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For many a year FIA was translated by fans as Ferrari International Assistance. Yet, the last clear-cut case of Ferrari favoritism could be tracked back to Spa in 2008, or perhaps Austin 2012, although the gearbox tampering in Americaland was technically just a really cynical use of a clear loophole in the rules.
If you look at it, the times when FIA let Ferrari get away with everything seem to be in the past, which on paper is a good thing, because nobody wants another farce like the Malaysian GP in 1999. Except that we had one again last night. Like back then in 1999 a team was caught with a technical infringement on both cars and instead of being punished for it, FIA’s testing measures were blamed.
That’s the second time in two years that Mercedes gets off lightly for blatant cheating and the sad thing is, they need anything but such help at this time as they are already sucking the very life out of F1 as it is. If a reader is so inclined, I might suggest a trip through the archives of the second half of the 2013 season and count the comments of how utterly meaningless Red Bull’s wins are, because they just qualify on pole and disappear into the distance.
Uh, what exactly did we see yesterday? Right, exactly the same, with the added twist that both Mercs can pull it off simultaneously. Had Rosberg’s engine not gone boom and been older than the dinosaurs to begin with, there is little doubt we would have seen another Mercedes one-two.
Which brings me to the fact that for the third time since 2013 Merc was accused of tampering with the tyres. The first incident was the illegal tyre test at Barcelona. They were ‘punished’ by being excluded from the young drivers test, which was a laughable punishment for a massive breach of the rules.
The second one was the use of tyres in the wrong rotational direction, as practiced by several teams in mid-2013, a practice ‘invented’ by Mercedes’ Ross Brawn and later copied by other teams, believed to have contributed to the disastrous string of tyre failures at Silverstone 2013. It was subsequently banned. In fact since then a clear rule had been installed that required teams to run tyres within the limit defined by Pirelli before each Grandprix.
Since then we’ve never heard anything about a team tampering with the tyre limits, even if the judge doesn’t tire of trying to make us believe otherwise. There was no rule change after Spa. Pirelli merely made the limits tighter and teams were informed that even small infringements would be treated as serious rule breaches.
Before the weekend, teams were told to raise the tyre pressures by up to five psi, which prompted loud protests from the teams as the suspensions are designed to get the tyres up to temperature at lower pressures. The result would have been higher degradation and less grip. Loudest among the protesters were Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton in particular. So one has to forgive me for being suspicious if that very team then get’s caught with too low pressures.
Fact of the matter is, there is no way for Merc to come out of this not looking either like blatant cheaters or blithering idiots. If their excuse is true and the discrepancy was down to tyre warmers not being plugged in, you have to ask why the heck they let their drivers’ tyres go cold five minutes before the start in an era were tyre temperatures are king? Rosberg was 1.1 psi under, which translates to thirty degrees temperature loss. Now that sheds an interesting light on his streak of bad starts lately, doesn’t it? Does that mean they send Rosberg out on tyres deliberately under-heated to make sure he doesn’t challenge his team mate?
For a team to let the tyres cool down so close before the start is sheer idiocy or, more likely, a preposterously lame excuse for being caught cheating. And how come neither of the Ferrari’s didn’t have that problem? Did they run their tyres needlessly pressured too high? That doesn’t sound like the Ferrari team we know. So I guess it’s down to the fact that Ferrari don’t let their drivers start the race on cold tyres then.
No matter how you look at it, a stale taste remains after Monza and the notable absence of criticism from some who screamed bloody murder about McLaren, Ferrari or Red Bull pushing the rules to the limit, makes them look a trifle hippo-critical if they now try to blame the whole farce on FIA instead of the team that – at least in my opinion – deliberately cheated and tried to use the unfairly acquired advantage to preempt a possible time penalty by pressuring their driver into taking unnecessary risks towards the end of the race.
If nothing else, Mercedes look every bit as cynical and calculating as we Germans are often accused of being.