Ferrari has put itself at the centre of a political row between Italy and India, following its decision to display the flag of the Italian navy on its F2012 during yesterday’s practice sessions at the Indian Grand Prix.
The dispute harks back to the February arrest of two Italian sailors, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, who were detained in connection with the shooting deaths of two Indian fishermen, who were apparently mistaken for pirates.
The incident has led to a long-running dispute between the two countries, each of whom is claiming that it holds exclusive jurisdiction in the assessment and possible prosecution of the alleged crime.
Ferrari has since taken the decision to display the naval flag on the front bulkhead of the F2012 yesterday, prompting consternation among many in the media, who have suggested that the team is breaching the FIA’s statutes that strictly prohibit teams making political statements through their presence in Formula 1.
In announcing its decision to carry the flag decal during this weekend, Ferrari was at pains to word its press release to avoid any political references, therefore making it in breach of the statutes.
“Ferrari pays tribute to one of the outstanding entities of our country, also in the hope that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation currently involving two sailors from the Italian Navy,” the statement reads.
Until now, the diplomatic row has remained almost unknown outside of Italian and Indian circles, but the heavy press attention it is receiving has ensured the matter has been amplified, effectively forcing the Indian government to act.
The Indian government will of course argue that the gesture is both political and provocative, and the FIA may be compelled to intervene and instruct Ferrari to remove the decals before the end of the weekend.
Nonetheless, the point has well and truly been made.
However, Ferrari might want to consider just how it expediently will be able to gets its entire freight out of the country and through India’s notoriously difficult customs processes, particularly given the next Grand Prix at Abu Dhabi is set for the weekend following this one…