Team orders verdict may cost Alonso title hope

The Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso's hopes of winning a third Formula One title could be wiped out in a disciplinary hearing today into how the team broke the rules at the German Grand Prix.

Ferrari have already been fined $100,000 (£65,000) after Brazilian driver Felipe Massa appeared to let his team-mate Alonso pass him to win the race on 25 July.

Massa led for 49 of the 67 laps on the German circuit before allowing Alonso to overtake him following Ferrari radio messages, but both drivers escaped unsanctioned.

With six races left in the season, Alonso is 41 points behind the McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, who leads the drivers' standings, and retains an outside chance of winning the title. But the Spaniard would lose 25 points if he is stripped of the win in Hockenheim by the World Motor Sport Council, a decision that would probably put him out of contention ahead of Sunday's Italian Grand Prix in Monza.

In Germany, the race stewards didn't overturn Ferrari's one-two finish but ruled the Italian team had breached article 39.1 of the 2010 Sporting Regulations, which bans team orders that interfere with a race result, and article 151 c) of the International Sporting Code by bringing the sport into disrepute.

Article 39.1 was introduced following the 2002 season after Ferrari ordered Rubens Barrichello to hand victory to Michael Schumacher in the Austrian Grand Prix, when the FIA president, Jean Todt, was Ferrari's team principal.

The current Ferrari team principal, Stefano Domenicali, has denied any wrongdoing, although Massa reportedly received a message from a race engineer saying Alonso was faster than him. The radio message was seen as a clear order to let his team-mate pass.

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