Felipe Massa has been tipped to 'react' to the 'incredibly risky and incredibly opportunistic' move pulled on him by Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso during the Chinese Grand Prix last month – but the unrepentant Spaniard remains adamant that he did nothing wrong and in support of that would have 'no doubt' about doing the same thing again.
The controversy was generated when Alonso pulled out of Massa's slipstream and alongside on the inside line on the entry to the pit-lane in Shanghai – but as they entered the pits, the Brazilian was still marginally ahead. Whilst many opine that at that stage Alonso should have backed off, the double F1 World Champion instead held his nerve, kept his foot in and aggressively forced the sister car to take to the grass, in a flash betraying the single-minded streak for which he has become famous but that until then had been curiously absent in 2010.
The upshot was that it was Massa who had to queue in-line for his pit-stop rather than Alonso, and whilst the Oviedo native went on to finish barely two seconds shy of the podium in fourth, the delay and subsequent loss of momentum for the Paulista dropped him out of the points, from where he would recover to just ninth at the chequered flag, some three-quarters of a minute further in arrears.
Whilst both drivers and Ferrari have since been at pains to stress that there is no friction or bad blood between Alonso and Massa as a result of the contentious incident, both Red Bull Racing star Mark Webber and former grand prix ace turned popular BBC F1
commentator Martin Brundle beg to differ, with the former even going so far as to describe the 22-time grand prix-winner's tactics as verging on the irresponsible.
“It was very hard against your team-mate – if fair – but also incredibly risky and incredibly opportunistic,” Webber told the BBC
. “It could have been quite confusing for the team, because they needed to switch the tyres around – and I'm not sure I'd want to risk walking into the factory having taken both cars out at the entry to the pit-lane. That would have been a pretty serious one to try and get over – but in the end it turned out okay for Fernando and he got away with it.”
“Massa vs. Alonso in the pit-lane in China was, in many respects, very similar to Alonso pouncing on Massa on the opening lap in Bahrain to take [second place] at Turn Two,” added Brundle, who clearly believes that the relationship between the Latin duo at Maranello is now more than a little strained. “It is just the kind of aggression and opportunistic move we expect from Alonso and which I am afraid leaves Massa looking a touch steady.
“You have to remember that Alonso has spent the bulk of the season so far staring at Massa's gearbox, although he should not really have allowed himself to be there. I like the very lenient stewarding which has allowed for many great overtakes and thrilling moments, such as the drivers charging towards the pit-lane, although I do draw the line at argy-bargy down the pit-lane itself when mechanics are at risk.
“I believe the garage war at Ferrari started after Australia, when [the team] did not ease Alonso's path during the race. I sense quite a bit of tension around that relationship, and I know that Massa was totally unimpressed by Alonso's pit-in move. Expect a reaction.”
Reaction or not, a defiant Alonso has made it patently clear that he is unfazed by the criticism and would have no hesitation in doing the same thing all over again, whilst expressing his opinion that he and Massa 'complement each other' and can both learn from areas in which the other is stronger.
“What is clear is that two weeks after a race you can't keep talking about such unimportant things, so I'm going to refuse to answer,” the irked 28-year-old told Spanish sports newspaper Marca
, adding in response to a question during an interview with Corriere della Sera
as to whether he would do the same again: “Certainly, without a doubt.”