Ferrari's decision to continue sporting Italian navy’s flag on their cars at India GP sparks diplomatic row

Ignoring India’s objections and backed by Italy, Formula One team Scuderia Ferrari has decided to continue sporting the Italian navy’s flag on their cars in support of the country’s
marines charged with homicide in Kerala, says a report in The Indian Express.

Criticising the move, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said: “Using sporting events to promote a cause which is not of a sporting nature and one which is sub judice is not in keeping with the spirit of sport.”

According to the report, Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi backed the team soon after Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa had driven out of the pits at Friday’s practice. “This shows that the entire country stands behind the marines,” Terzi tweeted.

Ferrari’s head of press operations said the flags would stay during the Indian Grand Prix. “It’s not a statement, we are asking for the (sailors’) issue to be solved,” said Luca Colijanni. “If the flag is politically motivated, it can be argued that Lewis Hamilton using Bob Marley’s image encouraged smoking dope.” Later on Friday, Ferrari put up a statement on its website calling the flag “a tribute to one of our country’s outstanding institutions”. “Ferrari wishes to make it clear that this initiative does not have, nor should it be seen as having, any political implication.”

Meanwhile The DNA writes that They came, and they sparked a diplomatic row between India and Italy.  “Formula One team Ferrari announced that it will race at the Indian Grand Prix this weekend with the seal of the Italian navy on its cars. This, it said, was a gesture of solidarity with the two Italian marines who were arrested for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in February. The team said it wants to pay tribute to "the Italian Navy which is one of the excellences of Italy," says the report.

This decision has not gone down well with India. "Using sporting events to promote causes which are not of a sporting nature is not in keeping with the spirit of sports," said ministry of external affairs' spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. That Italy is chuffed was obvious when its foreign minister, Guilio Terzi, congratulated Ferrari through a tweet: "Congratulations to Ferrari for displaying the navy's symbol at the India GP. It will show the sailors the whole country is behind them."

Meanwhile The Times Of India writes that Ferrari's decision to use the Italian navy's insignia on its cars during practice may understandably incense many people in India, but the government would have done better not to wade into the controversy. “The gesture may be in bad taste and construed as abusing India's hospitality, but how does that make it a diplomatic incident? Ferrari is not a representative of the government of Italy. If Formula One's rules prohibit participants from using the platform of the sport to espouse political causes, it is for the sport's administrators to take a call on whether this constitutes a violation of those rules in letter or spirit,” readsthe TOI views.