In the absence of any action on the track for a month, the world of Formula One has instead been sidetracked by an unseemly spat between two of its household names.
The war of words between Ferrari and three-time world champion Niki Lauda seems all the more cheap and unnecessary given the Austrian won two of his titles with the Italian team in the 1970's and was a decade later appointed to a consultancy role by current Ferrari chairman Luca Di Montezemolo.
The controversy was sparked by the continuing fall out from the German Grand Prix, when Ferrari appeared to instruct their Brazilian driver Felipe Massa, who was leading the race, to allow teammate Fernando Alonso, in second, to overtake him.
The actual words used by Ferrari’s race engineer Rob Smedley over the radio were as follows: "Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand?" Seconds later, Massa slowed down, Alonso moved into the lead and the Spaniard went on to take the checkered flag.
Team orders have been forbidden in Formula One since 2002, a law introduced after too many seasons were influenced by manipulation from the pit lane which often, ironically, involved multiple world champion, and then Ferrari number one driver, Michael Schumacher and a succession of obedient number two's.
But at the Hockenheim circuit Ferrari clearly ignored that ruling according to those in charge, a fact reflected in their $100,000 fine – the maximum race stewards can impose – and the referral of the case to the FIA. The fact the sport’s ruling body decided not to hear the case until early September means accusations and counter claims are still being thrown by all sides, a full month after the event.
All of which leads us to Lauda’s interview with the official Formula One website, where he expressed his view that Ferrari had acted “against all rules” in Germany, and were “mocking the fans” for seemingly orchestrating the result. He also said the Italians could expect a “pasting” when the hearing in Paris finally gets underway.
Ferrari’s retort, which appeared on their official website, pulled no punches, calling Lauda “hypocritical” and saying he’d squandered a “fine opportunity to keep his mouth shut.”
Their point that Lauda was happy to receive and comply with team orders back in the day is nonsensical, given the rules have now been changed and the 61-year-old was commenting accordingly.
To employ such fierce language towards an individual who enjoyed some of the finest moments of his career in a red of the Italian marque is surely a churlish argument that Ferrari could have risen above.
Lauda is perfectly entitled to his opinion, especially given his credentials, but surely he knew he would provoke a reaction from an outspoken team with his inflammatory comments.
Still, the Austrian more-than-likely voiced the thoughts of the majority of fans, who would prefer to see a straight shoot out between the drivers than a win-at-all-costs policy adopted by any team.
The petty squabble detracts from what promises to be an enthralling climax to the season, with the five leading drivers separated by just 20 points at the top of the championship.
Moreover, it begs the question why it has taken the FIA so long to hear the case. Had it been in the first week of the month-long hiatus then all parties would know exactly where they stand once the season revs up again in Belgium.
Instead, F1 fans are subjected to mud slinging from two parties who, if truth be told, should know better.