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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?
Sep 8, 2010, 10:09 PM

Ferrari walked away from the FIA World Motor Sport council today with no further punishment following the decision of the stewards at the German Gr...

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.

"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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