Ferrari bosses are playing down rumours of tension brewing between Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso in the wake of the Chinese GP – a race in which the Spaniard barged his team-mate off the track.
Following Alonso’s jump-start and a flurry of pit-stops for both drivers in the constantly changing conditions, the two Ferraris were running in tandem when the safety car emerged on lap 22, sending the majority of drivers scurrying for the pits once again.
Knowing that whoever was behind out of the pair would have to queue up and lose time, Alonso pounced, and entering the pit-lane alongside Massa, the Spaniard risked a coming-together by unexpectedly and unceremoniously barging the sister car out onto the grass to make sure that he got ahead.
The move sent Massa down the order and outside of the top 10, from where he would recover to ninth at the chequered flag – salvaging two points as Alonso took away 12 for fourth place and, undoubtedly, the psychological advantage.
“If he was not my team-mate, there wouldn’t be so much talk about it and for me it was a normal move and it definitely won’t compromise our relationship,” protested Alonso. “When two team-mates are fighting there are rumours… if it was two different cars there wouldn’t be a problem.”
While clearly aggrieved, Massa too has tried to play down the incident. “Alonso put his car next to mine and when I saw it I knew we could have an accident, so I thought of the team and that made me lose more than three places,” he said.
“I ended up on a puddle of water coming out of the hairpin and slightly lost control of the car,” added Massa, who has slipped five spots down to sixth in the title standings following the race in Shanghai, three positions adrift of his team-mate.
The Scuderia’s team principal Stefano Domenicali also rubbished any talk of a rift developing between the two drivers, even if their relationship was perhaps never going to be the easiest given that Massa remains convinced he was denied the 2008 laurels by the ‘Singapore-gate’ race-fixing scandal – something he insisted late last year that Alonso must have been privy to at the time.
“It was just a racing incident,” said Domenicali. “We only saw it afterwards on the television replay. There is absolutely no problem between the two drivers. When you are always racing to win, you can have moments like this.”
A report entitled False Polemics on Ferrari’s official website added that Massa’s post-race comments had been ‘taken out of context’ in an effort to ‘create bad blood’ between him and Alonso, and that the incident ‘won’t change anything at all regarding the relationship’.