For the second year running, Ferrari team principal Jean Todt was at pains to explain his team's decision to allow Michael Schumacher to overtake Rubens Barrichello in Austria, this time to win yesterday's Austrian Grand Prix. It was a decision...
For the second year running, Ferrari team principal Jean Todt was at pains to explain his team's decision to allow Michael Schumacher to overtake Rubens Barrichello in Austria, this time to win yesterday's Austrian Grand Prix. It was a decision that was able to be taken thanks to the team's strong situation in Formula One this year.
"There was great domination by Ferrari today," explained Todt, "and the race was between our two drivers. Clearly we knew that Michael had 44 points in the Drivers' championship before this race and Rubens six points. Michael therefore had a greater chance of winning the Drivers' championship and therefore four points was important and that's why we asked Rubens to let Michael passed."
"We are fighting for a Championship. It is a difficult fight. We lost the championship at the last race in 1997, '98 and '99 so we just want to try to avoid that. Maybe if that had not happened, we would not have reacted as we did today. But it has happened, we have had some hard times. I know some people are not happy but we have the result and we feel it was the right thing for the team."
Jean Todt admitted that it was not an easy decision to take but he also explained the situation that allowed him to take this decision in the first place. "It's always a difficult decision to take, to change the finishing order, it's not something you do all the time. At the moment, we are enjoying a favourable period. We have a car that is very competitive, a good engine, remarkable Bridgestone tyres."
"Today, we did not allow our drivers to fight. It is hard for me to say, but we were much quicker on the track today, so there was no point in allowing our drivers to fight each other, because we might have given the game away to the others. We cannot be certain, with 11 races to go to the end of the championship, that the situation will remain like that, so we are trying to take the maximum at this stage."
He also explained that Ferrari's decision to blatantly change the order at the end of the race was deliberate. "I think it is much better to show what we have decided. It would have been unfair to ask Rubens to simulate being overtaken which we could easily have organized. It would have been enough to put 10 more kilos of fuel in Rubens' car and Michael could have passed him in the pitstop, which we did not do."
"It was symbolic that Rubens was the moral winner. Ten points went to Michael, but morally, Rubens is the winner as was the case when Mika Salo allowed Eddie Irvine to win in 1999, when Michael, after his accident at Silverstone, let Irvine past (in Malaysia) so it isn't something that has never happened before, it's something that has happened before. Rubens understood and he was very professional. We have just renewed the contract with Rubens, with a clear situation and clear understanding, and Rubens understands that."
Todt emphasized that the one-two result enhanced Ferrari's image. "It's all about trying to have a competitive team, to win races, and I think that Ferrari's image today, even if it is slightly compromised by the decision taken by the team, is a great image of domination which seems to be important in a discipline as hard as Formula One."
The decision, he thought, would promote different emotions. "Honestly, I think some people will be against it. I've heard different reactions. Some people feel that they are in favour but at the end of the day, it is more damaging if you lose the Championship rather than if you decide who is going to win a specific race after such domination by Ferrari."