The perception that the FIA is heavily biased in favour of Ferrari was already a current talking point even before the stewards made their decision on Lewis Hamilton yesterday.
In the preview show for qualifying, ITV ran a piece about Felipe Massa’s unsafe release from a pitstop in Valencia. In that instance he was let off the hook and instead of being penalised he was fined — an option that technically wasn’t open, though the stewards took it anyway.
ITV’s piece included an interview with Ross Brawn. Brawn now works for Honda but is closely associated with Ferrari, having played a pivotal role in all of Michael Schumacher’s championships with Ferrari. Brawn went onto ITV to deny that Ferrari get any special treatment from the FIA. However, he did say a little bit more than that. I have watched the interview again and reading between the lines of what Ross Brawn says I find it very interesting.
Having been at Ferrari and know first hand what goes on, people do have misconceptions about what does go on and that leads to a lot of speculation.
Ferrari do not get special treatment from the FIA. Ferrari work diligently with all the systems, they work with the FIA to try and improve things for the future. They have a good rapport with the FIA and they try and find solutions with the FIA. The fact they don’t come out and criticise the FIA doesn’t mean that Ferrari get special treatment.
Ross Brawn wasn’t asked about the way Ferrari works with the FIA. He brought that up himself. Once he outlined how cosy the relationship between Ferrari and the FIA is, he then says, “that doesn’t mean that Ferrari get special treatment.” So why did he bring it up?
I think what Ross Brawn was really saying was that Ferrari do not get special treatment. It’s just that the other teams upset the FIA — and for that reason these teams are more likely to be punished in a borderline call. Robert McKay joked in the liveblog as Ross Brawn’s interview as being broadcast, “Ferrari don’t get special treatment, everyone else just gets unfavourable treatment 😉 “. Funnily enough, I think that is exactly what Ross Brawn was saying.
Ross Brawn knows all about how important it is to keep your nose clean with the FIA. When he worked at Benetton in 1994, the team was given a myriad of punishments throughout the season. In much the same way that people today talk of an FIA vendetta against McLaren, there was a widespread perception that the FIA had a vendetta against Benetton.
It cannot have been a coincidence that early on in the year Benetton team principal Flavio Briatore had written an open letter to Max Mosley that was none too complementary about his ability to govern the sport of Formula 1. Max Mosley hit back by punishing Benetton heavily throughout the season. (It is sad that it works like this, but that is the way Max Mosley is. It is just another in the long list of reasons why he is unfit to be the president of the FIA.)
Ross Brawn must have learnt this and realised that the best way to avoid being penalised is to be nice to Max Mosley. Politically, Ferrari have been much more favourable towards the FIA than most other teams. For instance, they were the first team to break away from the GPWC (the predecessor to the GPMA) and were the first to sign the new Concorde Agreement in 2005.
The combination of this approach with the supposed “romance” and “tradition” of Ferrari that is supposed to be so important to Formula 1 meant that inevitably Ferrari would be looked upon more favourably by the FIA. That Ross Brawn thinks this is only confirmed to me by his comments to ITV.
You could argue that it is just common sense — if you want to be rewarded by the teacher, you have to be prepared to be the teacher’s pet. However, the Ferrari view of the role of a team is one which is politically neutered. This is dangerous because it puts too much power in the hands of too few and gives the teams — the people who really know what’s what — little say on what is good for future of motor sport.
As we know all too often from the events of the past decade or so, Ferrari do not care one jot about what’s good for motor sport. They only care about winning. And if they can’t win on the racetrack, they win by cosying up to the authorities.