McLaren cleared by FIA over Monaco ‘team orders’

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2007, 4The FIA has cleared McLaren of any wrongdoing in the Monaco Grand Prix.

The governing body stated that the team brought Hamilton into the pits earlier than necessary to avoid his race being compromised if the safety car had come out. They agreed McLaren would have been “foolish” to do otherwise.

But there are still many problems with the ‘no team orders’ rule. And there’s a simple way McLaren might have spared themselves this controversy.

The FIA’s statement also noted that:

It is standard procedure for a team to tell its drivers to slow down when they have a substantial lead. This is in order to minimise the risk of technical or other problems. It is also standard practice and entirely reasonable to ask the drivers not to put each other at risk.

They did nothing which could be described as interfering with the race result.

It is good to see that the FIA have got the decision right and turned it around very quickly.

The decision might be considered the first significant test for the ban on team orders that was imposed from 2003. It sets a clear precedent that, at any point in the race, teams are allowed to tell their drivers to hold position.

But what about more controversial areas of the ‘no team orders’ legislation? Can a team legally put one driver on a less favourable strategy to deliberately slow him down?

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren-Mercedes, Melbourne, 2006Or give his team mate favourable service in the pits that disadvantages his team mate – as McLaren did with Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya at Melbourne last year?

These areas are still grey. And the FIA has still not prosecuted any case were blatant team orders were imposed – such as when Toyota ordered Jarno Trulli to let Ralf Schumacher past at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.

It is still far from clear where teams stand on the thorny issue of team orders.

A final thought: McLaren might have spared themselves this whole mess if they made their pit-to-car radio available to television broadcasters as most other teams do.

Ron Dennis has no right to whine about, “press comments focussing on… the allegation that the drivers were not allowed to race each other” when his team make fundamental PR errors like that to begin with.

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