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Ferrari accused of cheating

HOCKENHEIM, July 26- Ferrari were in the line of fire Sunday, the Italian team accused of illegally ordering Felipe Massa to slow down to allow Fernando Alonso to overtake and win the German Grand Prix.Massa was in front of Alonso until a call from Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali saw the Brazilian hand the lead to Alonso with 18 laps left.

Following the controversial move, Massa’s engineer Rob Smedley told the Brazilian: "Good lad – just stick with it now, sorry."

Ferrari’s ploy, to bolster Alonso’s chances in the drivers’ championship, appeared directly to contravene rules introduced in 2002 banning team orders.

The FIA, Formula One’s governing body, acted then after Ferrari infamously ordered Rubens Barrichello to pull over and let Michael Schumacher pass in the closing stages of the Austrian Grand Prix.

Eight years on Ferrari were accused of deploying similar tactics.

On Sunday, problems developed after just 21 laps as a frustrated Alonso made his feelings clear when he told Ferrari over the team radio "This is ridiculous!" because Massa refused to concede the lead and move over for him.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told the BBC: "I have to say that is the clearest team order I’ve ever seen.

"It will be interesting to see what the stewards make of it because for me it was as clear as 2002, which is why the rule was brought in.

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"It’s wrong for the sport. The drivers should have been allowed to race. Massa did the better job. He was in the lead and the regulations are pretty clear – team orders are not allowed."

Ferrari were later summoned by race stewards to explain the incident.

Alonso said he was aware of the obvious team orders.

"I don’t know what happened but I saw Felipe was a little bit slow, and you have to take every opportunity you have," said the Spaniard.

"Sometimes you are quick, sometimes you are slow, some parts of the race Felipe was quicker, so it was very difficult to judge.

"The best thing is the result for the team, top two. Hopefully next weekend in Hungary we can do the same again."

Massa, clearly distraught at having his first win of the season taken from his grasp, was reluctant to comment on the situation.

"I don’t think I need to say anything about it – he passed me. The only thing I feel is that I did a good job for the team, that is the most important thing," he said.

Former F1 team owner turned BBC pundit Eddie Jordan slammed Sunday’s incident as "unlawful".

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"They (Ferrari) stole from us the chance of having a wheel-to-wheel contest between the drivers. Ferrari should be ashamed. This was a team order. For me, it is cheating and these two cars should be excluded."

Schumacher himself took the opposing viewpoint, arguing that Ferrari as they had done with him back in 2002 were concentrating on the only important issue at stake – the drivers’ title.

"I understand 100 percent and I would do exactly the same – what are we here for? We’re fighting for the championship."

Retired F1 driver David Coulthard agreed.

"For me this whole rule about team orders is ridiculous. You shouldn’t stop teams being able to control their race result. Like video evidence at the World Cup, it is time to change that rule."

Alonso’s win took him to within 34 points of drivers’ championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who after finishing fourth at Hockenheim is on 157 points.

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