Judgement day for Ferrari over team orders

Judgement day for Ferrari over team orders, WMSC likely not to issue any further punishment

It was the action on the track in Formula One at the German Grand Prix a few weeks ago, which forced Ferrari to come before the World Motor Sport Council in Paris today.

Felipe Massa leading Fernando Alonso before the now famous switch..
Photo by xpb.cc.

Although Jean Todt is the new President of the FIA, taking over from Max Mosley who stepped down nearly a year ago, the former Ferrari boss felt it could have influenced the decision if he was present. His deputy, Graham Stoker, was there to lead the proceedings in today's hearing.

When the incident initially took place, the FIA gave the team an immediate fine of $100,000, but with the uproar from the rest of the paddock, the case went to the WMSC, prompting them to take further action.

During the race held at the Hockenheimring circuit, many witnessed Felipe Massa as he slowed down, allowing team mate Fernando Alonso to take the lead, and take the chequered flag as the winner. At the time it seemed that the Spaniard, and his Italian team, were desperate to keep their fight for the title alive. However, all of the other teams, were less than impressed with the way they went about it.

There was also sufficient evidence to back up everyone's argument, to show that Ferrari had gone against the rulebook, which bans team orders in the Formula One since 2002. It clearly states, "Team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited".

To confirm the suspicions at the German Grand Prix, it was the team radio transmission that was reported worldwide, which indicated that Massa should move over, and allow Alonso to pass him. It was Massa's race engineer, Rob Smedley, who delivered the message that his team mate was faster, and said, "Can you confirm you understand?" He then praised the Brazilian and apologised to him, saying "Good lad. Just stick with it. Sorry."

It was at the Austrian Grand Prix eight years ago, where Rubens Barrichello gave team mate Michael Schumacher the lead and race win, despite the German already being on course to pick up the victory.

Following these two occasions that has centered around Ferrari who have been at the centre of team orders scandals, today at the WMSC meeting, if nothing else it has resulted in this very rule to be reviewed.

The German GP podium with Alonso and Massa tells its own story..
Photo by xpb.cc.

The statement by the WMSC: "After an in depth analysis of all reports, statements and documents submitted, the judging body has decided to confirm the stewards' decision of a $100,000 fine for infringing article 39.1 of the sporting regulations and to impose the payment of the costs incurred by the FIA."

They furthered stated that, "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 1 Sporting Working Group."

The FIA are considering whether to abolish it, because teams break it too often in the sport, and it is extremely hard to enforce. If the rule was no longer in existence, it could mean that teams would have to mutually agree, not to use team orders too much or too frequently.

While the paddock awaits the final decision on team orders from the FIA, there is the Italian Grand Prix to look forward to on Sunday. In terms of their title hopes, the home team, Ferrari, currently sit in third place of the Constructors' standings, and are seventy nine points behind McLaren, with Red Bull leading them by just one point. Whereas in the Drivers' Championship, both drivers are quite a distance from the top. Alonso is ahead of Massa in fifth place, but still forty-one points behind the leader, Lewis Hamilton.

Certainly after today's festivities in Paris, Ferrari will be hoping that it will not cast a shadow over their race weekend.