As usual on the day after a grand prix, the Scuderia began the task of analysing the race weekend, which ended with a one-two finish for Ferrari in the Austrian Grand Prix. On the technical front, one could not fail to register the fact that the...
As usual on the day after a grand prix, the Scuderia began the task of analysing the race weekend, which ended with a one-two finish for Ferrari in the Austrian Grand Prix. On the technical front, one could not fail to register the fact that the F2002 and both drivers were very competitive throughout the weekend, with support from Bridgestone, who once again in Austria, provided tyres that were excellent in terms of performance and consistency.
Naturally, media and public attention concentrated on the end of the race, when Rubens Barrichello handed over first place to Michael Schumacher at the exit to the final corner on the last lap, after receiving the order to do so from the Ferrari pit-wall. The decision was taken based on the situation in the classification. Before the start, Michael had 44 points compared with Rubens' six, while the German's closest rivals, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher were on 23 and 20 respectively. What happened at Zeltweg was definitely nothing new in the history of the Scuderia, which has often put the interests of the team above those of the individual.
Going back to the Fifties, there was the 1956 Italian Grand Prix, when Peter Collins handed over his car to Juan Manuel Fangio, which meant the Argentinian could finish second and take the title. Then, in Morocco two years later, Phil Hill was lying second and slowed to let by Mike Hawthorn who thus got ahead of Stirling Moss in the classification that year. John Surtees 1964 title win also owed something to team orders, when in Mexico City, the men on the pit wall asked Lorenzo Bandini to slow down and let the Englishman finish the race in second place to take the title.
In a meeting with the media, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo explained that the team decision was based on reason and not on emotion. "I am sorry for Barrichello, who was great for the whole weekend and deserved to win. Sometimes however, one has to act letting the head rule the heart. While, with a few laps to go, I was instinctively happy for Rubens to win, ten seconds after the chequered flag I said to myself, "yes, that was the right decision." Because I want to make it clear that this was a decision which I agree with a hundred percent."
"Myself, when I was Sporting Director in 1975, imposed team orders onour drivers," recalled Montezemolo. "In Monaco, I told Regazzoni to let Lauda pass, as he was quicker and could win the race. In subsequent years, on several occasions we asked our drivers to act for the good of the team. I am thinking of Hockenheim and Sepang in 1999, when Irvine picked up two wins which kept him in contention for the world championship thanks to the collaboration first of Mika Salo and then of Michael Schumacher."
"On top of that, it does not seem to me that other teams have behaved differently in the past. One only has to recall the 1998 Australian Grand Prix when Coulthard let Hakkinen pass. Not to mention Jerez in 1997, when what happened was an agreement between two teams, Williams and McLaren to let the Finn take his first grand prix win."
It was suggested that Ferrari had acted arrogantly on this occasion. "I don't agree," continued Montezemolo. Three times, we have lost the Drivers' title by a whisper and we learnt the hard way that every little point can make the difference. We certainly don't think this championship is already decided just because we have won five races, because we know the situation can change very quickly."
"Two years ago, Michael arrived at the French Grand Prix with a 22 point lead over Coulthard and 24 over Hakkinen. Then came three races with no points and the Finn made up the whole difference, passing our driver in the classification in Budapest. Whether or not the four points which came Michael's way yesterday because of our decision will play a decisive role, is something we will not know until the end of the championship."
Tomorrow, the Scuderia will be back on track getting ready for the next events. Luciano Burti will be at Jerez at the wheel of an F2001 for three days of testing, while Luca Badoer will be at Fiorano, before Michael Schumacher takes over on Wednesday.