Murray Walker : “Case of champagne from Ferrari to Sauber, because the Argentinian newcomer Norberto Fontana, up from Formula Three, really, really, helped Michael Schumacher on his way there."
Martin Brundle : “What engine have they got in that Sauber, Murray? Isn't it a Ferrari?”
Murray Walker : “Well, it is, yes. Martin you are a cynical chap.”
At Jerez in October of 1997, something sinister was afoot. That Michael Schumacher attempted to punt Jacques Villeneuve off the road that day is plain to see. But less obvious was the collusion between the Ferrari and Sauber teams. Ferrari have often denied any unsporting behaviour and they continue to do so. Recently, Jean Todt was heard denying that there ever was a number one driver at Ferrari. Which we all know is complete rubbish.
I had just spotted this new article by that man of controversy, Tom Rubython, which was published in F1i a few days ago. And it sheds light onto events of that day. Now, collusion between teams to my mind should be allowed and it is all part of the game. But as the article explains, this was a case of colluding to force a back marker to delay the progress of Jacques Villeneuve. Not a front runner fighting for the lead of the race but a back marker under blue flags. All because that back marker was in a car powered by a Ferrari engine and with it came certain obligations.
Well, Michael would be paid back 2 years later at Suzuka when David Coulthard delayed his progress during the race when David was about to be lapped. But the funny things was, Michael the cheek to complain about it in the post race interview. Takes one to know one eh Michael?
In any case the events that day forever destroyed the career of the back marker in question, not that he was especially brilliant in a Formula 1 car that day. However romantic the story of Ferrari's success in later years with their string of championships, at the heart of it all was a team that had very little moral principles about them.