You have to be sorry for Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais, four-times winner of the US Champ Car series and latest victim of the flatulent FIA Stewards’ Ferrari favouritism at Japan’s marvellous Fujiyama circuit.
Bourdais was in a battle for position on the track with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who had seriously cocked up his race in Japan with one error after another. Bourdais did everything correctly, he was outside of the pitlane area, he was on the inside of the corner, and was next to the metal barrier on his right side when Massa drove up on his left, and proceeded to try to drive straight through Bourdais as if he didn’t see him as he aimed for the apex of the corner without any regard for the car which was already in that position.
Of course, Massa hit the side of the Toro Rosso and span, losing point scoring places as a result. As Massa slowly made some places up, the TV screen announced that the incident between him and Bourdais would be investigated “after the race.” Meaning when the TV cameras had gone and the potential for bad PR on the main evening news had dissipated and they could work out which penalty to apply to Massa without hurting his World Championship chances.
In the end, they decided to penalise the innocent man who was driven into. There must be some rule giving a more severe penalty to someone receiving their second stop-go penalty in the same race (he had already driven into the side of Hamilton on Lap 1) so they couldn’t give Massa a second drive-through penalty. Because he had finished in 8th, and the 9th placed man (and a few others) were all within a few seconds of him at the finish because of his most un-World Championlike driving the stewards couldn’t give him a penalty because that would mean taking away a single point from him. Never mind they’d already taken a race win away from Lewis Hamilton in Belgium when they last fiddled when Rome was burning. So, they had to blame someone for the accident, and that left Bourdais.
After all, he was clearly at fault because Massa span and Massa never spins! Cough, cough, don’t mention Silverstone or the first two races of 2008… Oh, and of course, Massa doesn’t make mistakes either – it’s not his fault he continually drives into other cars… after all, he is half blind.
Bourdais carried on to finish in a fine 6th, one place ahead of his team mate, Monza winner and latest wunderkind, Sebastian Vettel. But after the penalty, he was demoted to 10th place!
The politics of this are interesting. First of all, Bourdais is French, the only French driver in F1 at the moment, and the FIA offices are in Paris. Ferrari is Italian, and I think most mediterranaean types would not have complained much about Ferrari favouritism from the FIA stewards before, since it was always “Les Anglais, Les Rosbifs” who were being penalised previously. Oh, and Frenchman Jean Todt, erstwhile head of the Ferrari F1 team is rumoured to be being groomed to be the next FIA president after Max Mosley retires next year. Oh yes, and Bourdais has the audacity to have made his name in the US, where F1 has no glowing reputation to uphold to such an extent that they won’t even be going to Canada in 2009 – so they feel safe to treat Bourdais shabbily as they think there will be no come back.
Ferrari, the clowns of Singapore, are clearly continuing to disintegrate and the only question left is will the FIA follow the sinking ship down proclaiming to all and sundry that it was the iceberg’s fault all the while?
PS Spaniard Alonso won. In a French team. What should have been a great news story, is now just an also ran to yet another Ferrari fiddle. Poor Alonso. Poor Bourdais. Poor Formula One.
PPS Is Max Mosley’s man the financial link between Ferrari money and the FIA Stewards‘ Ferrari favouritism?