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Mat Coch writes:
Ferrari has attempted to play the gracious winner card, despite approaching the FIA with questions over the validity of Sebastian Vettel's sixth place finish in Brazil.
Footage emerged after the final race of the season which, at first glance, appeared to show Vettel pass Jean-Eric Vergne under yellow flag conditions. When examined more closely it was clear a green flag was shown prior to Vettel beginning the pass, rendering null and void any hint of foul play.
However, this did not stop Ferrari, which confirmed it sent a letter to the governing body asking for clarification. The FIA duly responded that, as per the video, there was a green flag which officials had spotted at the time; hence it was never referred to the stewards.
Had Vettel been penalised, likely by way of a twenty second penalty added to his final race time, he would have dropped to eight in the standings, thereby handing Fernando Alonso the championship.
The protracted 'will they, won't they' saga kept Formula One in the headlines as uncertainty and rumour mongering over the legitimacy of Vettel's championship win was drawn in to question. Ferrari insisted it acted on behalf of fans in a move designed to ease public speculation rather than fuel it.
"It was incumbent on us to ask the Federation for a clarification, given everything that was going around on the internet," said Stefano Domenicali on Friday.
"We had no intention of belittling the merit of the title winner," he added, "but it was right to have the matter completely cleared up."
With the answer firmly in Red Bull's favour, and Vettel now clearly and unequivocally the sport's youngest ever triple world champion, Ferrari is trying to sweep last week's episode firmly under the carpet.
"Congratulations go to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull because they won and we are happy to congratulate winners," declared Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo. "As for the yellow flag saga, we took the simplest and most linear route, by asking the Federation to look into it, making it clear that we would accept their decision and that's what we did."
Accept the decision it may have, but whether it was right to publicly raise the question in view of the available evidence in the first place is a whole different matter; mud was thrown at Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, and some of it will stick, fairly or otherwise.
That said, according to editor Balfe, the Marlborough's resident expert in chief, Tony Davis, insists that "the move was illegal" and "the German should be stripped of his title".
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