Ferrari has finally bowed to mounting pressure to ditch its controversial 'traffic lights' pit-stop system, in revealing that it is to re-instate the traditional manual 'lollipop' for the final three races of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship campaign.
automated procedure first hit problems during the European Grand Prix in Valencia in August when Felipe Massa was released directly into the path of the Force India of Adrian Sutil during his second pit-stop, earning the Brazilian a €10,000 fine for what was deemed by race stewards to have been an 'unsafe' incident.
Worse still, shortly afterwards team-mate Kimi Raikkonen pulled away with the refuelling hose still attached to his car, and a similar fate would catastrophically befall Massa in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix late last month, when a 'human error' led to a mechanic erroneously pressing the button for the 27-year-old to go before the refueller had finished.
That led to the São Paulista – locked in fraught title combat with McLaren-Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton – to again narrowly miss colliding with Sutil on pulling away from his pit 'box, and having to drag the refuelling line the whole length of the pit-lane before pulling aside and waiting for his pit crew to arrive and – with some difficulty – detach it.
The loss of time and subsequent drive-through penalty meted out saw Massa take the chequered flag well outside of the points in an unlucky 13th position – and slip some seven points shy of Hamilton in the drivers' standings, what could be a crucial margin come season's end. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has suggested that 'if Massa loses the world championship, he will know the team were responsible' [see separate story – click here
Whilst remaining adamant that the 'traffic lights' system usually affords 'significant time savings', the Prancing Horse's team principal Stefano Domenicali confirmed in an interview with Sky Italia
that the system is to be scrapped for the remainder of the campaign.
“We are going back to the old system with a lollipop,” the Italian is quoted by F1SA
as having acknowledged, “because we have recognised that the team needs to be calm.”
Domenicali added that, whilst Massa's current position now means the team is somewhat more up against it in the final three grands prix – with Hamilton enjoying the luxury of being able to finish one spot behind his rival each time and still lift the laurels – nothing is out of the question.
“At this stage of the season and with all the tension, it is better for everyone who works in the heat of the battle to do so with as little stress as possible,” he underlined.
“I am convinced that we have the right ingredients to win the next three races. It will not be an easy task, but it is definitely not impossible either.”