Ferrari ensured that Fernando Alonso gains one more position on the starting grid for the United States Grand Prix by breaking the seal on the gearbox on teammate Felipe Massa’s car on Sunday.
As a result of the actions of the Italian team, Massa will be handed a five-place grid penalty by the FIA, promoting Alonso to seventh place.
Ferrari admitted that the move was a strategic decision taken in the interests of the team.
"We’ve decided to accept the penalty normally associated with the gearbox change on Felipe’s car which means that he’ll get a five place grid penalty," the team said in a statement. "The reason for this was for strategy considerations, with the objective of maximizing Alonso’s start potential given that he’s still in with a chance to win the drivers’ championship.
"We saw yesterday that starting from the dirty side of the track would have been penalizing: there was a significant risk of finding ourselves too far behind the leaders at the end of the first lap. It was a decision agreed by both drivers.
"We’ve always maintained that the interests of the team come before that of the individual drivers and this has always been our very transparent policy. Felipe has fully comprehended the reasons behind this decision and so he’s once again proven his total dedication to the team - something for which we would publicly like to express our gratitude," the statement added.
Massa had originally qualified seventh and Alonso ninth, but an earlier five-place grid penalty for Lotus’ Romain Grosjean elevated both the Ferrari drivers by one position.
Alonso will start seventh and significantly will have the advantage of being on the cleaner side of the grid, an aspect which several drivers on the inside line raised concerns about.