Formula 1 | The Fontana-Ferrari affair, an arrangement smothered by Todt and Peter Sauber?

Nicholas Latifi is not the first unfortunate driver in the peloton to find himself at the center of events, even of a controversy, for the awarding of a world title in F1 during the final race. Before him, there were also « Latifi bis » and who unfortunately also had to suffer, taunts, jokes, or even worse…

In 1997, in Spain, the whole F1 paddock held its breath: who was going to be titled between Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve?

History remembers this European Grand Prix in Jerez as the final clash between Ferrari and Williams: or rather, the desperate, furious and undoubtedly reprehensible movement of the German, who, seeing that his rival was going pass him, tried to send him into the background.

A suicide maneuver that ended with the failure of Michael Schumacher (who would be downgraded from the championship) and the rickety triumph of Villeneuve, who was able to finish the race, fading behind a McLaren double that would prefigure the year 1998.

However, without this final shock, and if Michael Schumacher had been titled, history would have rather retained what should be called « the Fontana-Ferrari affair ».

Almost forgotten in F1 today, Norberto Fontana was an Argentinian Sauber-Petronas driver who served two successive spells to replace the injured Morbidelli in the Swiss team.

The crux of the matter was this: Sauber was powered by Ferrari. Hey… It was going to matter on the 31st lap.

Indeed at this loop, Fontana, who was one lap behind, saw the two leaders come back on him. Michael Schumacher was then in the lead.

Neither one nor two, he faded extremely quickly behind the Kaiser. But… he held back the Williams for long turns, giving the Ferrari a gift of several seconds.

Admittedly, the Williams ends up returning to the Ferrari, with the outcome that we know, but what would have been the fate of the controversy if in the end, the red car had won by a short head?

2006, the business bounces back spectacularly

This is not the end of this story. Far from there.

In 2006, Fontana gave a sensational interview, confirming, so to speak, the “Ferrari-Sauber” versus Williams conspiracy theory.

“Two to three hours before the race, Jean Todt came into the motorhome and told us that Ferrari was ordering us to block Villeneuve if we got in his way. Schumacher never thanked me, and Jean Todt left the paddock after the race. I never spoke to him again. » he then launched.

Both targeted, Jean Todt and Peter Sauber denied en bloc. The first assured that the accusation of Fontana had no  » any sense. »

As for Peter Sauber, he answered this: « In nine years of working with Ferrari, Jean Todt has never asked one of our drivers to obstruct Michael Schumacher on the track ».

Who is telling the truth? Had Fontana received the instruction to block Villeneuve? The images seem obvious.

The outcome of the case may have recently been brought by The Race: reporters say they received confirmation from Sauber that Fontana’s account was accurate.

Why would Williams not have reacted then? Still according to the same source, it seemed that at Grove, we would have found this process fair game, and that we would have done the same if Williams had had a B-team.

In F1, the war is thus played behind the scenes, and the B-teams have a major role to play. Even if fair play suffered…

Previous episodes:

‘Is that Glock?’ : when Hamilton won an F1 title on the last lap

Brazil 2012: Before Latifi, another Williams driver nearly decided the F1 title

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