On Friday, Ferrari walked right into the middle of a political dispute when it displayed the Italian navy flag on its cars that were involved in the Formula One practice at the Indian Grand Prix. The flying of the flags on the vehicles was a sign of unity for two Italian sailors who are being held in India after Indian fishermen were shot to death in February. The Italian sailors said that they though the fishermen were pirates. The navy was out protecting a cargo ship from Italy in the Indian Ocean.
The two men, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, were granted bail but have to stay in India. The country of Italy has said that the men should be allowed to go back to their home country because the incident occurred in international waters. The government of India released a statement via the external affairs ministry about the flying of the Italian navy flags.
“As regards use of sporting events for causes which have nothing to do with sports, it certainly (is) not in the spirit of sports as we deem it.”
The display of the flags broke the rules of the sports, which prohibit political, racial or religious gestures. According to Stefano Domenicali, he said that it was ‘not true’ that the racing team was trying to overtly support the sailors. A spokesman for Ferrari said in the Indian Express newspaper that “we have utmost respect for the Indian authorities. We just hope that a solution can be found as soon as possible.”
Bernie Ecclestone, the boss for F1, said that the sport is apolitical and that the organizers were not involved in the incident. “We’ll ask the national sports organizations to have a look at that,” Ecclestone said.
Guilio Terzi, the Italian foreign minister, tweeted, ”Congratulations to Ferrari for displaying the navy’s symbol at the India GP. It will show the sailors the whole country is behind them.”
Luca di Montezemolo, the company chairman of Ferrari, said, “We just want to give a small contribution, with great respect to the Indian authorities, toward finding a solution with dialogue. The navy is one of Italy’s best symbols. I have great memories of when I was a young student at the Morosini naval academy.”
Meetings between the two governments occurred back in February, not long after the incident, but no agreement was reached between the two parties. As murder charges were filed against the sailors, they spent four months in confinement. The two were issued bail in June but have had to make court appearances regularly since then.