If I were prone to conspiracy theories...
...then the actions of the stewards at the Italian Grand Prix today would be the final evidence I needed to show that the 2006 Formula One World Drivers Championship was being manipulated to manufacture either a close finish or a win for "FIA friend" Ferrari and the soon-to-be-retired Michael Schumacher.
Since I've been away some time I haven't yet commented on the subject of the summer: Tuned Mass Dampers and their banning by the FIA. I believe the FIA are totally wrong about TMD's being "moveable aerodynamic devices", partly because the purpose is to improve mechanical grip - any secondary aero benefit that can be ontained by allowing the car to run lower is minor and such improvements come from many other technological developments which aren't similarly seen as needing to be banned. Also I believe the regulations are flawed in their definition of devices having "aerodynamic influence". They should only include bodywork that is licked by the airstream. For something that completely enclosed within the bodywork to be considered an "aerodynamic device" is just ludicrous. The FIA were able to test their ban in front of the Court of Appeals and it stood up to the letter of the regulations as they stand. However, the appeal by the FIA and the way in which it was conducted (with Renault having presented extensive documentation and research to justify their position and the FIA just repeating it's previous judgement on a couple of pages) smacks of the FIA simply wanting the device banned and the "moveable aerodynamic devices" rule was just a simple way to achieve that without having to introduce a new rule mid-season.
It's why the FIA wanted the TMD banned mid-season that is more curious. Especially as they knew about them since last year. The reasonable person in me wants to accept that they had concerns about development getting out of hand with larger dampers appearing all over the cars forming a potential safety hazard, but with only 6 races left until the end of the season at the time, it would have been more reasonable to allow TMDs until the end of the season, then bring in a specific rule to ban them. To the conspiracy theorist it looks very much like the FIA wanted to reign in the Renault team who where making 2006 into the biggest cakewalk since Ferrari's in 2004 (only 3 races were won by other teams).
Conspiracy theories would have been further fueled when Alonso was handed a 2 second qualifying time penalty in Hungary, although any reasonable person would agree that he did drive dangerously in practice and deserved a penalty (although the 2 seconds seems a bit harsh). Most of those conspiracy theorists shut up when Alonso's title rival, Michael Schumacher was handed his own 2 second qualifying time penalty due to passing under red in the final practice session. Some claim that Alonso tricked Schumacher into passing him when Jenson Button's engine blew up, but he clearly had plenty of time to slow down. Having handed Alonso a penalty (part of which was for passing under a yellow flag), they had no option but to penalise Schumacher similarly or risk accusations of bias.
The apparently independent stewards have handed out several penalties for blocking during qualifying this year. These vary in severity depending on whether the block was deemed deliberate or not and whether it was dangerous (or just really blatant like Schumacher's stopping on track in Monaco). Even if a driver impedes a flying lap of another driver by accident, they can still be penalised on the basis that they (or their team) should have been paying more attention to what's going behind them.
Following qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix, the stewards penalised Fernando Alonso by removing his three fastest qualifying laps (in the final session) for impeding Ferrrari driver, Filipe Massa's final flying lap. That's got to look mighty suspicious when Alonso is being chased down by Massa's teammate, Michael Schumacher, in the 2006 championship. It would be suspicious if Alonso had actually impeded Massa, but I was watching the supposed incident live on TV. Massa caught Fernando at the end of the lap and they never actually got closer than 4 or 5 car lengths. It actually looked like Massa backed off voluntarily and he certainly made no attempt to pass Alonso. The point is, at the same time Alonso was coming up to start a flying lap and couldn't go offline or massively slow to help out Massa without compromising his own final flying lap. If this indicent had occured earlier in the lap or if Alonso was on a slowing down lap or something, that would be an easier call to make, but should a driver have to go out of their way to help another on a flying lap even if it compromises their own lap?
That's the key question for me. I'm not a conspiracy theorist and given the permanent steward's heavy sanctions against Schumacher at Monte Carlo, it's hard to call him biased towards Ferrari. However, I think they have got a bee in their bonet about blocking this season. Some blocks have been blatant and should rightly be penalised, but this one was unavoidable and they have overstepped the mark by penalising Alonso for it. It was just bad luck that Massa came upon Alonso when he did. In the old days of qualifying drivers would get flying laps wrecked by traffic all the time and it wasn't considered necessary to penalise drivers then. That's partly because the 'qualifying on race fuel' rule means only your final flying lap really has a chance to get pole, magnifying the effect of any blown attempt. That's something that could be fixed for next season, but I don't see any evidence of that happening. Though at the rate we are going, if drivers are going to complain to the stewards about being blocked every single time a lap is even slightly ruined by another driver, we might as well go back to single-lap qualifying.