Is Massa gearbox the right move?

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From the quiet of an early-morning pitlane came the slow, percolating news that Ferrari may opt to change Felipe Massa’s gearbox which would prompt a 5-place grid penalty. The rumor became a reality as the news broke prior to the start that this would be the tactic taken and that Fernando Alonso would move up the grid from his current 8th place to 7th for the start of Sunday’s United States Grand Prix in Austin Texas.

The penalty will place both Ferrari drivers on the “clean” side of the grid for the start and some engineers have told the press that they estimate the “dirty” side to cost as much as two places at the start of the race. Even McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who will start on the dirty side, was calling for the cleaning of the grid to help improve grip.

The Circuit of the Americas is a brand new track and with new tracks you inherently have a slippery nature to them. They haven’t had years of use and the track isn’t “rubbered-in” from numerous races.

Ferrari spokesperson told the press:

“This decision has been taken to maximise the potential at the start for Fernando which is normal in a way because you have seen yesterday that starting from the dirty side of the grid is very poor there. Fernando is going for the championship and we need to do all the best we can to help him in this fight.

“We share the decision with the drivers, Felipe accepted the decision. Of course it’s not the best thing that you can be told, on the other side I can tell you we made this decision with complete transparency knowing that in Ferrari the interests of the team comes before everything else. And Felipe proved again to be a strong member of the team who shared the spirit of the team and we would like to thank him publicy for this.”

It is a team sport but is this using the regulations for an advantage when it is a penalty intended to punish those who fall afoul of the rules? The result has moved Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hulkenberg to the dirty side now and Felipe Massa, who was clearly the quicker of the two Ferraris, is relegated to 12th.

As a fan, what do you think? Is this perfectly within the rules? If yes, is it the best move to get Fernando up front. If Vettel wins, Fernando needs to finish 4th or better and that is Ferrari’s aim.

If starting ont he clean side is a real handicap, it’s understandable but Massa has been quick all weekend and one wonders if he couldn’t be a spoiler for Kimi Raikkonen, Michael Schumacher and Mark WEbber in order to tow Alonso toward the front. Perhaps Ferrari doesn’t have the confidence that this will remotely work and toward the back Massa goes.

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