Was Massa impeding Alonso?

Fernando Alonso, Japanese GP 2006

Fernando Alonso, Japanese GP 2006 

 © The Cahier Archive

After qualifying in Suzuka Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore attacked Ferrari's number two driver Felipe Massa, accusing him of blocking Fernando Alonso for a number of laps at the start of the final Q3 qualifying session. The logic behind the accusation was that rain was threatening and this might have affected Alonso's ability to set a good time later in the session and by holding up Alonso Massa was ensuring that Michael Schumacher was untroubled as he set his early times. There is no doubt that Massa was running much slower than Michael Schumacher in the first part of the session. The three cars went out together with Michael first, Massa second and Alonso third. Schumacher's first flying lap was a 1m32.729s, while Massa did a 1m34.045s and Alonso was stuck with a 1m34.084s. The next time around Michael did a 1m32.055s, Massa speeded up to record a 1m32.260s but Alonso backed off to give himself a little space and set a 1m34.802s.

"Fernando on the radio was complaining," said Briatore. "If you are fighting with McLaren it's fine. If you fight with these guys it is impossible."

The question that must now be answered is whether or not the incident should result in any penalty. It is different to the incident in Monza when their positions were reversed in that Massa was behind Alonso and Fernando was on a warming up lap rather than a flying lap. That resulted in Alonso's best three times being deleted and made life very difficult for him in the race. In this case the two were both on flying laps. There is no reason why Massa would have been that much slower than Schumacher but there are any number of possible explanations which might be true. If Massa had a problem, however, he should perhaps have moved aside and allowed Alonso to go ahead but with such minimal amounts of time involved it is hard to imagine that there will be any punishment.

Briatore clearly does not believe there will be any punishment.

"We will tell Charlie (Whiting)," he said, "but nothing will happen. We already know what the answer will be."

That remark will not go down well with the FIA.

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