Ferrari team revisits its murky past

Sunday’s German grand prix saw the headlines grabbed by Ferrari for the wrong reasons. Their decision tell Felipe Massa to let Fernando Alonso past for the victory, over shadowed the major headline of the day. That Ferrari was back to winning ways and had fair and squarely beaten the Red Bull’s in a straight fight. However no one was talking about this as the knives were out for the Italian team for unnecessary team orders.

Ever since 2002 when Ferrari brought the sport in to disrepute after contriving the worse organised finish possible by having Rubens Barrichello pull over on the line to hand Michael Schumacher the victory, ‘team orders’ have been outlawed. The ‘team orders’ rule was brought in due to the huge amount of negative press and damage the incident did to the sports credibility. It was seen more of a moral deterrent to such public displays of race manipulation that would allow the F1 public sleep easy knowing that what they were watching was in essence a honest and fair fight for victory.

I don’t think any experienced F1 follower thinks that this rule is likely to stop F1 teams manipulating situation where they get their number 1 driver to the front, but what it did do was change the obvious way the teams went about it. This year we have seen cases that have stoked the flames of potential claims of team orders with Red Bull in Turkey and Silverstone and with McLaren at Turkey. But in both cases, the teams found creative ways of being subtle. But the clumsy and obvious manner in which Ferrari went about the German Grand Prix ensured the shit hit the fan come the chequered flag.

The emotional and clunky way in which Rob Smedley went about telling Massa that Alonso was faster than him, and implied there was a hidden subtext by implying “do you understand this” followed up by a almost grovelling “sorry” indicates that what we was hearing from Rob was indeed an instruction to let Alonso past. The fact that shortly after Massa let Alonso past in a non overtaking area affirmed that team orders was in play. In fact you didn’t even need to be a F1 regular to understand that Massa gave that race to Alonso on instruction.

So the team from Italy were guilty! Yet they tried to tell us that we were wrong which just pushed the team further away from creating an understanding with the f1 public. The team has been hauled in front of the WMSC in September, where by the letter of the law, the team should be punished in terms of their constructors’ points. It would be hard to be able to take points away from the drivers as they are not the ones responsibly (lets leave Alonso’s influence on the team for another day)

I find it hard to understand those that are saying that the ban on team orders should be scraped as it is not a rule that can be regulated properly. The rule should be simple. Once a race is under way, any instruction by team management to any of its drivers that has an influence on the race result is illegal. If a team wants to have a ‘plan B’ should they find themselves in, then they should think of a way that doesn’t rub the public’s nose in their politics.

Many say that by hiding away their intention make it worse and that the public would be better served if everything was out on the table, but my point here is, sometimes the general public need to safeguarded from some of the intentions of the racing teams, for example they lengths they go to poach information, break the rules and fund money for them to go racing might not sit well in the stomach of job public.

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 25: Fernando Alonso (C) of Spain and Ferrari talks to his engineers on the grid before the start of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring on July 25, 2010 in Hockenheim, Germany. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

The rule must stay, and if it stays comes the belief that F1 races carry at least some integrity!


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