x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Germany hearing may dash Alonso's title chances

The Ferrari driver's championship hopes could suffer a knock-out blow when the sport's governing body sits to decide the team's manipulation of result.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari's Spanish driver, could find himself 66 points behind Lewis Hamilton with six races remaining.
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari's Spanish driver, could find himself 66 points behind Lewis Hamilton with six races remaining.

Fernando Alonso's Formula One title hopes could suffer a knock-out blow when the sport's governing body decides Ferrari's fate at a Paris hearing today. The Italian team, preparing for their home race at Monza this weekend, have already been fined US$100,000 (Dh367,310) for manipulating the German Grand Prix in July through the use of banned "team orders". The International Automobile Federation's (FIA) world motor sport council must now decide whether that penalty, imposed by race stewards, was sufficient punishment.

Their options are unlimited, with a points' deduction or suspended ban considered likely if further sanctions are agreed. Neither Alonso, a double world champion, nor Felipe Massa, his teammate will be at the hearing, although a Ferrari spokesman said both drivers would be contactable should council members wish to hear from them. "I shouldn't think the drivers will get a penalty," Jenson Button, the world champion, said after the last race in Belgium.

"It will be the team, if they do get another penalty, because it was an order from the team. Personally I don't understand why they don't just change the points around of those two [drivers], the points they got in that race, but they obviously can't do that within the regulations." Max Mosley, the former FIA president who is still an influential figure in the governing body and was in charge when the ban on team orders was introduced in 2002, believes both team and drivers should be heavily punished.

"If one wants to fulfil the needs of the audience, then one must maintain the ban," he told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag last month. "Both cars and both drivers should lose the points they achieved in the German Grand Prix." Should Alonso be stripped of the 25 points he won at Hockenheim, the Spaniard would remain fifth overall but 66 points adrift of Lewis Hamilton, McLaren's overall leader with six races remaining.

Ferrari, who would have had a one-two finish at Hockenheim even without team orders being invoked, are third overall and 80 points adrift of leaders Red Bull. They are likely to argue that no explicit order was ever issued, with Massa merely being told that Alonso was quicker and then acting on that information. * Reuters