Formula 1: Ferrari sail into troubled waters
Ferrari are adamant they are not courting political controversy by carrying a flag of the Italian navy on their cars throughout this weekend’s Indian Grand Prix.
Two members of the Italian navy’s vessel protection department are currently awaiting trial following the death of two Indian fishermen in February. As part of a detachment serving on board oil tanker Enrica Lexie, it is alleged by Indian authorities that the two marines shot and killed the fishermen in waters off the coast of southern India, believing them to be pirates. The incident sparked a major diplomatic row between Italy and India, the subject of which has been raised this week in light of Ferrari’s statement posted on their website.
In sporting the flag on top of the chassis, the team state: “Ferrari pays tribute to one of the outstanding entities of our country, also in the hope that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation currently involving two sailors from the Italian navy.”
The statement is carefully worded because it is not showing support to the two Italian sailors, but simply declaring hope of a resolution. However, it could be interpreted as political, especially given the comments of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo and Italy’s foreign minister Giulio Terzi.
Speaking to Italian network SKY Tg24, Di Montezemolo said: “It is the contribution that Ferrari can make to this story.” Terzi added: “It shows the support of the whole country for our sailors.”
The gesture has resulted in condemnation from Indian officials, with Syed Akbaruddin, the official spokesperson in the ministry of external affairs, quoted as saying Ferrari is “using sporting events to promote a cause which is not of a sporting nature and is not in keeping with the spirit of sports”.
Article one of the FIA statutes states “the FIA shall refrain from manifesting racial, political or religious discrimination in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect”. In this instance, the FIA refers not only to motorsport’s governing body, but all participants and officials governed by them.
When grilled on the matter yesterday, team principal Stefano Domenicali refused to comment, referring his questioners to Ferrari’s press office.
A Ferrari spokesman said: “First of all, we just wanted to pay tribute to all the Italian navy which is one of the excellences of Italy, and it’s just a sign of hope that a solution can be found about the case that involves two Italian sailors. Something which has to be clear is we don’t want to say anything in one sense or another. We have utmost respect for the Indian authorities. We just hope a solution can be found as soon as possible.”
The FIA are understood to be looking into the matter to see whether any action need be taken. The last instance of a political statement being made followed the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix when the winner’s trophy was presented by Mehmet Ali Talat. Talat was described as the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state only recognised by Turkey. As Talat was a last-minute appointment and with the FIA unable to verify the meaning behind his status, it resulted in the Turkish GP organisers being fined £3.1 million, a figure later reduced by half on appeal.
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton believes McLaren can throw caution to the wind as the team no longer have anything to lose in this year’s Formula 1 world title race. Hamilton and team-mate Jenson Button have effectively thrown in the towel on their personal hopes of glory, trailing Sebastian Vettel by 62 and 84 points respectively, with only 100 now available. McLaren have fallen to third in the constructors’ championship, 83 points adrift of Red Bull with a potential 172 to aim for after a run which has seen the Woking-based team bring both cars home just twice in the last seven races. “If Jenson and I were able to deliver the constructors’ title, even without a drivers’ title, that would be a fantastic way to end the season,” said Hamilton, who is ending his 14-year association with the team at the end of the season before joining Mercedes on a three-year deal.
Following yesterday’s two practice sessions ahead of tomorrow’s race, the two Britons were just under a second off the pace of Vettel, who was quickest in both 90-minute outings at the Buddh International Circuit.
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