Sir Jackie Stewart has questioned what he sees as the lenient punishment handed out to Felipe Massa in the wake of last weekend's European Grand Prix in Valencia, claiming the retrospective €10,000 fine and slap on the wrist were simply more evidence that in Formula 1, 'Ferrari is treated with kid gloves'.
Massa led from lights to chequered flag to triumph around the harbour-side streets of the all-new Juan Carlos I Marina circuit in the Spanish city, but was involved in a controversial incident with Adrian Sutil during his second pit-stop, as he was released by his Ferrari crew directly into the path of the oncoming Force India.
Though Massa vigorously refuted all personal blame for the 'unsafe' near coming-together [see separate story – click here
], the race stewards saw differently, but the eventual penalty was far less than some had imagined it would be, with suggestions of anything from a 25-second time add-on – which would have dropped the Brazilian back to second place – to a ten-position grid demotion for the next grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
“For me it was the key moment of the race,” three-time F1 World Champion and former team owner Stewart told Swiss magazine Motorsport Aktuell
. “I don't know if it was the team or the driver who made the error, but first of all, I cannot understand why the stewards made their decision only after the race.
“They have all the information that is needed to make a judgement during the grand prix.”
The Scot added that, “in the eyes of many, [the verdict] underlines once again that in such cases Ferrari is treated with kid gloves”, whilst telling British newspaper the Daily Mail
that F1 race stewards are 'part-time amateurs' who are not paid properly.
The sport's governing body, the FIA, meanwhile, has rebuffed any such talk, with permanent supervisor Alan Donnelly – who presided over the three stewards who heard both sides of the argument in the immediate aftermath of the grand prix – insisting: “We watched the incident from every angle. I'm perfectly happy with the decision. Remember that Massa did not gain any sporting advantage.”