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Clumsy Ferrari expose flaws in team orders rule

Formula 1 Highlights - German Grand Prix in 90 seconds

German Grand Prix in 90 seconds

Martin Brundle
by Martin Brundle
BBC F1 analyst

Formula 1's governing body, the FIA, should immediately assemble all the commissions, councils and empowered people required to cancel regulation 39.1 which prohibits team orders. It is unworkable and largely not policeable.

The fans, media, and sponsors are best placed to firmly control this one with their remote controls, attendance, words, and cash.

There are hundreds of shades of grey around the interpretation of what constitutes team orders and when it is acceptable through the season to start applying them.

But points won at the first race have the same value as those at the last race.

Watching two world-class sportsmen and a team principal, among others, having to fabricate stories around both this regulation and the circumstances of the German Grand Prix was excruciatingly painful and infuriating.

Eddie Jordan tracks down Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali

Eddie Jordan goes in hot pursuit of Ferrari boss

Of course Ferrari wanted Alonso to win the German Grand Prix; it's their only chance of salvaging something from this season.

They're off the back of three dismal races for various reasons, and Alonso was 21 points ahead of Massa having been performing comfortably better than the recovering Brazilian so far this season. I would have wanted the same, as would any other leading team on the grid.

So why on earth did Ferrari handle it so badly before, during and after the race? I'm afraid they deserve everything that is thrown at them.

Obviously, they never imagined Massa would be leading from Alonso, although he started on the cleaner side of the grid in third, otherwise they would have pre-empted and choreographed everything so much better. The fans and media are not stupid.


The radio discussions which were transmitted are very damning, with Massa's engineer Rob Smedley initially, as he always does, motivating and encouraging his man to drive faster still. Then he has to deliver the killer message which we all understood to mean let Alonso past.

On lap 49 it happened, and Massa made it very clear what was going on with a long lift between turns six and seven. No fumbling on the brakes, or sliding at the exit. Alonso was slightly faster after he went past, which is a good job as the 'slower' Massa was still pumping in some fast laps.

Massa should have either have said 'no', or done it with some conviction. After the stops on lap 23 Alonso was clearly quicker on hard tyres, but he fumbled his one chance of a genuine overtake by going the wrong side into Turn Seven.

I've seen a lot of this team strategy business and my strong advice to any established driver is to simply ignore the request, win the race, and handle the nuclear fallout afterwards. Otherwise you self-esteem and public credibility are finished. Mark Webber has a good handle on this, I would say.

My decision to let Alonso pass - Massa

My decision to let Alonso pass - Massa

Rule 39.1 was introduced after team orders by Ferrari at Austria in 2002 meant Michael Schumacher inherited the lead from team-mate Rubens Barrichello when the German already had a very healthy lead in the championship well before half season.

Back in 2002, Ferrari were fined $1m for team orders but only $100,000 on Sunday, right?

No, they were fined $500,000 with another $500,000 suspended for improper procedure on the podium when Schumacher pushed Barrichello onto the top step and gave him the trophy. At that time team orders were perceived and accepted as part of the history and normal operating procedure of a two-car F1 team.

Teams are obliged to run two cars in their fight for drivers' and manufacturers' titles - 24 one-car teams is not practical.

There are any number of ways a driver can be perceived to be assisted or disadvantaged within a team due to testing, parts supply, quality of personnel on each car, tyre and race strategies, fuel loads, pit stops, media releases, psychological and physical support, and many other aspects around running a grand prix car around the globe.

There are numerous occasions where one driver has had to support another and races and championships have been won or lost.

Team result is most important - Alonso

Team result is most important - Alonso

Massa had a 'long' pit stop in Brazil to help Raikkonen take the title in 2007. Kovalainen was often helping Hamilton at McLaren, Irvine assisted Schumacher at Ferrari which could well have lost him the title in 1999 after Schumacher broke his leg.

I could go on and on, taking you right back to the 1950s when drivers last stepped out of their cars mid-race to hand them over.

In Austria in 1986 at Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham, Derek Warwick had to get out of his car on the grid and they wheeled it forward for Riccardo Patrese whose car had failed on the way to the start!

A team operates its two cars in the best manner in order to win one or both titles, and that's the way it is, folks.

I just don't buy the 'what if somebody betted on that' line; people should understand that racing cars have punctures and crashes, or get changed around tactically, before they risk their money.

In Jerez 1997 we even had Williams and McLaren using their four cars against Ferrari.

Millions of fans will adore Alonso, millions more will despise him, and he doesn't give a fig.

Christian Horner

Horner criticises 'team orders'

He's a winning machine who's found his way from Asturias to already having two F1 championships in his pocket. Champion racing drivers are ruthless, selfish, complex people. If you're looking for someone to love or take on holiday then it's the wrong place to look.

I played the sportsmanlike and balanced role in my career because that's my nature, like Massa, and I significantly underperformed my potential. I could have done with some Schumacher and Alonso unreasonableness.

I remember very early in my race commentary on Sunday saying that the wrong Ferrari was in the lead with regard to the championship and it would be interesting to see how they sorted it.

Later we heard the radio calls followed by the lap 49 of 67 lead swap, plus the slowing down lap and podium procedure. At no time did we read a message that the incident would be investigated by the stewards after the race.

It's not unreasonable to think that the FIA were reacting to the post race furore.

Maybe that's unfair but they have a problem now. The $100,000 fine has been applied so the team are officially guilty of breaching the regulations. Surely the World Council can only add to that penalty at their yet-to-be announced hearing.

FIA president Jean Todt was of course the long-time boss of the Ferrari team, and his son manages Massa, but from the outset of his appointment he removed himself from an official role in any sporting enquiries.

In a few days' time we have the Hungarian GP, and Hockenheim will be an old story until the World Council meets.

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see also
Revitalised Ferrari mean business
27 Jul 10 |  Race Calendar
Jordan wants orders rule scrapped
26 Jul 10 |  Formula 1
Ferrari fined but result stands
25 Jul 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso secures controversial win
26 Jul 10 |  Formula 1
German Grand Prix race results
24 Feb 10 |  Results

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