Ferrari face FIA World Motor Sport Council on team orders charge tomorrow

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ferrari will learn their consequences of their use of team orders during the German Grand Prix in a World Motor Sport Council hearing tomorrow.

Ahead of the crunch meeting let’s review what happened, the likely arguments for and against Ferrari, who will decide their fate and what their punishment could be.

The race, the radio and the switch

The Ferrari drivers started from second and third on the grid at Hockenheim and at the start Felipe Massa moved up from third to lead ahead of Alonso.

Alonso stayed around 1-1.5 seconds behind Massa before making his pit stop on lap 14, followed by Massa on the next lap. Both switched from the soft to hard tyres.

Initially, Alonso was clearly quicker than Massa who ran wide on more than one occasion. From lap 15 to 23 he was within a second of his team mate.

On lap 23 Alonso took advantage of Massa being delayed in traffic to get alongside of his team mate at the straight approaching the hairpin. But he wasn’t able to complete the pass. He then dropped back, falling 3.4s behind by lap 27.

He began to catch his team mate again but on lap 35 he had a big slide at turn ten and dropped back. This meant he wasn’t close enough to make another attempt to pass Massa when he caught the next group of lapped cars a few laps later.

At some point – it’s not clear exactly when – Alonso told his team on the radio, ??I am much quicker than Felipe??. His race engineer Andrea Stella replied, “We got your message.?? Massa was warned by his race engineer Rob Smedley “You need to pick up the pace because Alonso is faster.??

By lap 39 Alonso was one second behind Massa again. Later Smedley came on the radio to utter the now-infamous words, “Alonso is faster than you. Can you confirm you understood that message?”

Shortly afterwards, on lap 49, Massa slowed at the exit of the hairpin and Alonso went by into the lead. Smedley was heard to say: “OK mate, good lad. Stay with him now. Sorry.” Massa was 1.8 seconds slower on that lap than he had been on the lap before.

After the chequered flag a depressed-sounding Massa got on the radio to say: “So, what I can say? Congratulations to the team.”

The stewards of the race fined Ferrari $100,000 and referred the matter to the WMSC. They found Ferrari guilty of breaking two rules – article 39.1 of the 2010 Sporting Regulations:

Team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited.

And article 151c of the International Sporting Code:

Any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition or to the interests of motor sport generally.

Article 39.1 was introduced after the 2002 season, when Ferrari had ordered Rubens Barrichello to hand victory to Michael Schumacher in the Austrian Grand Prix, to widespread condemnation. No team has been punished under this article before.

Article 151c has been used several times in recent seasons, notably in 2007 when McLaren were found to have used confidential Ferrari information.

The case for

After the race Ferrari claimed Massa made his own decision to let Alonso pass. The drivers stuck to this line in the press conference, with Alonso repeatedly denying Massa had been told to hand him the win.

Asked if it was his decision to let Alonso past Massa said “Yeah, definitely” and gave this reason for it:

Because I was not so strong on the hard [tyres], so we need to think about the team.
Felipe Massa

Ferrari said that Smedley said “sorry” to Massa shortly after the change of position as an expression of sympathy rather than an apology for the order to let Alonso by.

The case against

Massa’s explanation invites the question why he did not let Alonso pass on previous occasions when he was holding his team mate up – such as at Melbourne and Sepang this year.

The answer is at that early stage in the season Ferrari were not yet ready to sacrifice Massa’s championship chances to help Alonso’s. But admitting that would be tantamount to submitting a guilty plea on breaking article 39.1.

Massa’s remark that “we need to think about the team” was echoed by Alonso in the post-race press conference:

For sure we don?t have team orders, so we just need to do the race that we can and if you see that you cannot do the race that you can, you need to think about the team.
Fernando Alonso

And by Luca di Montezemolo later:

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.
Luca di Montezemolo

These remarks are odd because switching positions in the manner they did made no difference to the team’s points total – they would have scored the maximum 43 points whether Massa or Alonso came home first.

The change of positions was not in the best interests of the team – it was in the best interests of Fernando Alonso.

The Todt factor

FIA president Jean Todt will be breathing a sigh of relief that he reduced the president’s function on the World Motor Sports Council shortly after he took over the role last year. It has saved him from ruling on a matter where he could be said to have several conflicts of interest.

Todt, of course, ran Ferrari’s F1 team from 1993 to 2007. It was he who ordered Barrichello to make way for Schumacher – on more than one occasion.

Team orders were always part of how Todt operated as a team principal. While running Peugeot’s Paris-Dakar rally squad he once decided whether Ari Vatanen or Jacky Ickx should win by tossing a coin.

But even if his willingness to use team orders in the past might make him inclined to look more sympathetically on his former team for using them today, he does not have the same degree of influence over the WMSC that Max Mosley had in his day.

World Motor Sport Council

The following people are members of the WMSC (nationalities in brackets):

FIA President
Jean Todt (France)

FIA Deputy President for Sport
Graham Stoker (United Kingdom)

Vice Presidents for Sport
Jose Abed (Mexico)
Michel Boeri (Monaco)
Morrie Chandler (New Zealand)
Enrico Gelpi (Italy)
Carlos Gracia Fuertes (Spain)
Mohammed Ben Sulayem (UAE)
Surinder Thatthi (Tanzania)

Shk Abdulla Bin Isa Alkhalifa (Bahrain)
Garry Connelly (Australia)
Vassilis Despotopoulos (Greece)
Luis Pinto de Freitas (Portugal)
Zrinko Gregurek (Croatia)
Wan Heping (China)
Victor Kiryanov (Russia)
Henry Krausz (Dominican Republic)
Vijay Mallya (India)
Hugo R. Mersan (Paraguay)
Radovan Novak (Czech Republic)
Lars ?sterlind (Sweden)
Vicenzo Spano (Venezuela)
Teng Lip Tan (Signapore)

President of the International Karting Commission
Nicolas Deschaux (France)

President of Formula One Management
Bernie Ecclestone (United Kingdom)

President of the FIA Manufacturers’ Commission
Fran??ois Cornelis (Belgium)

Jose Abed was also one of the stewards at the German Grand Prix.

The team orders debate

The events of Hockenheim have led to a fresh debate over team orders which has divided fans, commentators and journalists. On F1 Fanatic, more than three-quarters in a poll of 2,600 readers wanted Ferrari to be punished.

There are, broadly, two points of view. One is that the article 39.1 cannot and should not be enforced, and that teams should be allowed to order their drivers as they see fit.

The opposing view is that races decided by team orders – particularly on occasions like Austria 2002 and Germany 2010 where both drivers were still in the running for the championship – undermine the sporting integrity of Formula 1 and attract great public criticism.

I lean towards the latter view. Teams have their own title to win – the constructors’ championship – and should not be allowed to interfere in the fight for the drivers’ title.

Yes, sometimes difficult decisions have to be made about which driver gets the latest upgrade first. But telling a driver to give up a win is a different matter. Team orders are deeply unpopular for a good reason – no-one wants to see a rigged race or a fixed championship. Witness the furious reaction to Austria 2002 and Hockenheim 2010.

I’m not convinced by claims a team orders ban is ‘unenforceable’. With refuelling and pit-to-car telemetry banned, and stewards able to monitor radio transmissions, it’s getting ever harder for a team to hinder one of their drivers during a race without being detected. The prospect of a swingeing punishment for anyone caught doing it would help.

The existing rule banning team orders also helps prevent much worse forms of team orders – such as the inter-team collusion seen at Jerez in 1997.

Since article 39.1 was introduced there have been other instances of a teams’ drivers swapping positions, possibly under the instruction of their teams. Some of these occurred when one driver was mathematically incapable of scoring enough points to become champion. Others involved drivers on different strategies where the overtaking driver might easily have passed his team mate without interference from the team.

None of them involved one driver who had clearly beaten his team mate being told to pull over. That is why the events of Hockenheim provoked such intense criticism and why the WMSC must punish Ferrari.


Ignoring all other considerations, what would be a suitable punishment for a team that interfered with the result of a race to improve one driver’s position in the drivers’ championship?

If the purpose of the punishment is to prevent other teams from doing it, then the drivers involved must lose points. Points deduction cannot be confined to the constructors’ championship, as has happened in the past (e.g. McLaren in 2007), for Ferrari’s actions were clearly designed to affect the drivers’ championship alone.

Stripping the team and drivers of all their German Grand Prix points would be a reasonable penalty.

Will the WMSC be swayed by other considerations? For example, is there a desire to teach Ferrari a lesson after their claims the European Grand Prix was “manipulated”?

Or might the FIA stay their hand and not hand down a points deduction to keep the drivers’ championship battle as open as possible? Expect these explanations to be invoked by anyone who finds the verdict too harsh or too soft.

One thing is clear: if the FIA really wishes to stop teams from manipulating races, giving Ferrari’s drivers anything less than a points deduction would be meaningless. It isn’t just Ferrari on trial, this is a test case for article 39.1.

Over to you

What do you think the WMSC should do? And what do you think their decision will be? Have your say in the comments.

Ferrari team orders in Germany

Image via Adam Cooper on Twitpic

321 comments on “Ferrari face FIA World Motor Sport Council on team orders charge tomorrow”

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  1. Keith plz respond……………………

  2. Ferrari sure have been pimping a lot of expensive gear for sale on their web site this last week or two. Perhaps they are expecting a big fine! ;)

  3. @ keith.What you say is absolutely true.and i never accused anyone of”ferrari bias”.But do you think the fia or wmsc should or for that matter “will” act acc. to the “general public feeling”? If you ask me i dont think so. Simply because there is a rule book which says what can be done and what cant be done .what ferrari did in 07,08 and 10 were against the rule books. Now ferrari werent punished in 07 and 08 and so i dont see why they should be punished now. If a punishment is given now , i think the same punishment should be given to the 07 and 08 party. And then if your suggested punishment is applied i guess alonso will be triple wc then. Just imagine that lol!!
    And sorry for my repeated insistence. I’ve started following f1 just 3 years ago and i know my knowledge and maturity(i am 17) is quite less compared to many in this site but i am passionate about the sport and just want to participate in discussions which will enhance my knowledge about the sport and its running.

    1. What you say is absolutely true.and i never accused anyone of”ferrari bias”

      I’m not saying you did – I was just saying we’re comparing like with like.

  4. @patrick i dont think there was any proper investigation to whether there was a team order or not . And all the radio transmissions werent given to the broadcaster at that time i believe. So i dont think you can firmly say team orders were placed or not.And even if they hadnt during the race what if ferrari had ordered their drivers to swap if such situation in the race occured where need was fairly obvious that kimi slowed down and let felipe pass. Wouldnt that be called a team order then? Or is it a team order only when you say it in the radio? And btw i think there isnt any radio transmission even in this case where ferrari ordered massa to let through. And regarding kimi saying that he’ll support massa , i think massa also told that he let alonso through on his own (whether its true or not is another matter)

  5. If the WMSC were to further penalise Ferrari by deducting their Germany drivers points would then only Vettel would benefit in terms of the WDC points gap to the leader.

    According to my calculations Webber would lag the leader, Hamilton, by 5 points rather than 3, Vettel however would lag by only 27 rather than 31 and Button would lag by 36 rather than 35.

    Webber and Button would therefore lose out, with Webber suffering most in relation to the lead over his team-mate, the gap coming down from 28 to 22 points.

    1. you are assuming that ALL the points would change, but that’s not the case. I believe that 3rd 4th and 5th etc will get the same points, but the points for 1st and 2nd may be deducted, not substituted.

      So all that changes is Alonso down 25 pts, and massa down 18 pts.

  6. I Don’t think there can be any sort of point re-distribution, otherwise the FIA would have done it befor in other intances. As far as i remember they havent dont point re-distribution befor correct me if im wrong please.

    I think Ferrari will also get away with a fine and i dont think the FIA with deduct points. If they do deduct points it will be from both drivers i beleive.

  7. I think Ferrari fans tend to have less of a problem with the rule because it’s true that Ferrari matters more to them than the drivers who come and go. So long as its a Ferrari that wins is deeply ingrained within the philsophy of the team.

    McLaren fans only had to soul search during the Hakkinen, Coulthard years, after which the rules changed and I think we’ve got a fight everyone including our selves mind set, seeing as our greatest bit of heritage was the dominant Senna-Prost years. AN of course the perceived injustices of the Schumacher era. Which probably rubbed of on most of the teams.

    1. I HAVE looked at this world motor port council members list who will be meeting to DECIDE FERRARIS fate and am shocked to see that some names there are from countries with little or any motor sports competitions to speak of if any

      what is the criteria used to determine who sits on this council?
      Even THE VICE president for sport from Tanzania(surinder thathi)? where there is no significant rallying activity to warrant a guy from this country to hold such an important post within the FIA…

      I BELIEVE this is the same guy WHO was privy to some of the most controvercial decisions taken during the time of MOWSLEY
      I think ferrari will come of lightly because the time taken to convene this meeting has taken too long and therefore giving time for all major players to work out any deals
      THIS thing SHOULD have been sorted within seven days of the rules being broken .

      1. OMG.. that is so completely alienist i cannot believe that i read it in the 21st century.

        Look at what Surinder has acheived, on a GLOBAL scale, he DESERVES to be there, has worked hard for his whole life, throughout AFRICA (not just Tanzania and Kenya) and even BROUGHT the WRC to Africa… don’t have a go at what you don’t understand, and certainly, what difference does a nationality make ? it’s the CV that counts.

        By your logic Robert Kubica shouldn’t be in F1, cos there is no F1 activity in Poland… seriously, wind your neck in mate, you’re bordering racism/xenophobia, and nothing like that should be allowed.

  8. First of all, I find it sad to think that this may yet be the most significant event over the course of the current season once again. From that, I would have a very clear opinion on whether or not the sport‘s reputation has been affected negatively here.
    I just hope there will be a detailed examination, an accurate analysis and a just and fair verdict. Allowing for any opportunities for the discussion to focus on too soft or too hard a reaction by the WMSC, in my opinion, should absoutely be avoided.
    My opinion on the matter is that the FIA can and should enforce article 39.1. This does not negate there is pressure on the teams as both commercial and sporting entities to deliver the best results possible. It does not negate the fact that it may also be of great value for a team to have one of its drivers win the drivers‘ championship. It also does not prevent a driver further up in the championship from gaining a race position on his team-mate. It just means that in order to do that, this driver has to find a way of legitimately overtaking his team-mate. Especially under circumstances where both drivers are („still“) mathematically able to win the championship, there is nothing else I would consider more natural in motor racing than one driver having to outperform the other in order to improve his position, in order to win.
    In the event of a penalty being handed down, I would see no way the drivers should not also be affected by it. Since there is a ban on team orders as part of the current rules, no team may even just encourage their driver(s) to do anything that may be considered a breach of the rules. Any encouragement or instruction of such kind given to a driver would effectively be void. Consequently, drivers would be just as responsible as their team if „team orders“ had been implemented.

  9. JUDGING by the way the FANS and the public have reacted since this so called team orders fiasco caused by this alonzo/massa seems that the FIA will be doing the sport a great deservice IF no action is taken further

    These drivers are driving the most advanced motorcars on the racetrack,and any drivers who is unable to overtake his team mate until he is helped by team orders has no business racing in the first place.

    The teams should let the drivers race themselves no matter the consequences..this is what the FANS and tv AUDIENCES expect to see.

  10. Why are we not hearing any explanation from Massa or Ferrari about the reason for failing to park at the right spot?
    I’m starting to believe the theory of yet ANOTHER teamorder:
    Ferrari wanted to get Alonso in front of Massa to give Alonso the chance to more points for the championship.
    Being just punished for blatant teamorders, they had to think of a more subtile way to do it, and a drivethrough for a false start would do the trick!
    Only the FIA wasn’t paying attention!
    Trick failed.

    All the silence surrounding it makes me all the more suspicious, looks like Ferrari is trying to get everybody to forget it, because of the hearing tomorrow…
    And another teamorder would take away all their chances for this season.

    But are we supposed to believe that Massa can’t park a car? It wasn’t just a few cm!
    Or was his mind wandering off, because -well- it’s just the start of the race?!

    I want to know what happened there, and not just the technical failure of the FIA!

    1. Except as Webber showed at Spa, there are much easier and surer ways to lose position off the grid that don’t involve Ferrari’s number two dropping to the back.

  11. the points should be reversed and ferrari fined $100,000

    1. I don’t think $100,000 would be enough personally.:)
      That’s nothing to them. Maybe $100,000,000 would be more appropriate, after all, that’s what they gave to mclaren for something equally damaging to the sport IMO…

  12. It seems as if controversy follows Alonso at every turn– perhaps he didn’t like life at McLaren because he couldn’t get Hamilton to crash into a wall for him or pull over to let him take the lead.

  13. The sri lankan
    8th September 2010, 1:13

    i think this meeting will conclude weather FIA is indeed Ferrari international assistance. Poor massa man! hes been slapped enough in the face already! wheres the damn justice?

    1. Well, the FIA have officially confirmed they have zero credibility by announcing that no further action has been taken against ferrari, according to sky news.


  15. I have said before and I will say it again; don’t bring these team ordered races to the USA because formula 1 will be sent packing for a long time. Racing fans over here won’t stand for it.
    If Ferrari pulls a stunt like they did in Germany at the new track in Texas there could be a bit of violence.

    1. i think the 288+ comments at time of writing this comment shows that WE won’t stand for it either…

  16. I don’t think at this stages stripping Alonso from the points system will be good for the sport if they decided to do something like this then they should have done it right after the German GP.WSMC can do two things.
    1. Take away all the points that Ferrari have scored as a constructor in the German GP.
    2.Give them a big fine to pay.
    Lets wait & see.

    1. Handing out a fine to a poor person works, They will struggle to pay and be inconvenienced for months. To a multi-millionare corp, it is a joke. It makes no difference to them as the amount will made up in seconds. They won’t even notice it. Points on the other hand is the currency they understand and will feel the sting for years to come.

  17. I am guessing they might find the fact that F1 turns corners both ways a little confusing at first too. ;)

  18. To Keith Collantine:

    Very good article, clear and precise, but I have to make some appreciattions regarding your lack of impartiality.

    You state that Alonso, at last, was not quicker than Massa:

    “He began to catch his team mate again but on lap 35 he had a big slide at turn ten and dropped back. This meant he wasn’t close enough to make another attempt to pass Massa when he caught the next group of lapped cars a few laps later”

    But Massa finished much, much later than Alonso… He lost seconds and seconds, lap after lap until the end of the race. Consequently, Alonso was obviously, and without a shadow of doubt, quicker, much quicker than Massa. But this is not relevant to the core of this matter (consequently you are bringing here a pointless statement) since the quickness of Alonso is not important to what happened.

    On the other hand, we have seen “team orders” race after race, McLaren and Red Bull are good examples of it:

    – Mclaren’s team to Kovalainnen: “Mate, save fuel” when Hamilton needed, desperately, some points to win the Championship in 2008

    Red Bull’s team to Mark Webber: “Mark you have to save fuel by now” and then we all know what happened…

    I absolutely agree with you that Ferrari should be punished, but make an inquisitorial trial about this, is a pharisee behaviour. Specially if you hide part of the related information.

    Please do not get angry with me since this is only my opinion.

    Best regards,

    1. I’m not entirely sure what you’re point is. As I said in the article there were several times in the race when Alonso was quicker than Massa. That much is clear from the laptimes (linked to from the article but here they are again:

      You say “But Massa finished much, much later than Alonso” – Alonso was only ahead because Massa let him past, and what was the point in Massa going after Alonso seeing as he knew he wasn’t allowed to beat him? Moreover, Massa was only 4.1s behind at the flag, which is hardly “much, much later”.

      Where did you get the McLaren-to-Kovalainen quote from?

  19. An interesting background to things going on is mentioned by James Allen (who thinks it will likely be a fine and constructors points ditched):

    There is a whole other back story here to do with the threat posed to FIA and FOM by Ferrari president Montezemolo, potentially lining up some kind of takeover of F1 when the Concorde Agreement expires in two years time. Montezemolo is one of few figures in the sport who could get together the financing to buy CVC’s stake in the F1 commercial rights holder.

    Montezemolo and Todt met earlier this summer in Paris and there is a lot going on behind the scenes as the various parties line up their power bases and prepare for one of the most important negotiations since the early 1980s. Will that spill over into today’s case? We will know more when we see the judgement.

    As this is Formula1, it might be an important part of the background. Kudos to Todt and the teams for keeping this out of the public this time.

    1. Keeping secrets is against man’s nature so expect everything to come out before an official announcement. Example, Montezemolo ego won’t allow him to keep his mouth shut.

  20. Team Orders wouldn’t be a problem if the Constructors’ Championship was considered more prestigious than the Drivers’.

    1. And there isn’t a team behind the drivers? Every single person that works at Ferrari contributes to the final result. F1 is one of the biggest team sports and team orders aren’t allowed? C’mon.

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