• United States Grand Prix

Massa grid penalty puts Alonso on clean side of grid

ESPN Staff
November 18, 2012 « Start could throw up surprises | Reliability a worry for Red Bull admits Webber »
Felipe Massa has taken a grid penalty with Fernando Alonso benefiting by moving up to seventh © Sutton Images
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Felipe Massa has been given a five-place grid penalty for the United States Grand Prix after Ferrari broke a seal on his gearbox. It has the knock-on effect of changing the grid for the race and promoting Fernando Alonso to seventh.

Massa was supposed to be starting sixth, but rumours started to circulate on Sunday morning that his team would change his gearbox, demoting him to 11th. With the even-numbered grid positions offering very little grip, Massa's demotion will give championship challenger Alonso a significant advantage by putting him on the clean side of the grid at the start.

"I think it will be the biggest difference you ever saw in our starts," Massa said on Saturday when asked how big a disadvantage it would be to start on the dirty side. "I think it will be massive. This morning I did a [practice] start on the left and I was slower than in the wet."

With championship rival Sebastian Vettel starting from pole position, Alonso needs to finish within ten points of the Red Bull to keep his championship hopes alive. Some predictions have suggested starting on the dirty side of the grid could cost as much as two places off the start, meaning Alonso's new grid slot will be a big advantage.

A Ferrari statement read: "We've decided to accept the penalty normally associated with the gearbox change on Felipe's car which means that he'll get a 5 place grid penalty. The reason for this was for strategy considerations, with the objective of maximising 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 penalising: 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."

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