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Stewart: Alonso penalty damaging to F1

Former world champion Jackie Stewart believes the penalty imposed on Fernando Alonso in the Italian Grand Prix could be damaging to Formula One's reputation, as it reinforces the perception that the sport's governing body is biased in favour of Ferrari.

Alonso was penalised by the race stewards at Monza after they said he had impeded Ferrari's Felipe Massa during qualifying. And while the stewards acknowledged the Spaniard did not block deliberately, they relegated him to 10th place on the grid.

Stewart, however, says the penalty was wrong and could have futher ramifications for the sport as a whole.

"I think it was a very questionable, and therefore rather worrying, decision," the Scotsman told the October issue of F1 Racing magazine.

"And, having looked carefully at the video footage, I have to say I regard it as ludicrous that a penalty was imposed on someone who was driving as fast as he could in order to get his next lap in and was never closer than 90-odd metres to the car he was supposed to be impeding.

"On top of that, it's also an extremely unfortunate thing to have happened to F1, especially as even before all this occurred there was already a perception that the FIA was favouring Ferrari, and had been favouring them for some time.

"I'm not saying that perception is correct; no, I'm just saying it's a perception. But perceptions are important.

"People have suspected it for a long time - and indeed, for example, there are still some question marks over why so many Ferrari or Ferrari-associated people have seats on the FIA World Motor Sport Council.

"So I think the FIA have to be very careful."

Stewart's views echo those of several in the F1 paddock, including Renault F1 CEO Flavio Briatore, who accused the governing body of trying to fix this year's championship results - although the Italian then retracted his comments, saying they were made in jest.

In response to the criticisms, the FIA moved to ensure there is no repeat of the controversy surrounding Alonso's qualifying penalty.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting wrote to the teams in the week after the Monza race and told them that "only in cases where it appears to race control that there has been a clear and deliberate attempt to impede another driver will the stewards be asked to intervene."

Nevertheless, FIA president Max Mosley has again rebuffed claims of favouritism towards Ferrari, saying there was no real evidence to support the accusation - and pointing at previous occasions when Ferrari's Michael Schumacher was also punished as example of the stewards' lack of bias.

"It's not true at all, there are really no arguments supporting this view," Mosley told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport. "I think even Briatore recognizes that now.

"Let's consider what happened in Hungary. In that occasion I feel Schumacher was penalized too heavily, because his infraction did not cause any dangerous situation.

"Alonso, by contrast, should have been penalized much more heavily for what he did against [Robert] Doornbos, because that was a potentially dangerous behaviour.

"In any case, my opinion doesn't count, because these are matters analysed and judged by the stewards on site."

Mosley added that the recent controversy will not have any effect on Alonso and Schumacher, as they enter the final showdown for this year's championship, just two points apart and with three races to go.

"I'm sure they'll both be OK, they won't feel influenced," he said. "There are two exceptional drivers: in some races, Schumacher probably went too far while in others Alonso let his emotion get the better of him.

"These are common issues for every champion in top sports. But both of them, particularly Schumacher, have contributed enormously to improve the spectacle of F1."

 

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