India Grand Prix: Ferrari flag up support for murder charge pair Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone


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The Independent Online

Ferrari found themselves beaten on the track by Red Bull yesterday, and increasingly berated off it as their Indian hosts were angered by their decision to race with the Italian navy's flag on their cars as a gesture of solidarity with two sailors who are facing trial in India on murder charges.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, marines aboard the Italian ship Enrica Lexie, are accused of shooting dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February, mistakenly believing them to be pirates. After imprisonment, they were granted bail in June on condition that they remain in Indian territory.

On their website, Ferrari said of the decision to place the flag on the car: "In doing so, Ferrari pay tribute to one of the outstanding entities of our country, also in the hope that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation currently involving the sailors from the Italian navy."

Syed Akbaruddin of New Delhi's Ministry of External Affairs said: "Using sporting events to promote causes which are not of a sporting nature is not in keeping with the spirit of sports."

As the situation escalated, commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone found himself being dragged into it. "We wouldn't get involved," he said. "We'd look at the national sporting authority here to have a look at that. We are not political."

Ferrari's team principal, Stefano Domenicali, defended his team's decision to wear the burgee. "There is not any political intent or discussion," he said.

It wasn't a great day on the track either for Ferrari or for McLaren as Sebastian Vettel finished the second practice session 0.118sec ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, himself 0.599sec clear of Fernando Alonso, with the McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button sixth and seventh fastest.