Montezemolo defends driver switch

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has defended his team’s decision to change the order of its drivers during yesterday’s German Grand Prix.

The stewards of the meeting fined Ferrari $100,000 for the move. The World Motor Sports Council will investigate whether the team acted improperly by giving a coded instruction to Felipe Massa telling him to let Fernando Alonso past.

Montezemolo said:

I am very happy for all our fans who finally, yesterday, saw two Ferraris lead from start to finish as they dominated the race. The result is down to the efforts of all our people, who never give up. Now we have to continue working like this, to improve the car so that is competitive at all the circuits we will encounter.

Alonso and Massa also did very well, giving their all throughout the weekend. The polemics are of no interest to me. I simply reaffirm what I have always maintained, which is that our drivers are very well aware, and it is something they have to stick to, that if one races for Ferrari, then the interests of the team come before those of the individual. In any case, these things have happened since the days of Nuvolari and I experienced it myself when I was Sporting Director, in the days of Niki Lauda and not just then??

Therefore enough of this hypocrisy, even if I can well believe that some people might well have liked to see our two drivers eliminate one another, but that is definitely not the case for me or indeed for our fans.
Luca di Montezemolo

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182 comments on Montezemolo defends driver switch

  1. sumedh said on 26th July 2010, 21:24

    In defence of Luca, there is nothing else he can say now, is there? The mistake was made on Sunday, if Luca were to expect the mistake on Monday, that would only be compounding on their original mistake.

    Do you not realize why the stewards were able to penalize Ferrari? It wasn’t because of the team orders. The team orders were coded instructions and hence Ferrari & Massa are not lying when they say it was Massa’s decision alone. What caused trouble for Ferrari was Smedley’s apology. He said “Sorry” to Felipe which allowed the stewards to point out that this is indeed a case of team orders.

    It was this apology which allowed stewards to interfere in the matter!! If Luca were to say sorry, and show contrition, he is only inviting the full wrath of the WMSC.

    Just rewind back to 2007 and see what happened with Mclaren.

    Mclaren were very quick in suspending the engineer who was involved in spygate and Ron Dennis himself called Max Mosley and confessed about all of Mclaren’s activities. And the team got the harshest possible punishment from the WMSC.

    Ferrari have already made a big mistake. Accepting it isn’t going to undo it. They just have to stick to whatever story they have cooked up, and pray that WMSC doesn’t disqualify them from this year’s championship.

    • Ilanin said on 26th July 2010, 21:30

      Disagree. Smedley asked Massa to confirm if the latter understood the transmission “Fernando is faster than you”. Since we can reasonable assume that Massa is capable of understanding the actual words, given that his English is fine most of the time, it can be assumed they had another meaning.

      Given what happened subsequently the balance of probabilities would lie in favour of it being team orders.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th July 2010, 21:31

      Looking back at my Tweets from yesterday I see that before Smedley had said “sorry” I’d said “Is that code” and “If Massa lets Alonso past here there’s going to be a right old row.” There were a lot of similar remarks flyign around at the time. I think it was pretty obvious before then what was coming.

      • Ilanin said on 26th July 2010, 21:41

        Jonathon Legard said (I know most of you mute him, so…) after Smedley’s can you confirm you understand that? “I think we understand that!”

      • sumedh said on 26th July 2010, 21:48

        I see your point. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out what the coded instruction means.

        But when one talks about article 39.1, one isn’t dealing with a person of reasonable intellect. One is only looking for plausible evidence which directly violates the wording of the rule.

        Smedley’s “Fernando is faster than you” (however obvious it might be to each and everyone of us) does not violate 39.1. But his apology “sorry” after the ‘overtake’ clearly violates the rules. Without the apology, Ferrari would only have broken the spirit of the rules, not the rules per se. But thanks to the “sorry”, they did break 39.1 and got the penalty.

        • Patrickl said on 26th July 2010, 22:42

          “Do you understand?” is pretty much an idication that Smedley did not just mean that “Alonso was faster” (which he really wasn’t anyway)

          Also, again, the remark from Smedley that they could “still” win the race when Massa was comfortably ahead of Vettel. All of a sudden he started doing fastest laps like a bat out of hell.

          Obviously there was reason for that sudden and (in a normal situation) unneeded urgency.

  2. mark said on 26th July 2010, 21:42

    the rule is only broken if they directly told massa to move. They didn’t, the only communication was alonso is faster than you. Massa moved over of his own accord. We know this is not true but cannot be proved. Only the spirit of the rule has been broken but this happens on a technical side all the time.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 27th July 2010, 16:56

      That is why the steward brought in the “bringing the sport into disrepute” rule as it is easy to prove and very open in the scope of penalies given.

  3. mark said on 26th July 2010, 21:58

    team sport. If the drivers title is above all then when new parts are brought to a gp then both must have them if not both should use old parts. RB used team orders during the front wing debacle. I don’t care which ferrari wins but want to win both titles so give the advantage to the driver most likley to win even if bin laden was in a ferrari.

  4. mark said on 26th July 2010, 22:07

    sorry can be argued to mean sorry i didn’t help set the car up so you were faster than alonso. We know what it meant but cannot be proven. To break the rule it would have to have been along the lines of sorry for making you move over. Sorry on it’s own can mean anything, no rule broken

  5. wayne said on 26th July 2010, 22:54

    This team order thing is so unfair to the fans. Just think of all of those who placed bets on the race in favour of Massa. They lost out and ferrari are to blame as they are so arogant as to think that the fans dont matter. bad form ferrari, bad form!!!!!

    • John H said on 27th July 2010, 0:58

      I think if you’re going to bet on F1, you should know in advance that there is a chance of Ferrari doing this. There’s no skill in betting if you don’t do your research.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 27th July 2010, 16:59

      Whoever betted for a Ferrari 1-2 with Massa in front can only blame him/herself for losing the money.
      Remember, that after the first 2-3 laps Brundle already discussed how the wrong car is in front and it will be interesting to see how Ferrari change positions.
      Who not expected that does not understand the sport enough to place bets with a calculated risk.

  6. The corruption is in the F1 establishment; they enforce the rules with a blink and a nod in one case, a wrist slap in the next, and massive retaliation in the next. Utterly arbitrary. The one commonality is a general bias toward Ferrari. You’ll never find one of those red things in my garage!

    • graigchq said on 27th July 2010, 13:07

      nor in most of our garages, i don’t know anyone personally who can shell out £100,000 on a car when the saloon on their driveway cost them less than a fifth of that!!

  7. ElBasque said on 27th July 2010, 0:44

    Is instructing one driver not to attack his teammate as illegal as instructing somebody to allow a teammate past? A quick dictionary brush-up on the semantics of the word “interfere” (as found in the FIA team orders rule) seems to suggest that both are equally out-of-order.

    Yet personally, telling teammates to hold station at the end of a race constitutes sensible team tactics, with the teammate who’s leading at least earning their place at the top of the order.

    Whereas this place-swapping business seems a much more insidious affair; for me it shows a team directly altering what’s currently the order of their cars on-track by way of coercion. The tactical usage of pitstops to change track position (ie, bringing in the lead car a few laps earlier back in the days of refueling), or the aforementioned “do not overtake” situation seems to me to be more acceptable even though they are equally illegal.

    It is a strange way of viewing it though as they are both technically to the detriment of the F1 spectacle. Eddie Jordan was remarking post-race about how Ferrari had stolen a potential duel from the viewers and racegoers, but every time a team tells its drivers to hold station, the same theft takes place.

    I think it’s as though the notion of “team orders” isn’t half as bad as the overt nature in which they are carried out. That artificiality can be stomached in small amounts as long as it is imperceptible enough.

    It’s an interesting argument and i’ve enjoyed reading all the views on here over the last few days. I’ve been watching F1 since the mid-90’s as a kid, so i like to think i’m more than a casual viewer. Although the short-term nature of my F1 memory see me unwilling to participate in these combustable issues the majority of the time.

    Due to growing up with the seemingly neverending Ferrari dominance of the early 21st century, i don’t care much for the team. The arrogance that the team and Alonso continue to exude isn’t doing anything to change my personal view towards them, but this entire issue isn’t as clear-cut as it first appears.

    • John H said on 27th July 2010, 1:03

      “Is instructing one driver not to attack his teammate as illegal as instructing somebody to allow a teammate past?”

      It must be the same thing as you mention, there is certainly some interference by not allowing a driver to attack. McLaren did this at Monaco 2007 (although people seem to be citing the Kova examples, there is no radio message I know of for this one) and should have been penalised then… but they weren’t.

      There is one simple way out of this, that is to allow team orders and remember that F1 is also a team sport (there is a constructors championship I believe!), and let them decide whether to have a number 1 driver or not. We have to remember that this regulation was brought in completely different times, when there was only one quick car and one of the drivers had a contract that said he couldn’t win.

    • Sharon said on 27th July 2010, 11:00

      “Is instructing one driver not to attack his teammate as illegal as instructing somebody to allow a teammate past?”

      No, see as I mentioned in a previous comment, see the FIA press release from Monaco 07, ‘hold station’ is not a contravention of 39.1.

  8. dragon said on 27th July 2010, 1:18

    It only seems so much dirtier because it’s Ferrari, they’re both well out in front, and it robs Massa of what would have been a highly popular victory. It happens in code up and down the paddock, you know. Doesn’t make it any less bitter to watch, but don’t bring the old Alonso vs Hamilton debate into it.

    I know many of you are staunch British fans, and likely detest Fernando to the sole of his shoes, but this is Domenicali territory. You don’t think all drivers voice their displeasure when a slower teammate is in front? How about Button and Barrichello last year? Alonso can whine on the radio all he wants, but that’s because he knows he needs wins to get his championship back – he would have accepted second place, no qualms whatsoever, and been happy to know that with Ferrari’s renewed pace, he was back in contention.

    With all my heart, I want Webber to win the WDC. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Fernando take his third, to give some of the more one-eyed McLaren fans here – who label Teflonso a whinger at every opportunity – something else to cry about.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th July 2010, 1:34

      Just because someone’s British (as slightly under one-third of this site’s readership is) doesn’t mean they automatically dislike Alonso. One thing I’ve been struck by since this happened is the number of people saying they used to like him, but after things like this and Singapore, they’ve gone off him. And that’s not so hard to understand, is it?

      • ElBasque said on 27th July 2010, 1:55

        True that, he was the new plucky pretender challenging Schumachers dominance back in 2005 (-ish)and i supported him wholeheartedly to begin with.

        But his particular interpretation of “hotblooded latin” started to grate after a while – with his frequent in-cockpit gesticulations whenever anybody put up a fight being particularly irritating.

        He’s too good a driver to be continually trying to get assistance from all quarters, and it results in him appearing to think he’s better than everyone else.

        And like Keith mentions, unsavoury events seems to follow him about. Much like Hamilton actually, and i don’t really like him either.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 27th July 2010, 17:05

          I was very much a Alonso supporter in 2004-2006 and through 2007 (sure the way he went along it at McLaren was not very good, but Hamilton did his own part as well). After Singapore it was hard to really feel good about him.
          I was happy when Alonso commented on making a lot of mistakes and realising that now when looking back to 2007 at the start of the year (Hamilton did the same). And i was starting to like Ferrari for their drive to compete. Now it has gone back to feeling bad about this way to win at all cost from both Ferrari and its driver(s).

          As in the Docvee blog posted above, Massa could just have ignored it and faced the concequences afterwards, like Webber did in Turkey.

      • dragon said on 27th July 2010, 5:59

        I understand that, but, there’s no such thing as a perfect racing driver when it comes to desirable personality traits. However, it seems on this site that anything the Spaniard does is met with derision and contempt, while equally Hamilton is portrayed as a Saint who can do no wrong. I would assume this is largely because of McLaren’s 2007 season. It’s a shame, because I love this site and your articles Keith, but I know I don’t speak alone when I say some of us non-Brits get a bit sick of it. I mean, what was Alonso supposed to do, slow down and refuse to overtake Massa?

        • nelly said on 27th July 2010, 11:52

          Alonso and Hamilton, no matter what situation they are found in, are always going to be the two drivers which most people either love or despise. Some people see Alonsos heated team radios as showing human emotion and showing how much he wants to win, others see it as moaning. Same with Hamilton. Plus they’re both very successful and with success brings the love and hate.
          I wouldn’t say Hamilton is always portrayed as a Saint though… not anywhere. His haters always come out given half a chance – some british, some not.
          Alonso overtook Massa since he slowed (because Massa was asked). To me neither should have done it and had more of a backbone but Ferrari issued the order and so should be duly punished. I agree though, if Alonso knew nothing then yes, what else was he supposed to do? I don’t think Alonsos complaints were asking for a team order, but I can’t prove that any more than anyone else can disprove it and it still seemed odd he said them just before the incident. And as well when he asked if Felipe was okay when they’d finished. Nice comment but strange. Maybe he was just being his usual flamboyant self though.

  9. SPIDERman said on 27th July 2010, 1:25

    NOW that ferrari are openly defending their anointed choozen number one driver ALONZO…expect the other F1 drivers to focus on him intensively….
    I dont think he will win the champioship this year
    as everyone will go all out to race him

  10. W154 said on 27th July 2010, 1:38

    Looks like Luca and Dietrich went to the same Management School !

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 27th July 2010, 17:08

      But Mateschitz actually stepped in and corrected his right hand man Marko.
      He clearly stated that as a team owner he wants both drivers to fight it out between them on track come what may.

      It seems Mateschitz understands Brandimage, and sporting emotions require the team to make it a fair fight even if that means losing out on the title in the end.

  11. Johnny86 said on 27th July 2010, 3:12

    I know why this is creating such a fuss but i cant really blame ferrari about anything except managing the issue. I think that FM has no realistic chance of being a Wdc this year,not with the 2nd fastest car on MOST TRACKS.the deficiency of point is too huge and i think ferrari would prefer the driver with a 45 odd pts difference rather than a 70 odd.i think FA is their best bet and not to mention the faster of the two and the more likely one to win. And team orders are always there in f1. LH was allowed to pass HK in the same track in 2008. He even thanked his teammate for not putting up a big fight was quite obvious. I want kieth to respond because as much as i like this site i think he has been a bit biased about this particular incident.

  12. Johnny86 said on 27th July 2010, 3:27

    I think that FM has no realistic chance of being a Wdc this year,not with the 2nd fastest car on MOST TRACKS.the deficiency of point is too huge and i think ferrari would prefer the driver with a 45 odd pts difference rather than a 70 odd.i think FA is their best bet and not to mention the faster of the two and the more likely one to win. And team orders are always there in f1. LH was allowed to pass HK in the same track in 2008. He even thanked his teammate for not putting up a fight was quite obvious.and what about kimi in 2007 or massa in 2008??i know that mathamatically kimi in 08 and massa in
    07 were out of the championship race but still ferrari played against the rule and it was a disadvantage to the other competitors.why wasnt such a furore created then?? I want kieth to respond because as much as i like this site i think he has been a bit biased about this particular incident.SORRY for stating my mind ,a bit rude i guess. cheers.

  13. Johnny86 said on 27th July 2010, 3:28

    Sory for repostn..missed a few points

  14. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 27th July 2010, 6:20

    Oh, that’s rich. Montezemolo says he has “no interest” in discussing the events of the race, but when things didn’t go Ferrari’s way he was leading the charge demanding answers.

    What a hypocrite.

  15. semirossi said on 27th July 2010, 8:24

    di Montezemolo is openly admitting that he and the whole Ferrariteam is working against the FIA rule stating that teamorders aren’t allowed. Wow! I must say my favoritism for Ferrari is being seriously evaluated as of now. My honest vote for Ferrari and di Montezemolo is – DQ.

    Rules should be followed! End of story!

    What would FIFA do if one soccerplayer constantly disrespected the rules and was making goals with his hands instead of feet or head? Well, at least I doubt they would fine him and let him run away with the points. Especially not if it happened a second or third time.

    Shape it up FIA, for Christ sake! Are Ferrari making the rules and FIA just following them or what?

    • W-K said on 27th July 2010, 8:43

      The only true rule in F1, and much of the true world,is don’t get caught breaking the rules and regulations.

      Several posts have made the comparison with spygate. That incident really annoyed me, not because Mclaren did spy but again because Ferrari made such a song and dance about it. The first rule of spying is that the opposition is ALWAYS going to try and discover our secrets, therefore we must use all measures to secure our data. Ferrari obviously didn’t do that.

      • nelly said on 27th July 2010, 12:11

        “the only true rule in F1, and much of the world, is don’t get caught breaking the rules and regulations” – very true statement. It shouldn’t be like that though. Breaking a rule should be breaking a rule so that things like this are prevented. I know teams push boundaries in all aspects of the sport but at some point, someone’s fingers will get burnt and the whole world will know about it. Push the boundaries of innovative car design too far and the new part gets banned. Push the boundaries of team orders, something which arguably can’t be prevented unfortunately, and all this happens.

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