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Ferrari team orders: did the FIA get it right?
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Ferrari team orders: did the FIA get it right?
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Sep 2010   |  10:09 pm GMT  |  277 comments

Ferrari walked away from the FIA World Motor Sport council today with no further punishment following the decision of the stewards at the German Grand Prix to fine them $100,000 for breaking a rule regarding team orders.

And this evening the FIA put out a brief statement saying that the whole team orders rule is being reconsidered in the light of this case.

Photo: Ferrari


“The Judging Body has also acknowledged that article 39.1 of the Sporting Regulations should be reviewed and has decided to refer this question to the Formula One Sporting Working Group,” it said.

The Sporting Working Group is made up of representatives from the teams, mainly sporting directors and heads of race engineering as well as the FIA.

The 37 members of the WMSC upheld the Hockenheim stewards decision, but voted not to apply any additional punishment, as a result of hearing all the evidence, which will be published by the FIA tomorrow (9th September).

Although Ferrari said that they did not use team orders and therefore did not breach Article 39.1 of the Sporting Regulations, the Hockenheim stewards didn’t believe them and applied the fine. They also recommended that Ferrari be charged with bringing the sport into disrepute. This did not get very far in today’s hearing.

Ferrari were represented by team principal Stefano Domenicali and by its lawyers Henry Peter and Nigel Tozzi. The drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were not in Paris, but made themselves available by phone if any evidence was required from them.

Soon after the session dissolved, Italian WMSC member Angelo Sticchi Damiani briefed reporters that Ferrari had escaped punishment. Confirmation followed this evening.

Until the evidence and the details of the judgement are published there is not a lot of point going into analysis of this decision. It is a controversial one, with many fans around the world disappointed that Ferrari hasn’t had the book thrown at them for spoiling their enjoyment of the race.

Also there are suggestions from some fans that Ferrari personnel must have lied to the stewards, as Lewis Hamilton did in Australia last year, but the evidence clearly doesn’t bear that out, as it did with Hamilton.

However, so blatant was the process by which Massa was moved aside, with his engineer Rob Smedley afterwards apologising, “Good lad, Sorry”, that many fans felt let down. This was exacerbated by the fact that the whole saga with radio clips was carried by the world feed TV coverage.

As I’ve been arguing here on JA on F1 Ferrari should be punished for breaking the rule, as they have been up to a point, but the rule needs urgent review. The Todt regime at the FIA is very different from the Mosley regime and it does things in a much more collegiate and procedural way. This may not be as much fun for people who liked the mischief of the Mosley era, but it is more fitting for F1 today.

Todt himself was a firm believer in team orders when he was a team manager, employing them regularly with Peugeot and Ferrari, to suit the company’s objectives, regardless of what fans might think.

I’d like to see the SWG embrace a complete reworking of the team orders rule, certainly with some indications of when they are appropriate, such as once 75% of the season has elapsed or when one team’s driver has less than 60% of the other drivers’ points or something along those lines.

There also needs to be consideration given to team order switches lower down the field. To switch the lead cars is very high profile and controversial, but it happens for 10th place too, so how can you allow for that? In fact what happens if it isn’t covered by the TV? Does that mean it doesn’t matter?

Please send in your suggestions for how this can be worked out. I’ll pass the good ones on to the FIA and FOTA.


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1

I don’t believe anyone is truly convinced that the FIA can police team orders. Many argue that team orders are a product of what’s best for the organization, and that the drivers are working for the team. The obvious counter argument is that Formula 1 is not for the suits, but foremost a spectacle to be enjoyed by the fans. I must be honest, I like so many F1 nuts sit on the fence with this one. But it’s more or less a matter of opinion as to when a team should get on-board with one driver…or when to let your drivers race.

I believe that a sound solution is that after each race, teams should be required to produce vehicle data. This would further provide fans with the opportunity for to become truly engaged with the sport. It would spur on discussions about strategy, driver ability, team strategy… and of course, our beloved topic of the day, TEAM ORDERS!

Drivers would also benefit because they would get fair representation, because data doesn’t lie. As much as I love this sport, it fails to deliver on so many levels when it comes to revealing the truth about how Formula 1 teams are operated, especially on game day.

2

what an absolute FARCE! what a FIX! this proves ferrari international assisstance still xsist! i cant understand how people claim alonso is so good if he needed massa to move over dso EARLY!! what a CHEAT!!! they sould have been banned! i wont be watching f1 anymoe if he wins the title by 7 points!

3

I feel thoroughly disgusted at the usual incompetence of the FIA… There simply cannot be a worse sports regulatry body in the world.

The FIA are a bunch of goones.

I’m beginning to hate f1.

4

Why? Because the FIA didn’t pander to the Alonso/Ferrari haters?

5

We seem to have 2 questions here …

1. Should team orders be allowed?

2. Did Ferrari break one of the FIA governing rules in force, namely that of forbidding team orders?

Yes, they broke the FIA rule which forbids team orders. and they should be punished in the same way as if they ran an ‘illegal’ car

The question of “Should Team Orders be allowed?” that debate will rage on for a long time

6

Can’t help but think if it were Button told to move over for Lewis, the FIA’s decision would have been far different. (and no, I’m not a diehard McLaren fan).

7

Problem 1: The team of the race winning driver would not necessarily get the most points and therefore that team would not win the race. That’s a big problem.

8

Outside The Box

Ok, here is a radical notion to chew on. Why should teams be competing with themselves?

Instead of individual points between drivers in the same team, the points earned by both

drivers in each race could be added together. The focus (by teams and media) would then be more on the direct competition between teams, rather than driver drama inside the teams. The incentive for team orders might then be eliminated because it wouldn’t matter which driver finished ahead of the other.

At the end of the year there would be a team champion that includes EVERYBODY in that team. The separate constructors championship would be redundant.

Of course the sport is driver-centric which means there would be a natural resistance to this notion. But if the primary focus is changed to the teams, that would seem to be a

plus – for the team: more publicity, less friction, and probably lower driver salaries. It seems like something they might favor.

There are surely countless obstacles to such a radical change. This is just an outside-the-box idea to explore what those obstacles and advantages might be. So what are they?

9

Because what we all want is a driver who is world champion. THe team thing is secondary

10

Well you know, I know, stewards know, everybody knows about team orders and I think, that is no point for hiding this kind of things. It is a question of how we can find out who use Team Orders ? I can compare this situation to piracy in www. Almost everybody download something from the internet, what is not always legal, everybody knows that, but if you get cought, than you have real trouble.

So, is it possible to stop Team Orders ? Never. Because if you try it, you`ll have comedy like in Hockenheim.

So maybe they should earn for better treatment in race weekend. How ? Maybe given by the best overall performance in trainings and qualifications time. If so, trainings and qualifications will be more important for the drivers than they are now and for each race (not season) we can have first or second driver.

Maybe this is good solution ?

P.S. – Question

How they choose to listen the team radio ? Is it random ?

11

I think team orders should be allowed only when one of the drivers is mathematically out of the championship race. That will naturally push these decisions to the very end of the season, and it’s a simply described rule that I think would coincide with a lot of people’s gut reaction when this comes up in a race.

12

In my opinion we don’t need any team orders rule. I like Massa, but I don’t think he has a chance of winning the title this year, and Ferrari have a right to make the decision. I think the establishment of the team orders rule was an overreaction to the Austria 2002 incident. Everyone was sick of Schumacher winning everything, and because of their dominance the call for Rubens to move over seemed exceedingly crass. Obviously it was exceedingly crass and unneccessary because Schumacher won the title by July that year… but you can’t just wipe out the history of the sport because of one outcry. Or decide the future of it.

This is different. Alonso is an outsider to win the title even with these extra points… and Massa even more an outsider, I would say there’s more chance of Tiger Woods being bisexual than Massa winning the title at this point.

I don’t agree with an earlier comment that said this rule makes F1 a “laughing stock”. There are plenty of people who believe in this sort of “fairness” and rules that try to enforce it. That’s how it got established in the first place… but nothing can be ever be fully fair and I think this rule goes too far.

But boss, I seem to recall you mentioned something briefly earlier this year or towards the end of last year in one of your posts, you said you’ve spoken to other members of the press in the UK and they regard F1 as something of a circus – that thought has flitted through my mind whenever F1 is seen on TV at one of its many court dates… I do hope the rule is abolished just for that reason.

And these suggestions for more subtle or nuanced team orders rule are just making my head spin. I think that’s the last thing F1 needs – another rule that takes 10 minutes to explain.

13

I don’t think there should be team orders at all. We currently have 24 cars on the grid and each one of them should do everyting they can (within the rules) to finish the race as highly place as possible. Whilst it is impossible to legislate against general team policy it should he possible to have a rule where the team cannot give an instruction to one of their drivers to let the other past. THat doesn’t just mean messages during the race but include pre-race briefings such “if you find yourself ahead of driver X towards the end of the race, let him through”. I consider it acceptable to have team orders on the lines of “you’re free to race each other but don’t take each other out”. We want racing and not a team orchestrated procession. If teams cannot be trusted not to issue “Team orders” during a race, the radios should be taken away.

14

I’ve not read all the comments but it seems like the ban on team orders are unenforceable and they’ll be having them back.

So how about this?

A request to swap team cars must be made to race control who will announce it (like when cars are under investigation) before the end of the following lap. The swap cannot take place before then.

Requests will be denied within 5 laps of the end of the race or where there is more than 20 seconds between cars whilst both cars can mathematically win the championship.

Least we’d all know what was about to happen before it did then

15

Stuey – sounds like an excellent idea, at least it would allow for some transparency which there isn’t right now.

For me there are 4 key points:

1. The other teams seem to be keeping their heads down on this issue, so I assume by their silence that none of the teams are feeling they can claim to be whiter than white on the team order debate, suggesting a definite need to redefine that rule

2. Most of us are upset with Ferrari’s blatant ‘we didn’t do it approach’ – when to the entire world it was very obvious what was going on. They must think we are all either stupid (or muppets to quote Eddie Jordan) or just don’t care too much about how fans view them & their behaviour. If they wanted to do the switch there could have been a lot more subtle ways of doing it! I think they should have put their hands up to it straight away after the race and been honest

3. Fernando Alonso: James you know all the drivers pretty well and they are no doubt a ruthless bunch but I am struggling to understand how you can take much pride from what was clearly a ‘thrown’ victory – if he were to win the championship by that margin of points surely in his mind he would know he only won it because Felipe was told to (don’t get me wrong I still believe Fernando is a tremendous & well deserved double champion). When his grand kids say ‘tell us about that time you won in Germany’ me thinks Fernando would be saying wouldn’t you rather hear about that time I took Schuey on the outside of 30R!

4. Felipe – the bit that I really find hard – he nearly got killed in Hungary last year and yet what loyalty did he get back from his team when a victory he deserved was taken away? Just look at the footage of him on the podium after Germany & remember Hungary last year.

I agree that the rule should be changed & morally I think Ferrari have shown their true colours or perhaps it just shows what a clinical ruthless place F1 is with no room for human emotion? Perhaps all teams would have done the same although maybe in a less obvious way?

16

1) I think all the teams would probably like this rule to go. Williams and Sauber gave Ferrari letters of support. If the rule is abolished it’s not like every race someone is going to have to move out of the way. We only really see it a couple of times a season.

2) Though to be fair to Ferrari – they had to say that, if they admitted breaking the rule up front the punishment may have been harsher.I’m not a Ferrari supporter, but I do believe that any team would go for the deny and damage limitation in the first instance, then get your story straight and defend it later. Thats why I’d like the transparency – admit you want to swap places and the fans know what is happening. At least then we’re not being insulted.

3) The Constructers pays the cash, but we the fans are interested in the drivers. And the teams understand that too – and having the world champion from your team probably rakes in the sponsorship! But I agree with your sentiment. If he wins the championship by a smaller margin than the points he gained from the swap, he can justify it by knowing he had a car that was capable of being in that position on merit.

4) It would have been a feelgood story for F1, but we all know this sport is not sentimental when it comes to results!

Other teams would have done it and the FIA acknowledge its being happening in their statement.

I think we need to look at team orders in the same context as a substitution – it’s about the team getting the result over the individual. Don’t get me wrong – I would love to see them battle it out to the end and have no one give anything away, but Team Orders, strategy and preferential treatment have been around since the sport started and the teams will find a way to implement it where need be. So say to them – it’s ok but you have to be open about it beforehand. That way we’re not being treated like muppets!

17

Ban team to car radio – pit boards only, lets get back to some proper racing!

18

“Indeed, a few laps prior to the contentious overtaking, Ferrari drivers reduced their engine speed at the request of their respective engineers. Then Mr. Fernando Alonso increased his engine speed without Mr. Felipe Massa being informed. Mr Fernando Alonso was therefore benefiting from a definite performance advantage over Mr. Felipe Massa in the moments preceding the contentious overtaking”.

How can anyone defend Ferrari for this?

Regardless of what we think of team orders (they should be allowed).

19

The ban on team orders has been argued to be un-enforceable because it runs contrary to the interests of the teams, and their sponsors, and so will always be contravened covertly, or indeed overtly as in the recent case.

The fans resent the manipulation of results and now these assertions have increased their distrust to the point that no result is immune from suspicion.

Any rule on team orders must therefore seek to achieve a compromise between team interests and a level of fair competition that can be understood and accepted by the fans. The suggested format below attempts to set out a basic frame-work to achieve this.

1. Drivers shall start each season on equal footing and no driver shall be contractual obliged to accede to team orders that would negatively affect his chance of success in pursuit of the WDC.

2. A driver may not , by his own volition or in response to a team request, cede a place to his team-mate unless:

a. It becomes mathematically impossible for a him to win the WDC

b. His overall pace proves to be slower than that of a team-mate such that he is hindering the team-mate’s chances of competing for a higher position in that race. This not to apply where the driver is the race leader unless condition 2a also applies.

3. A driver, whether by his own volition, team request or team instruction, shall not deliberately reduce his race pace such as to obstruct the following field thereby allowing his team-mate to benefit from an increased lead.

Such ‘reduction’ shall be determined by the delta between his ‘reduced’ speed and his average speed over n laps immediately prior to the adoption of the ‘reduced’ speed and/or his average speed following a successful pass by a competitor.

The reduction shall be judged ‘deliberate’ if no contributing factors can be shown by examination of telemetry data and/or tyre degradation.

The penalty for a breach of these rules, whether by the driver’s own volition, team request or team instruction, shall be loss by the team of all Constructors and Drivers Championship points gained in that race.

(I have suggested methods for defining terms in 3 above only to deflect summary dismissal of the idea as impossible.)

20

Not enough evidence?

Let me see:

– radio communications such as: “Fernando is faster than you . . . do you understand?” and “Sorry mate”

– car telemetry: no missed shift, no wheel spin, no off track excursion just reduced accelerator depression.

– Massa’s disposition on the podium and his shirking of the shoulder embrace of Domenicali

– Massa’s response in the post race interview.

– track stewards finding Ferrari breached the rules and imposed fines.

– and over 100 million TV viewers who all saw the same thing.

Yet again the Ferrari International Assistance(FIA) model has kicked in, some things never change.

Personally, I think the team order restriction should be abolished. Since as we all saw in Germany, when a team breaks the rules the FIA doesn’t impose a penalty since they too feel team orders should be allowed.

The fans who expect fair play in sport and the standard to which everyone is held, are the ones who feel betrayed. It really doesn’t matter how a rule is written, we just expect everyone play by them.

21

I think that they should just let the team declare team orders when they feel it is the time to do so. The team would have to declare their number 1 driver when they want to. As long as both drivers agree that regardless of the position, if they are running one behind the other and as long as they have let the oublic know prior then that would mean the fans would expect it.

The teams would always be aware not to put their eggs into one basket at the start of the season as an incident like Schumacher breaking his leg in 1999 could damage their chances. But it would be upto the team to decide, just as long as they made it public. Up until they do that then the drivers can race at will. Not all teams will want to do that, but they probably would have to when the mathematical chances come into play. Some might look at realistic chances and operate that way instead.

22

So wait……..

There is enough evidence to fine them $100,000, but not to take further action?

How does that work? Surely if you can fine them, you can ban them, legally speaking.

23

Intentional position changes within team during a race allowed only by pitting the leading car.

If done any other way, forfeit car owner points for both cars.

Team orders are usually concocted by the team on the pit wall. Penalise them, not their driver employees.

Most TV viewers know little about the Constructors Championship and it’s financial rewards to the team.

Using this season’s Ferrari example; they would have to think long and hard at what moving Alonso ahead would do to their Constructors Championship standing. By enforcing the team orders by the “pitting Massa

method” mentioned above, they would risk him losing second place points.

Makes it a little bit harder decision, doesn’t it?

24

After this decision it is obvious that F1 wants team orders. It ia now also obvious that it should set out clearly by the sport that they are allowed, Qualifying the rule by point percentages or the what stage of the season it is will be ignored by the teams whenever it suites their needs.

If everything is clear for fans they can take what they want from f1.

For me the drivers championship is lessened but at least with clarity then in the future when this happens again it can taken in context.

If as you have said a great part of f1( for the teams ) is Brand recognition. Then Ferrari havent shown themselves in a great light. It speaks more of arogance and ineptitude rather than quality and performance.

25

I agree with the FIA that there is not enough evidence, so will FIA reimburse Ferrari the fine that was charged?

I mean either it was a crime which means fine and punishment or it wasnt a crime no fine and no punishment. I dont understand this middle path!!

26

In 2007 the FIA put an inspector in the McLaren garage to ensure that Alonso received equal treatment from the team and McLaren wouldn’t favour Hamilton.

To avoid looking like a hypocritical bunch of Ferrari/Alonso supporters, maybe the FIA could extend this scheme and have FIA inspectors in each team’s garage to try and make an “unworkable” regulation workable. Potentially this could have been funded by the more punitive fine that should have been given to Ferrari.

I’m sure the likes of Massa, Webber, and pretty much every former team-mate of Alonso or Schumacher would like someone fighting their corner.

27

James, do you now think in light of what the FIA has done, the race Stewards at the German Grand Prix should now appologise to Ferrari and pay them Damages?

28

This matter entails a clash of interests from almost all points of view of Formula One. Cash (and not sport) then becomes the overriding point of focus. Investment versus profit.

29

my problem was never team order let be honest its practical to have it so teams dont loose out big money,but its the way it was done by ferrari that i find insulting and franckly if the teams can not make it as profetional and realistic as possible so the fans and childrens dont feel that its a fix, then the credibility issues will remaing for a very long times,that will be very damaging for f1

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