What will be Ferrari’s fate today in Team Orders hearing?
McLaren
What will be Ferrari’s fate today in Team Orders hearing?
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Sep 2010   |  7:33 am GMT  |  242 comments

Today is a big day for Ferrari as they will appear before the World Motor Sort Council to answer charges relating to violation of the rules regarding team orders in F1.

This relates to an incident at the German Grand Prix in July, where Felipe Massa allowed Fernando Alonso through to win the race after receiving the message from his race engineer, “Fernando is faster than you”.


In Germany the race stewards examined the matter and were satisfied that a team order had been used, which violates Article 39.1 of the Sporting Regulations. The team was fined $100,000 and referred to the World Motor Sports Council. They will also face an enquiry into whether their conduct violates Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, by bringing the sport into disrepute. If found guilty of that, they could face a serious fine, as McLaren did in 2007 and Ferrari did in 2002 over the original team orders scandal in Austria.

Although the stewards were satisfied that Massa was ordered to move over, the WMSC will be challenged by Ferrari to prove that the content of the radio transmission that day was a direct order. Race engineer Rob Smedley, who delivered the messages to Massa, has been called to give evidence. He will be asked whether he was instructed to get his driver to move over and why he said “Sorry” if there was not some kind of instruction to yield.

Ferrari’s defence is that the decision to move was Massa’s alone, having been told simply that his team mate was faster. It could just as easily be construed as a hurry-up to the driver, even though millions of F1 fans around the world understood exactly what it meant. I understand that they may be able to point to an incident in Melbourne this year where Massa was also given the “Fernando is faster than you” message but ignored it.

The Ferrari lawyers will also no doubt look at what other teams have done, such as McLaren’s famous “fuel saving” instructions to its drivers in the closing stages of the Turkish GP and other races. Let’s face it, there have been hundreds of team orders in the years since 2002.

And for the sake of consistency I would like to know why this German GP incident is such a big deal when Ferrari has twice used team orders which directly – and very publicly – affected the outcome of the world championship, in 2007. Massa let Raikkonen through to win the race and that gave him the championship. Not a single fan or commentator or rival team had a problem with that, but it was just as much a team order as the German GP. The difference is that everyone accepts it in the last race, they don’t accept it at the 11th round of 19.

So let’s be grown up about this. The rule which says “No team orders” is ridiculous and unworkable and we need a sensible, workable alternative to come out of today’s hearing.

For FIA president Jean Todt today is really his first political flash point since taking the reins earlier this year. If Ferrari get off with a light punishment, everyone will say it’s because he was biased given his long association with the team. If they get punished, then everyone will say it’s because he left Ferrari on bad terms with its president Luca di Montezemolo and wants to get even. Whatever the outcome, he is compromised by the fact that Massa is managed by his son Nicolas. So he cannot win today and has stepped right back from the process, handing it to his deputy Graham Stoker.

The smart money is on a larger fine and possibly loss of some constructors’ points. Any other outcome could itself interfere with the championship fight. If Alonso loses his 25 points for the win, he will go to Monza 66 points behind the championship leader Lewis Hamilton. Although not insurmountable, this would almost certainly wreck his chances of fighting for the championship.

There is a whole other back story here to do with the threat posed to FIA and FOM by Ferrari president Montezemolo, potentially lining up some kind of takeover of F1 when the Concorde Agreement expires in two years time. Montezemolo is one of few figures in the sport who could get together the financing to buy CVC’s stake in the F1 commercial rights holder.

Montezemolo and Todt met earlier this summer in Paris and there is a lot going on behind the scenes as the various parties line up their power bases and prepare for one of the most important negotiations since the early 1980s. Will that spill over into today’s case? We will know more when we see the judgement.

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1

I’m happy that Massa let Kimi through in 2007. Massa didn’t have a mathematical chance of winning in 2007, in 2010 he did have a mathematical chance of winning so he shouldn’t have to get out of the way.

2

I can’t see how bookmakers can be taking bets if the results are falsified. I see this as no different to what the Pakistani Cricket team (or particular players within the team) have been accused of doing. I’m not a gambling man myself but I can see how those who do bet on particular drivers can feel annoyed as their driver “moves” over to let their team mate pass. Off topic, big thanks to you James for writing such terrific blogs. Having just been through the Christchurch, NZ earthquake, I have been reading your blog constantly to help take my mind off whats been going on here

3

Have the drivers lied to the stewards here?

If so, how is this different to the Hamilton disqualification can somebody tell me?

BIAS

4

Surprised the poster two posts above you didn’t have a comment to make about this. Could be another Dave Ryan though 🙂

5

Got a bit caught up in the other points I was making – my bad. 😛 It is a valid point though and one which warrants further consideration.

6

Excellent result, and the right result for F1 in my opinion!

Now hopefully all those who, for some odd reason seem to prefer subterfuge to openness, can take their heads out of the sand and see F1 for what it is…a TEAM sport. The teams invest huge sums of money and resources and should be able to run their teams the way they see fit. Fans will still be the judge of their actions however and team orders are never a crowd pleaser, something which all the teams will be all too aware of and something which will keep it to a minimum.

This is clearly a precursor to a reintroduction, or at least an acknowledgement that team orders cannot be policed and are better back out in the open. The FIA would look ridiculous if they had punished Ferrari and then made team orders legal again soon after.

The 100k fine is sufficient to acknowledge that the incident was handled badly by Ferrari (mainly Smedley and Massa IMO) but any points deduction would be unfair given that Ferrari were clearly deserving of a 1-2 victory. Also any deduction in Alonso’s points would also be unfair because it was Massa’s decision to move over and he is the only one who suffered.

The current FIA is clearly a much more mature, objective and intelligent organisation than it was in the last few years. That can only be a good thing. Bravo!

7

The only aspect of this which I feel warrants the application of “grown-up” thinking is the F1 community’s misguided belief that it does not have to abide by the same rules of sporting conduct as other disciplines, or even other areas of motor racing. With all due respect, attempting to describe Ferrari’s actions as anything other than race fixing is equivocating – race fixing is defined as actions which “completely or partially pre-determine a result”. To claim that ordering one driver to move over in favour of another does not fall into that category is frankly devoid of logic. Similarly, the protests that such a law is unworkable is almost akin to a burglar protesting the existence of the Theft Act. There is no intrinsic need for a team to use team orders to be successful, as Yamaha have demonstrated in MotoGP and both Peugeot and Audi have demonstrated at Le Mans. F1 has had similar instances of teammates fighting it out for the duration (Alfa Romeo in the first ever F1 season in 1950 springs to mind), so it is not a question of F1 being a special case either. This boils down to pure self-interest in a form that the sport is better off without in my view.

Regarding the comparisons to Brazil 2007, Germany 2008 and Turkey this year, they are with respect pretty tenuous comparisons. Kimi would not have passed Massa without putting in that sequence of fastest laps and pulling off a flawless pitstop, irrespective of Massa slowing down. Germany 2008 could probably have done with Heikki being a bit more robust, but Lewis still had to pass the other cars to win the race so again that’s not really a fair comparison. As for Turkey, if that constituted a case of team orders then why did no one say anything at the time? There was plenty of opportunity to do so, and the FIA have access to all the car’s telemetry at any given time so it would be quite easy to find out if the “fuel saving mode” was a cover for team orders. The fact that they felt no need to investigate should put that beyond dispute in my view. The above comparisons are almost akin to saying that a Ponzi scheme is on the same scale as stealing a packet of crisps and therefore a kid should spend their life in jail for the latter. That to me is not a credible argument.

All of the above have been made somewhat academic points by the FIA’s decision today anyway, about which I am very disappointed. F1 had a golden opportunity to restore some credibility and take a decisive stand on this point, and it failed miserably. Any resulting damage to its commercial or popular appeal is something for which it has no one to blame but itself, and I write that with some regret.

8

I cannot believe the FIA is so spineless. They bottled it and have given in just when they were needed to stand firm and not put up with the nonsense that Ferrari have been up to. Just as they have been afraid to use photographic and video evidence of moving bodywork to get Red Bull and Ferrari to tighten up their act.

Nil points to Jean Todt and his new way of doing things, it would appear that he is still in the pocket of Ferrari. I wonder if some other team had broken the rule as blatantly that a large fine, disqualification and race ban would have been imposed?

But because Ferrari do it, suddenly no action is taken and Oh My, they will try to rescind the rule because it doesn’t suit Ferrari!

Why devote time to a farce? Years of watching F1 will go down the drain if the FIA allow this to continue.

I think that they should have whacked Ferrari with a massive fine and docked points for both drivers and constructors, and then looked to revise the rule for the future to make it a bit more applicable with specified sanctions that a meaningful! I want to at least watch a race to the end, no have a spineless swap because someone is a complete baby and cannot handle team-mates beating them fair and square.

9

So Ferrari are still guilty of team-orders and yet nothing was done about the drivers lying to the stewards. They’ve set a very bad precedent here.

10

Hi James,

just read the outcome of the hearing, NO more punishment! amazing! i thought they would at least lose the points gainied from the race. Is it now worth for teams to break the rule blatenly! for only $100 000 per race? over the next couple of races left in the season, say an extra 200-300 thousand to win the championship? i would say so. let them make the radio calls lose abit of money but pick up the championship! is it worth it?

andrew-the land down under

11

Good piece James!

12

PlanetF1.com is reporting that there will be no further sanctions against Ferrari.

“The WMSC hearing over the matter took place in Paris today, but Angelo Sticchi Damiani, head of Italian motorsport federation the CSAI, told reporters outside that the governing body had agreed unanimously not to impose any extra punishment, according to the Reuters news agency.”

WOOT WOOT!!! F1 is saved. Team orders exist so stop pretending they don’t!

13

Here’s the thing. Someone tells a Pakistani cricketer to bowl a no-ball in a test match which doesn’t affect the outcome and that’s a police investigation, possible life time ban etc.

If someone tells a jockey that another horse is faster and to tuck in behind it, there are bans all round.

If I had put a bet on Massa to win, and Ferrari changed the result I would be livid, and if I were a bookmaker I’d be none too happy about paying out on Alonso.

It’s very simple. Have team orders, they should be lodged with Stewards and published on the FIA web site two hours after qualifying.

They could say “Our following driver will be told not to contest the position after the pit stops” , “if either driver appears to be delaying the other they will be asked to move over” or “To maximize X’s chances in the drivers championship Y will be asked to move over”

Of course Ferrari could (justifiably) argue that only the middle of these 3 needs a call to the driver, the others can be “fixed” before the race. That’s the thing, as James has said of course there are team orders: we just don’t like seeing them made. If Rob Smedley had told Massa simply “Fernado is able to go 2 tenths faster than you in sector 1 and 1 tenth faster in sector 2. Hamilton is also faster than you at the moment”, then no-one would have batted and eyelid if Massa said “I thought the best thing was to let him through”

Ferrari also felt that Alonso wasn’t capable of keeping Hamilton behind him (and Hamilton would then take Massa) and that Alonso wasn’t capable of passing Massa without help. Draw your own conclusions.

14

So….. what do Ferrari have to do to be held to account for anything?

The FIA have proved, once and for all, that they are a spineless joke of an organisation.

PATHETIC!

15

According to the Brazilian press, the verdict was already released and, as expected, Ferrari was not punished, so both drivers and the team keep the same points as before. Some days ago, I read another interview with Domenicali saying that “if FIA do this or that, Ferrari may look for new challenges, and it would be a great loss to F1 since there is no F1 without Ferrari”. I am honestly starting to think that that would be, actually, a great idea. I can’t stand the Ferrari team anymore, although I used to support them not so long ago. I can’t stand their hypocrisy, and though almost all the F1 teams had taken bad decisions in the past, none of them can be compared to Ferrari.

16

It’s a team sport, and a team should be allowed to give team orders for a good team result, but the individual drivers must be allowed to fight for their own championship position. In this case, the team gained nothing so they should be hammered for ordering the individuals around. The FIA would do well to insist on a clause in all drivers contracts to back up the team-orders-only-for-teams-benefit idea. One “problem” is that the drivers championship is actually far more interesting to sponsors than the constructors, so we might actually see sponsors lining up behind drivers rather than teams. Now that really would make more sense.

Thanks James – always a pleasure to read your pages…

17

I think for Ferrari it’d be wise to concentrate on 2011’s car for Mercedes according to me are already building a car for Schumacher for next year. Trust me when Schuey gets the car he wants, he’ll be unbeatable and Rosberg is no pushover either… Redbull has Adrian Newey, while Mclaren has a best driver line up on the grid. So, by concentrating on 2010, Ferrari would only make it difficult for themselves next year. For this year, both Redbull and Mclaren have moved that little bit ahead for Ferrari to gamble on an attack and compromise on the next year’s car.

18

I feel sorry for Smedley in all of this. Hopefully his head won’t be on the chopping block over a slip of the tongue.

19

I am perplexed. If you are charged in a court of law, do you defend yourself by arguing the law is flawed? Or do you declare yourself innocent?

When I came across team orders in F1 back in the 80s, I found the sport downright stupid. It’s just common sense, why get into a race when you aren’t allow to win yourself. I didn’t follow the sport. It was only after the Schumi incident and FIA banned team orders did I watch this even though I have been in karting for years.

The same goes for cycling today.

I understand the difficulties for FIA and the teams, but if team orders are allowed, I won’t spend a thousand every year for F1 tickets, period.

This WMSC has huge ramifications, it determines if I will open my wallet.

20

I’m amused by the notion of precedent in F1 stewardship. I don’t see any other sport applying this notion. A Yellow Card offense in Soccer is still punishable even if the referees miss another similar offense.

If we’re all going to play the precedence card, then what’s to stop another team from lining up 2 meters in front of the assigned starting grid spot and then claim there was a precedence at Spa 2010 and Massa wasn’t punished then?

The stewards should take two things into account, IMO:

1. Is there enough evidence?

2. Did other teams complain?

This is how it works in many other sports. In Cricket, umpire decisions are made only if there is sufficient evidence, otherwise the benefit of the doubt goes to the player. Also, an appeal must be made for certain conditions in order to get an “out” verdict. I say the same approach should be used in F1.

What constitutes reasonable evidence is up for debate.

21

Fernando Alonso = Worst decision by Ferrari.

Why the **** did they have to kick Kimi out?! He started showing his form again after the Felipe injury. Kimi and Felipe worked well together.

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT! ‘cos you might just end up breaking everything. This is what happened to Ferrari when they got Alonso.

22

Does nobody think that Massa should take some of the blame? I know he is a nice guy and very likeable and all that, but if he was a true racer he would not yield. Do you think Alonso would have yielded if the situations were reversed? No chance. Massa’s stock with the public must have been damaged.

23

The reaction to this incident really surprises me. Many posters are equating this to race fixing or cheating the public and sport, which is preposterous. Ferrari was caught breaking a rule that, as has been demonstrated, is regularly broken by teams and has been used throughout the history of F1. Posters are justifying why it was OK to do this in Brazil 08 or Hockenheim, but as James has pointed out the rule has still been broken in these cases, whether fans think it was acceptable or not. The real outcome of today should be either a reworking of the rule or its complete removal. The team should be able to decide the order of its drivers as it wishes, it’s a team sport. I really think a lot of the anger is simply that Alonso and Ferrari are marmite – people either love ’em or hate ’em.

24

James you once again raise a great number of points which I fully agree with.

However, what I find most interesting is the final two paragraphs focused on the negotiations for the new Concorde Agreement.

Are you plannning to write an article expanding on the Montezemolo-led takeover? Do you know who the other parties may be or is this purely speculation at the moment?

25

It’s a long story and I’m sure that there will be plenty on it in the coming months..

26

Controversy has a habit of stalking Alonso that’s for sure. From ‘spygate’ and his behaviour at McLaren to the Singapore crash incident and now subsequently the team orders row, the past few years have not been kind to him. Whilst I do have an element of sympathy, I can’t help but feel that you reap what you sow.

That aside I don’t think that any driver would be happy about having to be the designated 2nd driver within a team. I personally feel that Rob Smedley dropped the ball with the radio comments that are now so famous. His comments really couldn’t of been construed in any other way, and those comment’s have ultimately led to this. Was this his intention? Or was it his way at displaying his distaste in the heat of the moment? One thing that can be sure is that today is an opportunity to set a president with this aspect of F1.

Hopefully some good can come out of this, whilst any longtime fan of F1 will be aware that team orders do play a part within the sport, what is not needed is the level of arrogance displayed by both Ferrari and Alonso post race.

I however wish to remember this race for Massa making an unbelievable recovery after his near fatal accident a year before. His courage and determination left me in awe.

27

Hi James,

What about a rule that strictly enforces NO team orders up until 75% (or some other number agreed by everyone) of the year’s races are completed.. then blatant team orders are allowed and can come into effect.

All very transparent.. public may even like the fact that its an all out race between teammates for most of the season.. but then at an agreed race where everyone is aware that things may change.. ‘teammates’ behave like ‘team players’.

This would introduce new strategies, new interest and a new twist to the F1 season, and be fair to fans AND the teams.

Any thoughts?

28

THat is what I proposed at the time, back in July

29

‘So let’s be grown up about this. The rule which says “No team orders” is ridiculous and unworkable and we need a sensible, workable alternative to come out of today’s hearing.’

Enough said James – in the real world lets see the FIA get (sadly perhaps) real on this issue

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