Conspiracy theories raised after Ferrari star pips youngster Perez in rain-affected Sepang race
SAUBER chiefs were forced to deny claims they conspired to let Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso win the Malaysian Grand Prix, after the Spaniard claimed top spot in the world championship at torrential Sepang yesterday.
Alonso was just half a second ahead of Sauber youngster Sergio Perez in the closing stages before the Mexican ran wide at a corner, consigning him to second place, ahead of Britain’s Lewis Hamilton.
The incident came after Sauber engineers had told Perez “we need the position” – a message some interpreted as team orders to back off the Ferrari, who trained Perez and supply Sauber’s engines.
But team boss Peter Sauber said: “It’s a misunderstanding. It was because behind us all our main competitors scored points. So it was important we kept the result and not the position.”
He denied Perez had been asked to stay behind Alonso, or that there had been any discussions with Ferrari, adding: “No – 100 per cent no; 100 per cent nothing. We had no discussion about Checo [Perez] nor the position.”
Sauber chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn said: “What we meant was: get the car home. It was important to us to get the result – there was nothing else to it. There was no instruction.”
The row detracted from a wonderful drive by the 22-year-old, who scored more points yesterday than in all of last season and is being touted as a replacement for Ferrari’s own Felipe Massa.
Alonso’s 28th Grand Prix win put him five points clear in the drivers’ standings and owed much to the rain, which made his car more competitive and caused a safety car stoppage after six laps.
Hamilton (inset) said he was “satisfied” after finishing third again despite starting on pole, but McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, winner last week in Australia, was 14th after a collision damaged his front wing.
World champion Sebastian Vettel finished a race pointless for the first time in 27 Grands Prix after being nudged by HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan.
STANDINGS | WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 35 points
2. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 30
3. Jenson Button (McLaren) 25
4. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 24
5. Sergio Perez (Sauber) 22
6. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 18