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United States GP: Ferrari incurs penalty for Massa to boost Alonso

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Austin 2012Felipe Massa has been given a five-place grid penalty for the United States Grand Prix after the team elected to make a tactical breakage of a gearbox seal.

The Brazilian was set to line up sixth on the grid, two places ahead of his team-mate Fernando Alonso, for the first race at Austin.

Their positions meant they would be starting on the dirty side of the grid - which looks like being a huge disadvantage because of the slippery nature of the track off line.

However, after fevered speculation about the possibility during race morning, Ferrari has now confirmed that it has opened the gearbox on Massa's car. Although officially deemed a 'gearbox change', the team has not actually replaced the unit, merely broken the mandatory seal.

A statement issued by the FIA confirmed that the penalty was imposed for a gearbox seal being broken.

"The Ferrari team has broken one seal on the gearbox of car #06, driver Felipe Massa. The seal was applied on the RHS cross shaft cover.

"According to article 28.6e of the 2012 Formula 1 Sporting Regulations this is deemed as a gearbox replacement and this replacement took place before the end of five consecutive events.

"As this is not in compliance with Article 28.6 of the 2012 Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, the driver should drop five places on the starting grid at this event and I am referring the matter to the stewards for their considerations."

The stewards later confirmed that Massa would drop five places.

The result moves Massa down to 11th, while Alonso moves up to seventh spot - crucially on the clean side of the track.

The Spaniard is trying to reduce a 10-point championship deficit to polesitter Sebastian Vettel with just two races remaining.

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