Renault was angered by the penalty awarded to Fernando Alonso after yesterday's qualifying and baffled as to why the Spaniard was given it when even the stewards conceded that his alleged blocking of Ferrari's Felipe Massa was probably unintentional. Massa claimed Alonso had cost him a front-row position and after seeing video footage the stewards deemed Alonso had hampered Massa and stripped Alonso of his three fastest lap times.
The result was that Alonso dropped from fifth on the grid to 10th, which undoubtedly gives a helping hand to title rival Michael Schumacher, who will start from second. Ironically the penalty doesn't help Massa at all, as he was one position ahead of Alonso anyway. Renault showed reporters video footage on Sunday morning and said that Massa was not close enough to Alonso to be impeded.
"If this is blocking anyone intentionally, we will have a lot of problems from now on in qualifying," said Alonso. "If this is blocking also I don't understand how we will race today… I am a sportsman, I love the sport. I love the fans coming here, a lot of them from Spain. But I don't consider any more Formula One like a sport."
Alonso suffered a puncture in qualifying and also damage to the car. He managed to get back out on track and just managed to cross the line with fractional time to spare to start a last flying lap. It was on that out lap, which Renault said he drove as it if was a qualifying lap, that Massa was behind him and subsequently claimed Alonso had hampered him.
"Fernando never intentionally wanted to stop Massa," said Renault managing director Flavio Briatore. "It was quite dangerous as well to send Fernando out again. He made the chequered flag for his final quick lap by one second. We told him by radio that he done like a qualifying lap on his out-lap. He did the perfect job and had no intention of slowing Massa."
Engineering chief at Symonds opined that Massa had probably even got some advantage from the situation, in the way of a tow from Alonso's car. A lot of folks in the paddock are equally bemused by the stewards' decision and the general consensus of opinion is that it was poor judgement. Given the closeness of the title fight it inevitably brings up the argument of the championship being manipulated in Ferrari's favour.