What the FIA should do about team orders in Formula 1
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What the FIA should do about team orders in Formula 1
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Jul 2010   |  1:17 pm GMT  |  1,135 comments

A day on from the furore over the Ferrari team orders row in the German Grand Prix, it seems to me that there has been a bit of an overreaction, with some sections of the media calling them ‘cheats’ and others calling for them to be banned by the disciplinary arm of the World Motor Sport council.

This is nonsense. Yes, it is a serious situation because they violated a rule which says that team orders are banned. And we should be in no doubt, despite the denials of Alonso that team orders were invoked here. But you have to look at the wider picture and acknowledge that it is a question of degree and that some common sense needs to be applied when sorting this matter out.


No-one was left in any doubt about what was happening by the tone and language of the message to Felipe Massa, nor by his subsequent yielding of the lead to Alonso. It is clear that Ferrari have a case to answer in terms of breaking a rule. They have been fined $100,000 by the stewards in Hockenheim, but further sanctions may follow from the WMSC.

People will of course point to the irony of FIA president Jean Todt presiding over this, given that it was his team order to Rubens Barrichello in 2002 which led to the introduction of the rule. But Todt has separated his position from the disciplinary procedure of the FIA, part of his distinction from the previous regime of Max Mosley. So he will not be sitting in judgement on this one. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a force for change once the case has been heard. Because change is needed here.

The outcry back in 2002 was against the cynicism of the decision to give the win to Schumacher when he had been outclassed by Barrichello all weekend. It was very early in the season and Schumacher was already well clear in the points in an unbeatable car.

This situation is different on many counts. leaving aside the rule specifically banning team orders for a second, the championship is well advanced and it is closely fought. Ferrari feel aggrieved that they are at least 30 points worse off with Alonso than they should have been, largely due to some stewards decisions which have gone against them, rightly or wrongly. Massa too has lost points, but hasn’t been on the kind of form Alonso’s been on, so the Spaniard is clearly the one to go for the title, if Ferrari can only get him in the game.

He was faster than Massa all weekend and qualified in front of him, but then lost the start to the Brazilian and then couldn’t get ahead of him in the pit stops. If Ferrari had wanted to do a subtle switch, a slightly delayed pit stop for Massa would have done the trick. A second or two is all that it would have needed.

A big part of the problem here is the way it was handled, with Rob Smedley being given the task of giving his driver the bad news. It should have been Stefano Domenicali, the team boss, or Chris Dyer, the senior engineer. Smedley’s close relationship with Massa meant that he would inevitably struggle to deliver the message impartially and when he felt obliged afterwards to apologise – “Good lad, keep it going, sorry” – it sealed the conviction in our minds that this was a team order.

Eddie Irvine, who has been on the receiving end of a few “move over” orders in his time, said last night that he felt Smedley and Massa had overblown it to make a point and in doing so had let the team down. It has certainly landed them in hot water.

But the wider question is, should F1 have this rule banning team orders, should teams be able to act in the interests of the championship and are moves like this acceptable in some situations?

Think back to 2007, when Massa moved over in Brazil to let Raikkonen win the championship or the following year when the roles were reversed – did anyone object then? No, so that means that fans can understand there are occasions when teams do need some mechanism for shuffling the order, it’s just a question of the circumstances.

Given this, much of the hype in the media today is just that. It’s not race fixing and it’s not even in the same league as the Renault fix in Singapore with Nelson Piquet (which was ironically also to benefit Alonso).

There is a case to answer before the WMSC, but I would like to see the FIA take this opportunity to review the team orders rule and I would like to see FOTA stand behind Ferrari and come up with some proposals as to how this rule can best be adapted to work in the best interests of teams and of fans in modern F1.

It’s all very well for Christian Horner to say that he lets his drivers race, but come Brazil or Abu Dhabi when, for example, Hamilton is leading the championship and Vettel has a chance of beating him, if only his team mate, who’s well behind on points lets him through, are you telling me that he won’t make the switch? Of course he will and Webber will know before the start of the race what the score is.

People would expect it and understand it. The problem comes when it’s considered too early in the season. Perhaps the rule should be that there can be no team orders until the final third of the championship? That would be a simple solution.

But to reinforce the rule that team orders are banned full stop, would be a terrible mistake. It would create yet another artificiality, which would be more damaging to the sport in the long run.

Please send in your suggestions for how the FIA should handle the hearing and what changes if any should be brought in to the team orders rule. As always I will forward any that I feel have some merit on to the teams and to the FIA.

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1

My suggestion would be that teams can allocate the points from a 1-2 finish in whichever way they want. I notice this was also suggested by Ben, July 26th @ 3:05. This method gets my vote so I wanted to give it more exposure. It’s not perfect but it solves most of the problems – Massa would have stood on the top step and taken the trophy home, Alonso would have got the championship points. You won’t find a better solution – it would have worked just as well with the Barrichello/Schumacher situation that started this whole team-orders mess.

2

I mean enforce the banning.

3

The fan in me wants individuals; that I can identify with, to triumph, I don’t care about the teams. Ban Team Orders; and enforce them.

4

I watched my first Gran Prix in 1963 at the Nurburgring and have been an aficionado ever since. The essence of the sport, in my opinion, relies heavily on “gentlemanly conduct”. Gamesmanship requires subtlety, which was lacking on this occasion and viewers were deprived of what could have been an interesting finish. I agree with James Allen’s hint, do it with subtle tsctics at a pit-stop. Unless of course you are a reincarnation of the late great Ayrton Senna.

5

Anyone who claims to be “disgusted” by the incident should watch a different sport.

6

I think the arguement is specious. The conversation that the FIA needs to have (and can’t) is about how the teams can do what they need to do without making it obvious.

The teams have been doing this since 2002 with no issues and we wouldn’t be having this discussion if Smedley hadn’t made a point of it. If you have a brain, you will realise that a team in ferraris’ position must have had this discussion in advance, which makes both Massa’s resistance to the pass, and smedleys performance on the radio both disloyal and enormously damaging.

No, I think the proper thing is to fine Ferrari 100,000 and walk away from it. Teams will have a stern word internally about ballsing this sort of thing up. The punters will be none the wiser, but still won’t need to deal with Austria 02 again.

Mclaren 2007 is the alternative, where a simple call with a few races to go would have secured a WDC, but the lack of a call ensured that none was had. I never understood how the team could chant about equality all the way to a defeat, that is madness.

The thing of is, we’ve been seeing this all year with ‘fuel’ minding. Hungary: Vettel gets his run on Webber because webber was put in low fuel mode at a crucial moment. Button has a go at Hamilton, the team has enough and tells them both to mind their fuel (code for no more racing)

I would prefer it’s obvious but that’s not practical.

7

James ,if its a sport and it has to put on a show for spectators then I like the suggestion in 734 above to do away with the radios. If its a business and bugger the spectators than Team orders prevail.

I have a question for you though.

Is there betting on the results of F1 races and if so in what Countries? If betting is legal then are there not rules relating to the fixing of results overseen by the various Countries Gambling Authorities. And does not breeching of those rules constitute a criminal offense. Would be most interested in your thoughts.

rgds

dj

8

My friends and I were totally disgusted with the Ferrari switch last weekend. We won’t be watching F1 again. First the Flavio/Piquet incident, now this.

Thank goodness the footy’s back on Sky!!

9

wow 1100 posts! that has to be record james yeah :p Ive never really noticed the stats in any detail before, but when this one hit four digits it caught my eye, well done everyone! ;D

10

James, can we have a button on top of each posting that would directly take us to “James allen’s replies”? I am sure like me, there are many around who would just like to read some posts for which you have replied. Very hard to even scroll through 1099 replies.

11

Good idea! I am always scrolling down to find James’ responses.

12

Especially when I can only see a maximum of 739 pages, where are the rest?? Is the JAonF1 site having problems with this number of replies?

13

We’re in new territory here.

14

Just use your browser’s “Find text” function (usually Ctrl+F) and type in “Allen” – that usually works pretty effectively 😀

JR

15

Some of us are fans of DRIVERS and could care less about teams.

From that perspective, Massa fans feel cheated, while Alonso fans feel deserving and vindicated, based on lap times.

Some of us are TEAM fans and could care less as to which driver finishes first, as long as maximum team points are scored.

Ferrari was the ultimate TEAM beneficiary, and team orders wouldn’t have had an effect, even if Massa had finished first.

Ferrari was willing to gamble on Alonso’s WDC chances and I’m sure that Rob Smedley and Massa purposely timed their yield to Alonso to make this a case of transparent team orders.

I wonder if a point penalty for just Alonso and not Ferrari might be forthcoming? What if the points awarded to Alonso and Massa were exchanged? Ferrari would still keep their total in the manufacturer’s race, but the WDC race points would be changed.

16

James I usually read your blog and I think you are one of the best F1 journalist, for that reason if you want to discuss “team orders” topic you should put all teams in the same basket. This is a endogenous F1 problem.

Is “Save fuel” not a team order?, Is “Vettel will use you new/unique front wing, Webber” not a team order?

I can not imagine someone so influential as JA could to criticize Ferrari as well McLaren, RedBull o whatever.

F1 has become to lobby races or journalist races.

Criticisms, praises, penalties, good press,… only depends on who, when, how, nationality, media, if he is title contender,…

Some ideas for teams orders/F1 show:

– No team/driver radio, only wall comunnication (this also will be interesting for the show, cause we have seen some engineer teaching to drive to some driver).

– During wall communication, in order to avoid team codes, only show: laps remaining, time lap, time +/- respect to front/back driver, PIT and FIA orders.

– Should be banned displays on steering wheels. By the way, this will avoid optimal gear change, this will improve human errors, showing best drivers skills.

Best regards.

17

They should just ban team orders up until 75% of the races are completed.

After that, team orders are fair game.

Any driver asked to be complicit in team orders before the deadline should be able to appeal to the FIA. It should be an offence for the driver to make decisions based on team orders, making it in their interests not to comply with them.

Orders should be clear and available on team radio for all the fans, media and FIA to hear.

Finally, it should be illegal for #2 clauses to be placed in contracts. All drivers must be team players and work for the constructors championship, but the drivers championship should be fair game for anyone to win.

Not perfect, but better than what we have now.

18

I agree with your first point

19

What I still cannot get from Brazil 2007 is why didnt Ron Dennis pull a plug to shut down Alonso’s car on the last few laps and tell Hamilton to try a touch harder to get past Heidfeld. I am pretty sure it was not that difficult to do.

I suspect McLaren had arranged with FIA they would not try too hard because of spygate… fans would not like see a champion from a cheating team, in a copied car.

I think the whole reason for Raikkonnen losing interest in F1 has to do with team orders and not being allowed to race for the best position possible. He was given a championship instead of having won it. McLaren and Massa gave him the title.

20

Well, I have to say that I’d rather not have seen the spectacle last Sunday, as Ferrari (better said, Massa and his engineer) did a very poor performance, but team orders in a sport based in teams is just inherent to the sport. If you have any doubt, you can ask Hamilton and Vetter about ‘saving fuel’ orders… If those are not team orders…

On the other hand, if what we want is seeing pilot vs pilot, regardless of their teams, then Alonso shouldn’t pass its telemetry readings or the set-up of his car to Massa. Then we would see what really happens, but so far the two cars belong to one team, and they share information, so it is legit to sometimes, give way to your team mate, and the spirit of the sport is not changed at all.

James, I truly agree on your point of view, current rules about team orders are just stupid and should be changed for the shake of the sport.

Cheers.

21

James what about amending it so team orders can only be implemented when it is mathematically impossible for one driver to win the WDC but the other is still in contention?

22

Could be too late with this points system.

23

Because my view of it is- while both drivers are still in contention for the WDC, they should be allowed to race for it.

Im aware that F1 has corporate interests and that Santander would want an Alonso WDC but F1 is a sport as well as a business, and they should balance it.

Also, any clues to why Bernie is shooting off about the new teams AGAIN? Theres usually a reason when he lets his mouth run away.

24

The only necesssary rule is to avoid or erase the enormous influence of english press and english “factors” in F1. There is an obvious biased lobby that afects too much the sport, and the reason why Hamilton had dozens of privileges since Tony Scott Andrews – Charlie Whiting , and even the FOM way to broadcast races. For sure this is bul***** for an englishman, but you just have to review the german press conference to Alonso after the race and realize that some “journalists” are annoyed and emotionally involved with their “questions”. Can you imagine the chance to had 4 or 5 spanish journalists asking Hamilton at Monaco or even Hungary in 2007? or some weird words from Ron Dennis listened during the race? Absolutely not. Unbalanced media, unbalanced sport, unbalanced results and the biggest irony: englishmen saying that rivals are emotionally involved. The real problem is to accept that the english headlines could affect decisions in the sport for so many years.

25

That’s probably because it’s a sport originating in England run by an Englishman, so there is bound to be some bias. If the sport was Spanish speaking then it probably wouldn’t be so widespread in the world and we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

That said I would certainly be interested in hearing what the non-English speaking press are saying, if you care to translate (English speakers are terribly lazy when it comes to other languages!)

26

A driver being allowed to pass a team mate during a race, should incur a 1 position grid drop at the next race. If its the last race of the season when places are swapped, then it doesn’t matter, it should be expected in the last race for teams to do this.

27

Team orders are impossible to police! End of story. They can’t be stopped.

You can have whatever rule you like but there is no legislating for a deliberately fumbled pitstop or a driver running wide on purpose. Not matter what arguments you put forward, there is no solution to this simple fact.

The teams will always find a way to implement them covertly. It’s not that hard to do is it?

Ferrari just blundered by letting Smedley make it all so obvious. Smedley has clearly protected Massa from any more orders this year as they will noe be under massive scrutiny henceforward.

Allow them! It’s the only way.

28
Andrew Crawford

PS:

I understand team orders are sometimes necessary to make sure a constructor has at least one driver in the hunt for the championship, but I think it should be made clear that’s what’s happening. If you give a team ‘X’ number of team orders they can give then you make it an interesting part of the strategy.

The question would then arise: “would the gain be enough in this race for us to use up one of our precious team orders or should we save it for later in the season?”

It’d be interesting to see if that would be welcomed by the drivers and teams… as a fan, I’d certainly enjoy it if it was a legitimized strategy that we can all be honest about.

All the best,

Andrew.

29
Andrew Crawford

Perhaps you could limit the number of team orders that could be given in any season. Make it clear that it most certainly is a team order, but they can only do it ‘X’ number of times in any one season. Say, 1 or 2 team orders in a season? Once they’re used up, they’re gone and you’ve “tweaked” the circumstances in favour of your number 1 driver as much as you can for that season – any further intervention is penalized with disqualification for the most advanced of your two cars where a team order is deemed proven by the WMSC. I feel this would also be welcomed by the number 2 drivers, who acknowledge they drive for the team but don’t want to feel that any progress they make during the season will be handed to their team mate by an order from the pits.

All the best,

Andrew.

30

My feeling is that the reason why there has been so much outrage to the outcome of last Sunday’s race is because it involved changing the lead of the race. Had the Ferraris being running 2nd and 3rd or 3rd and 4th, there wouldn’t have been a great deal of fuss made, as who wins the race is the biggest focus in any Grand Prix. What if there was a mechanism that had allowed Massa to have still won in Germany, but Alonso had taken home the maximum 25 points?

My idea is for teams to be able to nominate a number 1 driver prior to each race if they feel the need to do so, whereby if 2 cars from the same team finish the race in consecutive positions (e.g. 1st & 2nd or 2nd and 3rd etc.), any nominated number 1 driver from that team would score the points for the higher of these two places, regardless of which order the two cars had finished. Taking the German GP as an example, if Alonso had been nominated as the number 1 driver by Ferrari prior to the weekend, they wouldn’t have needed to switch the two cars around, as Massa would have taken the win, but Alonso would have scored 25 points towards the Driver’s Championship, with Massa scoring 18. I don’t think this would be too confusing, as by nominating the number 1 driver before the weekend, everyone would be aware of the situation going into the race, and would be far less controversial as teams would no longer need to swap their cars around during the race.

31

Ski racing is a sport that in some ways is similar to F1. For example, at all levels of racing, up to the national levels, racers are grouped in teams. These teams work together on testing equipment, deciding on waxing techniques and waxes, wind tunnel tests, etc. During races, racers who go first often radio information up to the top of the course to help other racers on their team. However, while on course they do all they can to win. I have never heard of a ski racer slowing purposely to ensure that one of his/her teammates has a better chance of winning the World Cup for example. I may be wrong, but I don’t think this ever happens, racers never expect it, and I’m sure if the team manipulated the race in such a way there would be severe consequences. The team is a team off the track, but on the track each ski racer is an individual and races for themselves. Certainly the best ski racers get better support, the best ski techs, etc etc. World Cup ski racing is as competitive as F1, but on the course they are all equal and can go for the win. I think F1 should have this same, sporting mentality. It is better for the racers, the teams, the sport, and the fans.

32

Hi guys, first comment here – I’ve read an enormous amount of debate and conjecture on this, all over the place… it certainly seems like we’re in a new age of fan interaction with the sport! I guess the exchange of views can only be a good thing for the sport and those who follow it, although it has to be said that objective posts are hard to find at times (which is why it’s so good that James posts such informed and knowledgeable articles here!) 🙂

I’ve heard all manner of proposals for how Ferrari may be further punished. To me, a number of things are clear – a great many people seem to think that Alonso must be punished in some way, but how can you? You can’t punish him for claiming that it was “ridiculous” that Massa was in front of him and ‘holding him up’, and for taking advantage of Massa letting him through… how can you punish him for that, either? Unless we uncover evidence that he then went to the steward’s room and knowingly lied to them á la Hamilton in Australia last year about the circumstances of the pass, he doesn’t really have a case to answer in terms of ‘the law’ as it stands, surely?

That doesn’t mean to say he escapes this without blemish, far from it – I can’t help feeling the damage to his reputation is what will stay with him here. Pretending complete ignorance of the whole thing to the world’s media post-race is not clever, and it’s a disappointment that he wasn’t able to prove his superior speed and/or talent by getting past Massa of his own accord – or indeed that Ferrari evidently didn’t trust their two drivers to battle for the lead without coming to blows! All I’m saying is that to punish a driver for being fed up of his team-mate being in front, and subsequently being allowed past – which is ultimately all we’re dealing with as far as Alonso is concerned – is not really being fair or realistic. The guy has done rather a lot recently to make himself unpopular with fans though, it has to be said!

Punish the team, by all means, for bringing the sport into disrepute like this. Deducting constructors points gained and enlarging the size of the fine, possibly with a suspended race ban, seems to me like a somewhat fairer and more proportionate outcome. But neither Alonso, or Massa for that matter, should be punished personally in my view – but of course, that’s only my view! 😀

JR

33

@585 “If I had paid more than €500 to take my family to see a motor RACE on Sunday I would feel cheated that one cynical decision by one team turned the last third of the race into a meaningless procession.”

Well now you know how those Spaniards felt in Valencia when Charlie decided to manipulate the race with his safety car.

34

Charlie didn’t manipulate anything, it was just bad luck for Ferrari and clever work by McLaren when they used the allowed three laps to give Lewis a cushion to retain second place, despite his drive through.

Ferrari and Alonso’s supreme arrogance in not handing back the place to Kubica straight away cost them very dear at Silverstone.

Now we have the Team Orders debacle.

One case of bad luck, and two cases of self inflicted pain.

35

Yes he did because (1) it took too many laps to penalise Hamilton actions, so the penalty given was practically reduced to none — note that that particular penalty could have been given almost instantaneously because the drivers in the Safety Car saw what happened (2) the precedent to this was the same driver (!) doing the same overtake action (!) in GP2 some years ago when he was not so famous, and guess what…. he got a black flag (!) which in my opinion should have been the correct penalty for this action.

36

Was there a grassy knoll in Valencia too?

37

That is a good joke.

38

Yes, yet another unfounded conspiracy theory.

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