MONACO, (Reuters) – The body language on the podium spoke volumes after Ferrari, Formula One’s most glamorous team, won the showcase Monaco Grand Prix for the first time in 16 years yesterday.
Sebastian Vettel, following on from fellow-German great Michael Schumacher in 2001, beamed and conducted his jubilant mechanics from the podium as they belted out the Italian national anthem.
Kimi Raikkonen, the Finnish team mate who had led from pole for nearly half the race, stared straight ahead and set about glugging the champagne as soon as he could.
It was Ferrari’s first one-two finish since 2010 and chairman Sergio Marchionne was quick to hail “a race which will be part of our history… a really exciting race where we saw the real scuderia (team).”
But Raikkonen saw nothing to smile about and the question being asked elsewhere was whether Ferrari had manipulated the pitstops to ensure Vettel got ahead.
“It doesn’t feel awful good,” Raikkonen told Germany’s retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg in interviews after the podium ceremonies. The former Mercedes driver replied that he knew how that felt.
Raikkonen told reporters he had “got the bad end of the story… it’s still second place but obviously it doesn’t count a lot in my books at least.”
He had been called in first for his pitstop and released into traffic, losing precious time while Vettel stayed out for five laps more and banged in a series of quick laps before pitting and then coming out ahead.
There is nothing illegal with ‘team orders’ but Raikkonen is one of Formula One’s most popular drivers and there were many hoping to see the 37-year-old 2007 champion roll back the years and win again.
Vettel, the championship leader who has now won three out of six races and has a 25 point lead over Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton, said no instructions were issued.
“From the team point of view, there was no plan of any team orders or anything,” he said. “I can understand that obviously Kimi’s not happy. I would feel exactly the same, 100 percent the same.
“The rule is pretty clear when you qualify ahead and you are ahead in the first stint, you get priority on the first stop and that’s what happened. As it turned out, obviously today it worked in my favour.”
The German also received some support from Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
“They (Ferrari) are finally where we were back in the days that you finished one-two and then you have to explain why the right guy won,” he said with a smile.
“I think we need to give them credit… they needed to pit one of the two drivers and put him on the super-soft (tyre). How it all panned out, the super-soft was not quick enough and Sebastian was able to pull out some stunning laps on the used ultra-soft.
“I don’t think they saw that coming. At the end of the day it’s the right result for the team and the drivers’ championship. But I don’t think it was orchestrated.”