Number two driver could be in trouble after ignoring team instructions.
Fernando Alonso insisted there was no rift with Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa after the Brazilian ignored team orders during Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Race engineer Rob Smedley barked through the radio “Multi-function strategy A — now, please” in the early stages of the race, believed to be a clear order for Massa to let Alonso overtake into fifth place.
The Brazilian refused, however, and Alonso had to battle past him on the home straight on lap 20.
“We cannot make a big thing about it,” said the Spaniard, who eventually finished fourth to delay Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel fourth successive Formula One title.
“I don’t know exactly what happened, but zero problems. We are trying to do our best — Felipe, me, the team — to score as many points as possible.
“Sometimes it’s difficult, especially when the performance is not super. It’s never easy when are fighting for seventh, eighth place.
“It would be nice to go back to the old days in Ferrari, fighting for first and second and deciding who wins the races, like Red Bull does.”
Massa, being replaced by Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari next year and looking to secure a seat for 2014, was still fuming after finishing 10th.
“It was an instruction,” he snapped, refusing to elaborate about the radio order.
His misery was compounded by a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Massa did say the orders row had been addressed after the race, but he was clearly still annoyed.
“We’re never happy with instructions,” he said. “We already discussed it. Whatever happened in the race was not over any instruction, he overtook me on the track. We fought on the track.
“The unfortunate thing was the drive-through… it destroyed my race completely.”
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali refused to publicly criticise Massa for disobeying orders.
“At the end of the day Fernando overtook him on the track,” he said. “I can understand his feeling. The team will totally support him until the end of the season, no problem.”
Domenicali was happy with Ferrari’s weekend after they stretched their second-place lead over Mercedes in the constructors’ championship to 10 points.
“This is the target with four races to go,” said Domenicali. “It’s fundamental to keep our engineering staff with their heads up because we want to keep that position up to the end.”