FIA turns the page as it realises team orders rule is unworkable
Scuderia Ferrari
FIA turns the page as it realises team orders rule is unworkable
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Sep 2010   |  11:31 pm GMT  |  207 comments

The full reasons behind the decision of the World Motor Sport Council in the case of Ferrari’s team orders in Germany has been published and it is clear that the governing body has turned a corner from the Max Mosley era.

Yesterday the WMSC decided to uphold the decision of the Hockenheim stewards, that Ferrari had broken Article 39c of the F1 sporting regulations banning team orders, but as it could not prove it on the balance of probabilities, it could not take any further action or press home a charge of bringing the sport into disrepute.

The team orders rule was brought in during the Mosley era, but was worded in such a way that teams were always likely to fall foul of it and moments of high theatre such as in Hockenheim and yesterday in Paris would ensue. Now the FIA under new president Jean Todt is looking to review and possibly remove this unworkable rule.

The intervention of the Williams and Sauber teams seems to have played a part. They wrote to the WMSC in support of Ferrari’s position.

“It is undeniable that the race result would have been different had the contentious instruction not been issued to Mr Felipe Massa,” said the notes today.

As we argued here on JA on F1, the rule was unworkable because there is a time and a place when team orders are appropriate and others where they are not and yet we have seen team orders in various forms over the years, albeit not as blatant as Germany this year.

Acknowledging this point the WMSC said, “There were many examples of what could have been said to be team orders in Formula 1 in recent years, and therefore there has been inconsistency in its application. Also its application to indirect team orders via messages where drivers raise no complaints is uncertain and difficult to detect and police. The Judging Body of the WMSC accepted that this may well have influenced Ferrari’s approach,” as it has for other teams who have acted similarly in the past.

Massa’s face and body language told you that he would have won the race had he not been told that “Fernando is faster than you”. He got the better start and was in front on merit.

He has paid a massive price for this, because not only is his motivation damaged, but his standing among fans, especially in his native Brazil has been hammered. This is a driver who less than two years ago showed dignity in defeat in Brazil, when Lewis Hamilton nicked the world title at the final corner and then 12 months ago showed immense courage when coming back from a terrifying accident to drive an F1 car again.

Yet now in the eyes of many fans he is a diminished figure, who has given up the fight with his team mate by accepting a team order. He is no longer a ‘racer’.

This comes in the same season when Mark Webber, notionally a number two driver at Red Bull has spat the dummy at any attempts by his team to subjugate him. When he had his front wing taken from him in Silverstone he went out and won the race anyway, yelling “Not bad for a number two driver!” as he took the chequered flag. Two weeks later Massa capitulated. The contrast is painful.

Possibly Massa’s contract is worded differently from Webber’s, in terms of acting in the interests of the team, but F1 in the eyes of the fans is about life on the limit.

“In the view of Ferrari, Mr Felipe Massa was not ordered to allow Mr Fernando Alonso to pass; rather he was given relevant information, based on which he decided, for the benefit of the team, to allow Mr Fernando Alonso to pass,” concluded the FIA.

It’s the way it is and there is no other way to look at it than it is massively painful for Massa. The supreme irony of this being that Massa was a protege of FIA president Jean Todt in his days as Ferrari boss and is still Nicolas Todt, Jean’s son’s, highest earning client.

The WMSC hearing and statement has highlighted the awfulness of his situation, “Mr Felipe Massa realised that the best interests of the team and the drivers’ safety were going to be served by allowing Mr Fernando Alonso to pass, and acted accordingly.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the documents from the hearing reveal that both drivers had their engines turned down, but Alonso had been allowed to turn his up, unbeknownst to Massa. “Alonso increased his engine speed without Mr Felipe Massa’s being informed. Mr Fernando Alonso was therefore benefiting from a definite performance advantage over Mr Felipe Massa in the moments preceding the contentious overtaking.”

Ferrari is looking for closure on this matter, but this statement means that this is not over, not by a long chalk.

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Sorry for chiming in late, but my solution to the issue is: make team orders permissible, but ensure that every team fields a nominated first and second car. That way, every driver knows where he stands in terms of team backing, and has agreed to that circumstance prior to any racing.

Also, the fans would have no illusions as to whether their chosen driver is favoured by their team or not, and anyone betting on the outcome can factor this into their calculations.


Of course, teams should be permitted to nominate first and second cars at each race, so that a driver who starts the season in the second car can elevate himself to preferred status by good performances early in the season.


I don’t think the differences between Red Bull and Ferrari are contractual. Webber merely had a stronger case to argue his point because he’d already won 2 races in 2010 and was very close to Vettel (and the championship lead) in the points standings at the time.

Contrastingly, Alonso has been quicker than Massa at almost all the previous races this season and was himself almost two wins’ worth of points behind the championship leader when it happened.

I think a mountain has been made out of a molehill a bit really. It was a judgement call; I’d love to have seen them race to the end and would like to have seen Massa win between the two but there was sense in what Ferrari did. Its easy to blame the FiA but in mitigation their hands were tied by past events where similar actions had gone unpunished. What this has all highlighted is the aforementioned flaw in the regulations, and an amendment will hopefully clear things up for the future.


“In the view of Ferrari, Mr Felipe Massa was not ordered to allow Mr Fernando Alonso to pass; rather he was given relevant information, based on which he decided, for the benefit of the team, to allow Mr Fernando Alonso to pass,” concluded the FIA.”

Very, vety jokable!!!!! Is the SAME thing!!!
The point of team orders is NOT to manipulate the so call it “racing”!!!!!! Which it doesn’t happen with team orders or as drivers “discretion”!!!!

It’s such a BS the maFIA still !!!!
They should erase and start all over again!!!! It’s not working this so F1 series!!!


Massa wasn’t faster, he was blown away by over half a second in qualifying at the same German Grand Prix.

Massa has been disappointing a all season. He’s let us down with his performances. As much as it pains me to say, Alonso has been much faster than his over the season.


Double standards, what else can be said. Once again, Ferrari escape punishment.

McLaren get hammered by the FIA at every opportunity, but Bernie’s favourite team escape with less than a slap on the wrist.


McLaren has either escaped punishment or escaped further punishment on two of the last three occasions that it was called before the WMSC. Are you sure that the team is hammered at every opportunity?


i am one of the few that doesn’t think oh poor massa how terrible. yes ferrari should not have put him in that position but they want their star driver (and lets face it there are a lot more alonso fans than massa fans) to come out on top. massa made the decision to pull over. he was clearly upset afterwards but it just shows he hasn’t got the balls and mentality to do what it takes for a win

what could ferrari have done had massa won? even if they did manage to drop him at the end of the season, he’d be a much more attractive proposition as a ruthless winner than a meek number 2 who does what he’s told and then sulks afterwards.




Grreat writing great insight and great website. Thank you for your efforts, the sport would be less without it.


(one of the ignored US fans)




wearing my heart on my sleeve over not having a gp. Hopefully austin coorrects that. Our TV coverage is adequate by Speed TV but could be better and for four races in the mid season coverage is provided by FOX TV which is downright poor.


Certain comments made in defense of team orders are disingenious. For starters, F1 is not a team sport. When a soccer team wins every player in the team is a winner and they all ‘share’ the trophy. When one F1 car wins the other team driver is not deemed a winner and often enough is ultimately fired!

Secondly (is that a word?) a team claims that swapping drivers under orders is good for the team but when a team is running 1 and 2 then you invert the order the team is still 1 and 2 so there is no benefit to the team.

There is a team championship and a drivers championship for a reason so let the drivers be drivers! Understandably no one wants to see two ‘teammates’ take each other out but…

frankly on a tangential thought this issue is an extension of current f1 culture where the driver is a heavily diminished figure even during the race. There are countless people managing the car and constantly telling the driver what to do. Go faster, go slower, change this setting and that… Who’s really driving? Part of the magic of racing is that when I put my helmet on it is just me in that miniscule place and I will do battle with an equally isolated oponent. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing bumper sticker on drivers daily rides quoting ‘my 85 engineers are smarter than your 85 engineers’. You want to lower costs inthe sport? how about getting rid of 40 odd personnel per team travelling to the races along with the real time telemetry.

I yearn for changes toward more sport and battle with honor and less mathematicians and computers all calculating the same strategy.

Call me old I guess…


Team orders are fine by me. It will always be a team sport as long as the teams run more than 1 car. I can’t see why all the fuss over it.

Let’s move along and watch Webber win the WDC 🙂


He’ll have to up his game this weekend..


Why were letters of general support for team orders from Sauber and Williams mentioned? They’d no relevance to this particular incident under the current rules, Sauber-Ferrari couldn’t exactly be classed as neutral party anyway.


Because they both support the idea of team orders returning to F1


Sorry I meant to ask were they taken into consideration by the FIA when making their judgement.

Stuart the Old Geezer


Can you clear up a query please?

How were the Ferrari engines ‘turned down’ at Hockenheim?


The Old Geezer


All the drivers can run the engines on lower revs, or different fuel mixtures to save fuel or engine life. The drivers all do qualifying and the early laps of the race on maximum everything then turn it all down as the race moves towards the finish. So they were both in wind down mode with 18 laps to go, but it seems Alonso was given permission to increase revs …


Did alonso have more fuel at that stage?


The FIA have damaged their credibility in this case.

I am a long standing F1 fan, and consider that I am quite knowledgeable about the sport, but I would expect the rule makers to know a lot more about it than I do. When the arbitrary rule of ‘no team orders’ was introduced without specifics it was obvious that it was unenforceable, there are so many ways of fixing a result within a team. So they were setting themselves up to fail. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the rule itself, if you make a rule, you need to impose sanctions against those who flaunt it. Ferrari clearly broke the rule and (aside from a piddling fine) got away with it. This clearly undermines the FIA.

Much of the discussion appears to be that this was blatant, and that if they had been a bit more covert, then it wouldn’t be a problem. What you are saying with this is that if you are going to break the rule, then please be sneaky about it. This would clearly be unsatisfactory, so you are only left with the obvious choice that the rule is not enforceable, so therefore you can’t ban team orders. You may not like it, but that’s all you have….Unless you can think of a better way.


The issue is that any influence from anyone apart from the driver detracts from the sport in pure entertainment terms. Agreed.

Manufacturered results = artificial and dull race = miffed fans.

3 things to change:

Radios – bin.

ECUs or any other systems that can impact car performance and may be controlled by the pit wall – bin.

Clauses in drivers contracts pertaining to inequality – bin.

3 little things. Where’s the issue?!

Give me a big black bin liner – I’d walk up the Monza pit lane tomorrow and just start binning the lot.

Show the drivers the bloody charts and temperatures and fuel gauge… seriously, give them a nice little screen on the steering wheel with sat nav and a colourful scroll-menu and, if they’ve got the spare time in the race, they can check out anything they want – competitors track positions and split times, tyre pressures etc… find out any information they could possibly need. Give them 5 live if they want it I don’t care.

If they’ve got a problem though – let them deal with it.

After all, they’re being paid £millions a year for what? Having ‘focused’ Dads and being born with quick reactions and a good eye for an apex. Rubbish!

(the last paragraph is not intended to be taken seriously – but the rest of it is ; )


Its very hard to monitor contracts, but apart from that, I agree.


James, what do you think of the idea of removing the pit-to-car radios that I mentioned on your previous blog post ‘Ferrari team orders: did the FIA get it right?’ (comment 12)?


You could always have coded messages on pit boards. You could bring a car in and fake a stuck wheel nut. These are clever people who will find a way….you can’t ban it, it won’t work.


The reality is there will always be team orders in a sport with teams. My point is they should just make it more difficult. Removing the radio WOULD make it more difficult. Driving past a pit board with covert information, I would say is more difficult to read than to listen to a message over the radio. You can only fit a little amount of info on a pit board and it is shown once a lap remember so it does limit it more. It also makes it more of a driver decision which would hurt the drivers rep more than ever and more likely they would choose not to.

I think it is logical for a driver not able to win a championship to help his team mate that can. It is called common sense and we shouldn’t remove the small amount of common sense there is left. The problem is Ferrari do it so blatant and unnecessarily.

Having no radio would make the sport more exciting no matter how the teams are able to get around it.

Make the driver work harder and he will feel he earns the position more than giving it up.


There are always ways to rob a bank but it’s still banned.


That seems a very popular idea among fans here. I’ll ask around the paddock tomorrow


I agree with this as well. Have some sort of display on the steering wheel to warn of hazards and also to display fuel levels and the number of laps completed, but leave everything else up to the driver.

Also, I’d only allow the driver to turn up or down his engine – not the team – but I’d strip the steering wheel of all the other little gizmos and make it more basic. No more wing adjustments or brake bias tweaks. If your set up is lousy, deal with it.

Finally, I still feel that making the aerodynamics more basic so that the air flow is cleaner and allowing cars to follow each other through medium speed corners would reduce probably half or more of all team order incidents. If overtaking is possible, there would be no need for drivers to move aside.


I see that today all the important players in McLaren, Martin Whitmarsh, Lewis, and, especially, Jenson, have come out against team orders.

Good for them.

Now that we seem to be stuck with some form of them, it’s time to think about detail. In any new set of rules, the FIA has to find away to distinguish between :

1 – team tactics and driver favoritism, and

2 – team decisions about equipment, which are made in the garage and stay between the team and their drivers, and decisions which impinge on the racing on the track.

That shouldn’t be that hard when terms are carefully defined.


Lewis wasn’t complaining when Kovalainen moved aside for him at Hockenheim. Nothing less than unadulterated hypocrisy should be expected from McLaren.


Well, that’s a really useful contribution to the debate …


James – sorry to nitpick, but the WMSC made it clear in their decision that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Article 39.1 had been breached and that illegal team orders were used. The reason they chose not to impose further punishment was because similar apparent breaches had gone unpunished and decided it “would not be appropriate” to impose further penalty in those circumstances. That is another legal issue entirely from the one you alluded to – had the WMSC not had sufficient evidence to prove it on the balance of probabilities (i.e. more than 50% likely it happened), the £100,000 fine would have to have been removed.

The points about the damage to Massa and the engine situation are both very important, though – Massa does seem to have lost his edge compared with Hockenheim, perhaps because he no longer feels he has the team’s confidence and because of the reaction from back home. The engine thing meanwhile does raise some serious questions about Ferrari’s approach to that race.


Ferrari has a history of being treated leniently by FIA/WMSC so this case does not give provide any evidence that FIA are acting any differently from the post Mosley era. Judgement on Todt’s presidency can only be given when we see a team other than Ferrari that is defending its actions at the WMSC.


Could you please elaborate on that?


It could be more of the same from FIA treating Ferrari softly. Even Todt believed team orders were being used but FIA are suddenly coy about punishing a team because there was insufficient evidence. That never stopped FIA in the Mosley. So we need to see if a non Ferrari team gets similar treatment by FIA under Todt presidency before we can say that FIA have become more even handed.


Please tell me how many incidents this history of being “lenient” is based upon.

It could be argued that McLaren has been treated leniently by the WMSC if one only considers the most recent investigation into the team.

When Mansell raced for Ferrari, and Senna for McLaren, many English journalists and F1 fans alleged that the FIA was discriminating against “our Nige” and favouring Senna. The FIA always seems to be acting against whoever these particular individuals support!


I wonder if alonso will do what schumi to rubins did and give a win to Massa at some point.


I was thinking exactly that… what if FA is out of contention, let’s say in Brazil, and he’s 1 & 2 with FM behind… what will FA do? My money is on that he would concede the win. I wonder if a journalist would ask such a hypothetical question…

Better yet, would ferrari order the swap for the good of the team? It may help Ferrari PR in Brazil, so it would help the “business” team… note, I see a distinction between the “racing” team and the “business” team… for the WCC (racing team) swapping 1&2 makes no difference, for the WDC (business team) it makes a difference.


I like the point you bring up about Webber, and I agree – it seems like quite a contrast between the way things work on Red Bull vs. Ferrari. Which is why I think that, no matter what Christian Horner says about how maybe now they’ll use team orders, as well, I can’t help but think: Yeah, good luck with that! Give all the team orders you want – whether either of your drivers will comply is a different story!

(I’m referring to this, btw:


How on the one hand can BOTH the FIA and FOTA put out surveys asking fans for their opinion, their views ( That both say are essential for the survival of F1 ) and then stick two fingers back at the same fans who filled in the survey… James do feel the hypocrisy here… Ferrari et al are always banging on about fans an sponsors. As for Williams, if I were a major sponsor, would I want to be associated with them a team that advocates rigging of results and does not stand for fair play? How can Ferrai be unhappy with Flavio and Pat Symonds for basically doing the same thing as they are, i.e. rigging a result… a plague on all their houses


I commented on this site a few weeks ago that team orders cannot be policed and that soon people would be thanking Ferrari for bringing the issue out into the open. OK, I was wrong on the second point!

Given that presumably people posting here are F1 fans, I am surprised at the level of ignorance and naivety about the history of F1 – or perhaps people are being disingenuous. We all know when and why the rule was brought in, but surely we also know that what the rule really meant was “don’t implement team orders too clumsily or too early in the season”. And Ferrari broke that interpretation of the rule.

A new rule saying team orders are only permissible after a certain point in the season, or when driver A is X points ahead of driver B, would still be unenforceable. The reality is that a team which was desperate to get one of its drivers more points would implement team orders whenever it wanted, for example by means of a pre-race understanding.

The other reality is that while many fans support an individual driver, they know exactly which team that driver drives for and should know pretty clearly whether the team is one which has a “let our drivers race each other” approach or doesn’t.

Finally, people calling for one car teams may be being logical, but they are ignoring the reality, and history, of F1.


Bigotry and hypocrisy are the words that I would use to describe many of the comments on this issue.



I am amazed at some of the comments being made not just by the fans in this forum but also some of the professional commentators. Anyone who has watched the sport for more than a season will surely have been exposed to team orders in one fashion or other. I cannot believe the apparent naivety of some of the comments as though Rob Smedley’s coded message was unprecedented.

Those of us who have watched the sport for a number of years will realise it is part of the make up of the sport and should accept it as such.


If it was McLaren who had ordered Jensen to let Lewis through at Hockenheim… before arrogantly swaggering into a hearing after repeatedly lying to the press and the public for the past few weeks about the most blatant team order we have seen for years… the FIA would have crucified them. It can not be disputed that they have been lying all this time. The way Rob Smedley, who is a man I like and respect a great deal, tried to twist his own words in an interview after the race was just plain disgraceful.

I can not see how anyone can dispute that.

Politics/nationalism must have played far too significant a part in this ruling for anyone but the most biased or delusional fans to be comfortable with.

I wasn’t bothered by the team order, but the rules need to be abided by. If there is a rule for something, and someone arrogantly and blatantly breaks the rule, they must be punished. This culture of breaking rules and then seeking for them to be clarified in some cheeky blissfully ignorant and/or arrogant manner is getting boring now.


Alonso having a better engine setting than Massa rings bells of Istanbul when Vettel had a better engine setting than Webber. Perhaps it’s not as uncommon as we think? Or, as uncommon as it should be!


The ban on such team orders is impossible to enforce.

There is a principle in our parliament that no law shall pass which can’t be enforced. I’m not sure if it always holds but at least they have a principle about that. It makes sense – if you can’t control it, then there is no sense to make it a law.


Should heroin be legalised then, because they can’t control it?


If the authorities choose not to apply a regulation consistently, is there any purpose in having the regulation?


Well I certainly hope that organisations such as the Civil Aviation Authority do not apply regulations inconsistently. Is your final comment directed at me?


Most authorities apply most regulations inconsistently. That’s called discretion. It’s how it should be because the world is complicated.

But it’s an odd response to get rid of a law because it has been broken.


This ban is obviously possible to enforce. The stewards enforced it. The rule was broken, the stewards saw it, Ferrari was fined.

The stewards got it right. The organizers of the “sport” just decided to let Ferrari off with out penalty.

If you want to stop team orders just give the stewards a mandatory penalty to apply for this infraction. How about a 10 second stop-and-go for both drivers.

For other infractions, like passing outside of the boundaries of the course, the stewards have no choice. They can’t just give a fine for a random amount. The only possible penalty they can apply is a drive through.


That does not excuse rule breaking by Ferrari!


It doesn’t excuse McLaren’s actions in 2008 either. It is a shame that the fans are not being consistent.


2008 German Grand Prix

“According to Dennis, Kovalainen was simply told that Hamilton was much quicker and he took the decision himself to allow his team-mate by. “The only thing we advise drivers is the respective pace of the other driver and they ultimately call it,” the team principal said. “Lewis was nearly a second quicker than Heikki through the race and when he was told Lewis was quicker he just let him past. “


Ferrari break the team orders and are brazen about it before the WMSC. They never showed the slightest hint of remorse. Is that arrogance again from a “special” Ferrari? I don’t see what that has anything to with McLaren in 2008. Perhaps you are trying to make light of rule breaking by Ferrari.

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