Scotland Wales Northern Ireland

You are in: Motorsport: Formula One  
Front Page
Rugby Union
Rugby League
Formula One
World Rally
Other Sports
Sports Talk
In Depth
Photo Galleries
TV & Radio
BBC Pundits
Question of Sport
Funny Old Game

Around The Uk

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC News

BBC Weather

  Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK
Ferrari farce shames Formula One
Michael Schumacher (left) and Rubens Barrichello on the podium after the race
Both Ferrari drivers seemed bemused by the situation
test hello test
By Jonathan Legard
BBC motor racing correspondent

Boring, predictable and now bringing the sport into disrepute.

Ferrari have done Formula One no favours by their conduct in Austria.

Having reduced the opposition to also-rans in the races at Imola and Barcelona - admirably so with such a superior car - their team orders have now reduced Grand Prix racing to a farce.

  Do you agree with our man's verdict?

And for what?

To increase Michael Schumacher's world championship lead over Juan Pablo Montoya to 27 points instead of 23, which would have been the gap had he not been catapulted from second place to first barely three feet from the line.

I know we are unpopular and people will not understand what we have done, but we stand by our decision
Ferrari boss
Jean Todt
Last year's call to Rubens Barrichello to move over, however regrettable after only six races, was at least understandable because Schumacher's advantage over David Coulthard was a mere four points.

But pulling rank on top of a margin of more than 20 points? Shome mishtake surely?

Their haul of 16 points in the Constructors' Championship was secure, whatever the positions of Barrichello or Schumacher.

Instead of another glorious conquest for Formula One's most famous name, this was a public relations shambles.

Surely when a Schumacher-friendly crowd boos their champion, as the grandstands did so deafeningly at the A1 Ring, Ferrari have got it wrong.

Rubens Barrichello holds the winner's trophy
Schumacher gave the trophy to Barrichello
Some Ferrari fans burnt their flags in disgust, others vowed never to watch a Grand Prix again, describing the race as "a waste of money".

Defiant justification came from Ferrari's Sporting Director, Jean Todt, who took the decision.

"It is a team sport. We remember what happened in 2000 when Michael was in a similarly strong position and then failed to finish four out of five mid-summer races," ran Todt's predictable history lesson.

"He only regained the lead with two races left.

"I know we are unpopular and people will not understand what we have done, but we stand by our decision."

This weekend should have been a triumph for Barrichello.

New Ferrari contract on Thursday, fastest in Friday practice, pole on Saturday and then leading with aplomb when it mattered on Sunday afternoon.

At a time when Formula One's image is under attack, this incident only heaps on the criticism
Jonathan Legard
He deserved to win because he had out-paced the four-time world champion fair and square. And how many of his team-mates can say that?

Yet the number two on the front of his car came back to haunt him.

To be fair to Schumacher, he did not know what had hit him.

He was clearly embarrassed by the decision, arguing over the radio as Todt relayed his orders with eight laps to go.

He looked shell-shocked by the crowd's reaction as he walked onto the podium and tried to pacify the catcalls by ushering Barrichello onto the top step and ensuring he took home the winner's trophy.

Prized asset

You almost felt sorry for him.

But then if he felt so strongly about Barrichello's right to victory, could he not have refused to obey Ferrari?

What would they do? Sack him, fine him, suspend him?

Of course not. Schumacher is Ferrari's most prized asset, their most successful driver and a world figure who commands a huge global profile.

He was recently billed by Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One magazine as the most powerful man in the sport.

Well, here was a chance to test his alleged power and he did not take it.

More ammunition

More realistically, Schumacher was in an invidious position. Even his closest rival, Montoya, saw that.

"What else could he do? Would I do it? No, because I'd be looking for another job," said Montoya.

Maybe. But at a time when Formula One's image is under attack, this incident only heaps on the criticism.

And if any race fan paying 500 for a grandstand seat for the next race at Monaco demanded his money back, who could blame him?

BBC Sport's Jonathan Legard
"The FIA believe there is a case to answer"
Links to more Formula One stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Formula One stories

^^ Back to top