Felipe Massa has been forced to backtrack on comments made about Fernando Alonso after claiming his future Ferrari team-mate knew all along about the Singapore race-fixing scandal. It is hardly an auspicious start to their future relationship, with Alonso recently signing a three-year deal from 2010 with Ferrari, replacing the departing Kimi Raikkonen.
In a briefing with Brazilian media, Massa was clear in his remarks that Alonso must have been aware of the plot that culminated in Nelson Piquet Jnr deliberately crashing his Renault in last season's Singapore Grand Prix, helping the Spaniard to claim a remarkable victory.
"It was the team and Nelson, but Alonso was part of the problem," Massa is quoted as saying. "He knew. We cannot know it, [but] of course he knew. Absolute certainty."
Alonso has long maintained he was completely unaware of any plan and was cleared by motor sport's governing body, the FIA, who handed Renault a suspended two-year ban from Formula One following a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council.
The incident resulted in Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds resigning from their positions as team principal and executive director of engineering respectively. The FIA subsequently handed Briatore an indefinite ban from the sport and Symonds was banned for five years.
Massa's comments sparked a storm in his native Brazil prior to Sunday's grand prix at Interlagos where he will wave the chequered flag. However, within hours he had attempted to play down and clarify his words via a statement on Ferrari's website, although he could not deny he has suspicions.
"What I've said is the outcome of a hunch I've had and is not based on any concrete evidence," said Massa. "The FIA World Council announced that there was no indication that Fernando may have been informed of what had happened and I respect this outcome.
"I have already said several times what I thought about it and now it's time to close that chapter and to look to the future. What is certain is that this episode will not mar in any way the relationship I'll have with Fernando when we will be team-mates."
Meanwhile, two leading figures at the FIA, Peter Doggwiler and David Ward, have been lobbying for Jean Todt to be elected as the new president of the governing body, according to leaked emails. Todt, who is up against Ari Vatanen in the election in Paris next Friday, can already count on the backing of incumbent Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone.
However, the input of Ward and Doggwiler in the campaign could be deemed to be more controversial given their positions within the FIA.Reuse content