Felipe Massa may have romped to victory in Sunday’s European Grand Prix at Valencia, but it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Brazilian after stewards called the win into question by investigating his near coming-together with Adrian Sutil in the pit-lane.
The centre of controversy was Massa’s second pit-stop. The Ferrari driver was released by his mechanics right into the path of Adrian Sutil’s Force India and had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
Massa, who now leads Ferrari’s assault on Lewis Hamilton in the championship battle, eventually got off with a warning and a 10,000 Euro fine.
The decision was a controversial one, not least because of stewards’ decision to investigate the incident after race, rather than dish out a drive through penalty there and then.
Was Massa in the wrong? It is hard to disagree that the release of Massa into the path of Sutil was “unsafe” and many fans will see the light-hearted penalty as a sign of stewards’ on going favoritism towards his Italian outfit.
“I would say it was a controversial decision, and there are some people who would say that Ferrari are looked upon more favorably than other teams by the governing body,” triple world champion and RBS ambassador Jackie Stewart explained, talking to RBS Sport.
“I don’t know who was at fault: the driver or, more likely, the team. Massa was subsequently fined, but the stewards had all the TV replays, and they should have made a decision during the race.”
“Let’s imagine that Massa had been given a drive-through penalty, which would have cost him about 15 seconds. He could have gone back out and regained that lost time over Lewis Hamilton.”
Stewart points to the German grand prix at Hockenheim where Lewis Hamilton was forced to re-take the win after losing his lead under the safety car period.
“Remember in Germany, Hamilton had to go out after his last pit stop and win it all over again,” he says. “A similar thing could have happened in Valencia if the stewards had taken a decision at the time.”
However, although Ferrari mechanics may have been wrong to release their man directly into the path of an on-coming driver, Massa did make an effort to avoid collision. It should also be remembered that Sutil was a lap behind the Ferrari driver.
“I don’t think that Massa himself did anything wrong,” says technical guru Gary Anderson.
“The team released him too early, so there was a fault there. But once that had happened, the driver did everything he could have done – he didn’t block Sutil, or run into him, or even overtake him.”
“So, the stewards would have been harsh if they had taken the race win away from him.”