Ferrari tactics a sign of times

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The Independent Online

The extent of the outrage following the Ferrari decision to have Rubens Barrichello pull up for Michael Schumacher again is rather quaint.

Barrichello, his bank balance fattened by the signing of a new multi-million pound contract, looked as if he might just bear the pain. What was so odd was the apparent basis of the indignation. The word from the Ferrari high command apparently cast doubts in some minds on the authentic sporting nature of the world drivers' championship. But where have those minds been? Replaying Murray Walker commentaries?

Formula One is, as never before, about power and money and Schumacher represents the apex of it all. Two weeks ago in Barcelona, Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn was asked about the possibility of a curb on track testing in an attempt to level-off the playing field on which the wealthy and the desperate are required to play. His reaction was swift and telling. Ferrari would simply build a new test-rig and hire another 100 workers.

Schumacher was sheepish after being handed the Austrian Grand Prix but after measuring the reaction, and perhaps especially the boos of a usually adoring crowd, he presumably decided the effects were beginning to become a little surreal.

He pointed out that if it happens that the Williams team somehow find a means of giving second-placed Juan Pablo Montoya a car in which he can develop his already impressive challenge, in pure driving terms, to the champion, Ferrari might well need the extra four points they ordered into his column on the last lap on Sunday afternoon.

Schumacher said that as vast amounts of money were spent in pursuit of the drivers' and constructors' championships it was maybe logical that, given the current position in the drivers' championship, Ferrari might want to capitalise on their current advantage.

Logical, indeed. When you think about it, it could only be challenged by an assertion that Formula One is still a test of individual brilliance and nerve rather than the weight of technology and finance. No one understands the nonsense of this proposition more than the man who some years ago drove himself into complete mastery of a world he inhabits not so much as a competitor but an emperor. Schumacher made a passable face of embarrassment. But do not dream that it cost him a week of sleep.

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