Formula One politics has often overshadowed the on track racing ever since the FIA series was inaugurated in 1950. Colin Chapman was no stranger to controversy as his ‘garigista’ Lotus team took on the might of the F1 establishment. In modern times the paddock rows began during the Schumacher/Ferrari era.
In the 2002 season, Michael Schumacher had accumulated 44 of the possible 50 from the first 5 rounds and next time out in Austria his team mate Rubens Barrichello was comfortably leading the race.
During the closing laps the Scuderia decided to switch their drivers positions which immediately drew boos from the crowd. On the podium Schumacher promoted Barichello to the top step handing him the winners trophy.
FIA named the “Ferrari international Association” after weak penalties
Ferrari were fined $1m for breach of podium procedure. F1 observers mocked the FIA for its weak approach to penalising Ferrari during this era renaming F1’s governing body the “Ferrari International Association”.
Ferrari again played the ‘team orders’ game at the 2010 German GP. At the time the team instructing its drivers’ to switch places was against the regulations.
Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were that season’s Scuderia drivers and on lap 49, Massa mysteriously slowed down and Fernando made the pass with the Spaniard taking the race victory.
Ferrari breach F1 team orders rules
Despite team principal Stefano Dominicali telling the assembled media it was Massa’s decision to let Alonso through, Ferraro were fine $100,000 though the race result stood.
Ferrari’s team principal, Stefano Domenicali, insisted that there were no team orders in placed, and that Felipe Massa had chosen to let Fernando Alonso through.
‘Rascasse gate’ dominated the 2006 Monaco GP. Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari had posted the provisional pole position time when all the cars pitted for his final run.
Schumacher blatantly cheats
Ferrari sent Schumacher out before the rest for the final qualifying run. Yet mysteriously Schumacher’s car ground to a halt in the middle of the Rasscase corner preventing the others from completing their qualifying laps.
The stewards decided Michael was guilty of impeding other cars and gave him a back of the grid starting position for the race on Sunday.
Fernando Alonso claimed his first victory in Monaco that weekend and the Renault driver went on to win his first world title as the youngest driver ever to achieve this in Formula One.
Ron Dennis accused of being a “twat” over sp gate
“Spygate” is up next as the 2007 Formula One championship was one of the closest ever fought in the sport. Kimi Raikkonen would go on to win the title, but the McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were part of a story of subterfuge.
Ferrari dismissed their head of team performance, Nigel Stepney and the same day launched legal action against McLaren’s Mike Coughlan. 780 pages of Ferrari documents were found at Coughlin’s home.
The FIA found McLaren guilty of obtaining a competitors private and confidential information and fined the team $100m.
Max Mosely the president of the FIA, later joked the fine was “$5m for the offence and $95m for Ron [Dennis being a twat.”
Crashgate scandal consumes Formula One
F1 scandals at this time became an annual event as “crash gate” consumed the sport in its third consecutive year of controversy.
Fernando Alonso after a flamed filled season of controversy with his rookie team mate, left McLaren and returned to Renault for the 2008 season.
The Spanish double world champion failed to win a race on his return to the French team until the first ever Singapore GP which was held under the lights.
Fernando qualified badly in P5 though pitted early before the other drivers to change tyres and take on fuel. Just three laps later Alonso’s team mate crashed on the pit straight bringing out the safety car.
Renault initially get away with “crash gate”
At the time drivers were not allowed to pit under the safety car car, so Alonso benefited having made his stop and closed up to the leaders.
As the circuit went green, the leaders all pitted for their scheduled stops and Alonso disappeared off into the lead.
Speculation grew at the time that Piquet had deliberately crashed to benefit his Spanish team mate though there was no evidence of this until Piquet Jnr left the team the following season.
Piquet then revealed he had been asked to crash by the team and the allegations were put to Renault. They accepted the charges which saw team boss Flavio Briatorre banned from F1 along with Technical Director Pat Symonds.
Hamilton’s “lie-gate” saga
Lewis Hamilton’s career is not short of controversy either. The following year he was embroiled in a “liegate” scandal at the Australian GP.
During a late safety car Jarno Trulli ran off the track and Hamilton overtook him for third position. Hamilton decided the pace accordingly but after the chequered flag Truli was handed a time penalty for another incident moving Lewis up to a podium position.
Yet Hamilton lied to the stewards stating he had voluntarily handed the place back to Truli but the stewards found audio revealing he was instructed to do so from the McLaren pit wall.
Hamilton was disqualified from the race for misleading the stewards.
The infamous “multi-21”
Next up is Malaysia 2013 which saw another team mate blow up.
Mark Webber’s relationship had deteriorated with Sebastian Vettel as during their partnership the team had favoured Vettel on a number of occasions. As the race neared conclusion, Webber was leading from Vettel but both drivers were pushing the tyres and power units hard.
Red Bull ordered both its drivers to maintain position with the now infamous ‘Multi 21’ instruction: the driver in car #2 (Webber) must remain ahead of the other driver in car #1 (Vettel).
Vettel ignored the call and allegedly to used a high performance engine mode not sanctioned by the team to overtake the Australian and secure the race win in Sepang.
Paddock controversies and rows the F1 norm
The tales of paddock rows go on and on. The Senna/Prost title deciders in 1989/90 caused the sport to go into meltdown as drivers took each other out to secure title wins at the end of the season.
Tyregate saw just 6 cars compete in the US GP at Indianapolis in 2006 as the teams argued over whether a chicane should be placed on the high downforce banked sections to protect the more fragile Michelin runners.
And the latest of sports being hypoed by team bosses is the Red Bull Racing controversy over budget cap overspend in 2021.
This weekend in Austin Texas will be the first time the paddock will have the opportunity to vent its collective spleen over the issue.
Horner to “come out fighting” over “cheating” allegations
The FIA decided to award their ‘certificates of compliance’ for the financial regulations the day following the last race in Japan.
Red Bull are declared to be in a ‘minor overspend’ breach and Christian Horner is said to be ready to “come out fighting.”
Red Bull are believed to have requested the FIA make the details of their overspend public insisting their alleged overspend is for items outside the budget cap.
Further Red Bull allege that the FIA changed the interpretation on the cost of “unused parts” on June 16 this season. Red Bull clearly produced parts they didn’t;t use and believe they should not be part of their budget allocation.
Red Bull accuse FIA of ‘changing the interpretation” mid audit
Interestingly the change in interpretation of unused parts came just 2 weeks following Shaila-Ann Rao leaving Mercedes as a legal advisor and joining the FIA.
Mercedes had recruited ex-Red Bull employees from 2021 and the suggestion is Rao knew of allegations made by them about their former team and influenced the financial regulations process.
The FIA are now caught between a rock and a hard place given if they quietly settle the matter with Red Bull Racing the other teams will kick up a furore. However, if the FIA come down hard on Red Bull there will be calls for an enquiry into the transparency of the FIA’s knowledge acquisition.
Has there been FIA corruption and collusion?
This would be a disaster for newly elected FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulyem who’s regime has been under constant fire form teams, drivers and F1 overseers alike this season for a range of errors and misdemeanours.
This row is set to run and will probably be concluded following the closing race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
— MarKo🇱🇷 #USGP (@MarcoPolo_F1) October 13, 2022