 points for Ferrari. From this point onwards, almost all similar incidents are penalised with drive-throughs instead of fines.
6) Belgian Grand Prix 2008: Lewis Hamilton is handed a post-race penalty for cutting the Bus Stop chicane during a fight with Kimi Raikkonen for the lead during the closing stages of the race. Replays suggest that Lewis had to take to the escape road to avoid contact with Raikkonen and that he actively surrendered the position before he attempted to re-pass. Despite this, the Stewards still decide to penalise Hamilton with an post-race drive-through penalty that cannot be appealed against, handing victory to Ferrari’s main Championship contender, Massa.
7) Japanese Grand Prix 2008: After the controversy with Hamilton earlier in the race, Massa is involved in a second incident with Sebastian Bourdais in the Toro Rosso. After leaving the pitlane, Bourdais holds his line as he is fighting Massa for position. The two makes slight contact and Massa spins but continues. Despite the incident occurring with 16 laps to go, Bourdais is given a similar post-race penalty to Hamilton that gifts Massa 7th place and an extra point. The Steward’s decision completely contradicts Charlie Whiting’s pre-race instruction that ‘the car leaving the pit-lane has right of way’.
8) German Grand Prix 2010: After the team orders shambles, Ferrari are summoned to the World Motorsports Council to explain themselves. Instead of receiving any substantial penalty for blatantly ignore the team orders ban, the team are only given a moderate fine and allowed to keep all points gained from orchestrating the results in such a blatant and cynical manner.
9) British Grand Prix 2011, blown diffuser ruling: Well, you know about this one already. But considering that they have all agreed to change the ruling back, I won’t really hold this one against Ferrari.
Now obviously you have to judge all of these separate incidents on their own individual merits, but you have to admit that Ferrari have benefited from some truly awful decisions by the Stewards and the FIA over the years. If allowing these to affect my opinion of Ferrari makes me a bad person, I’m sorry, but I must be a bad person.
I recognise that Ferrari are a team that have a long and glorious history with our sport. I think that, for the most part, Formula 1 is the richer for having Ferrari in the sport and if they were to leave it would be a huge loss. But I strongly reject this myth that I sometimes see being perpetuated that Ferrari are somehow bigger than Formula 1 itself. Because they’re not. The sport is and must always be bigger than just one of its competitors. Ferrari is unquestionably the team with the greatest number of fans all over the world, which to be honest probably impacts on how I view the team myself. Ferrari and Fernando deserved that victory on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy for them. Ultimately, I really don’t think Ferrari need someone like me to support them as they’ve got enough support as it is. But to be completely honest, they’ve not really done much to earn my support in the first place.