Schumacher on pole amid controversy

Guilty verdict after eight hours of deliberation into skulduggery on the Monte Carlo waterfront

Michael Schumacher found himself in the centre of a maelstrom yesterday when he was accused of committing a "professional foul" to protect his pole position, so important here.

The German had lapped his Ferrari in 1min 13.898sec to go fastest late in qualifying. But Fernando Alonso then set the fastest time in the first sector. Previous form had revealed the Spaniard and his Renault to have a three-tenths of a second advantage in the last sector, which includes the slow Rascasse hairpin. There, Schumacher appeared to make an error, locking up a front wheel, momentarily understeering wide, and then opening up the steering again before just avoiding contact with the barrier on the outside. The track was almost blocked, but in any case the yellow warning flags prevented anyone else posting a fast lap.

"I braked a touch too much coming into Rascasse, and couldn't make it round," he said. "I checked with the guys over the radio, 'Where did we end up?', and when they said P1, I couldn't believe it!"

It didn't take long for the dark clouds to roll in on the former champion. Given the "steering errors" he made against Damon Hill in Adelaide in 1994, and against Jacques Villeneuve in Jerez in 1997, he should not have been surprised when people started accusing him of a professional foul. "If it was not a credible mistake, it would be a shame," Schumacher agreed. "But as usual, whatever you do in a certain moment, your enemies believe one thing and those who support you another. That's what our sport is about. Some will believe what I explained, some won't. That's unfortunately the world we live in."

Eventually, somebody mentioned the c-word: cheating. "I don't think we cheated today," Schumacher bridled. "I don't know why you ask such a bad question. That's pretty tough. If you were driving a car round here, you wouldn't have asked that question."

And what of Renault's disgust and immediate complaint to the stewards by their principal, Flavio Briatore? "I don't care what other teams do," Schumacher said. "I know Flavio well enough." Indeed so. Briatore was running him back in 1994.

While Schumacher smarted in the press conference, Alonso let his expression speak for him. "We should have been on pole," he said flatly. "The previous lap I had been three-tenths faster in the last corner, so for sure we could have been on pole. I did my maximum with the car and today was OK, the car was performing really well, but after dominating all weekend, to lose pole on the last lap through somebody else's accident is not a good moment."

Did he think any the less of Schumacher after the incident? Perhaps the answer from this honourable individual was the most telling comment of all. "I have my opinion and I won't tell it here." How admirable restraint can be in certain circumstances.

Others were less circumspect. Briatore said: "The only way it could have been a mistake would be if it had been someone's first race, and it's not Michael's first race. I know he cheated. He stopped Fernando getting pole."

Villeneuve said: "It's as bad as Jerez in 1997. It's unbelievable and he should not be allowed to race if he does this sort of thing. For his sake I'd like to believe it was a mechanical failure, but watching TV, no way."

Jackie Stewart, a triple champion, said: "This was too blatant. When you see it in slow motion, turning the wheel one way and then the other, he had plenty of time to do something. This will not damage the reputation of the sport, but it will hurt Michael and Ferrari once again. It might have been more convincing if he had at least taken off the front wing."

At best it was a clumsy error, the sort of thing that the FIA might have banned a poor driver for perpetrating. It took the stewards eight hours to assess copious evidence and to deliberate. Then they said guilty as charged.

In penance for his lack of sportsmanship, Schumacher was moved to the back of the grid alongside team-mate Felipe Massa. Outside Ferrari, there were few in the paddock last night with a word of criticism for the ruling.

News
David Beckham
peopleFootballer joins No campaign
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

Arts and Entertainment
art
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories