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

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)

Members
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.

Punishment

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

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

    • chemakal said on 7th September 2010, 14:44

      Thanks for that. Very rare to find articles in the British press not against Alonso…

    • I think the rule was ridiculous and now we’re having to deal with the fall out. I also think it’s only an issue because Ferrari were so blatant about it otherwise we’d all wink and say “good one Alonso”.

      For me, the rule is too vague and daft, the situation has been picked on when it has gone on in the past, I don’t actually view team roders as a horrendous thing but prefer a good battle, the FIA are going to do something controversial now whatever they decide and this is a battle between the competitors desparate to win and the fans pleading for the show.

      I will match your link with this http://joesaward.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/the-rights-and-wrongs-of-team-orders/

  1. qazuhb said on 7th September 2010, 14:07

    I think that what happened was shameful, and would hate seeing Alonso escape punishment again, like Singapore 2008, because “he just didn’t know what was going on”. But on the other hand, I think it’s too late now to apply a points penalty that would tarnish the championships outcome, and open the door to somebody later crying they were “robbed” of the title. It would be like Hamilton’s penalization at Spa again (thankfully it didn’t have any influence in the WDC’s final standings). I believe a VERY HEAVY fine should be applied along with a reprimand, to let everyone know this isn’t going to be tolerated anymore, followed by a thorough clarification of the rule (including matemathically out-of-contention drivers allowance -or not- to help their teammates).

  2. chemakal said on 7th September 2010, 14:29

    I’m a bit confused on what is being judged here. My conclusion is that “team orders” are not to be punished unless it’s made obvious, so the rule does not protect race interfering, just tries to protect the sports image even being of general knowledge that all teams use “team orders”. Aren’t there other crucial matters to be discussed? Did Ferrari put in danger any driver with their team orders? Did they influence the score of any drivers other than those of Ferrari? Going back to Hockenheim 08, Kov letting pass Hamilton did influence the rest of the race. If Kov would have resisted longer, Ham may not have catched up with Massa and Piquet.

  3. I hope so Ferrari do get punished by the FIA, so they will go and start a new series I will follow them. Some F1 journalists and fans would be happy to see Ferrari leave F1, and I think so that they should leave F1, leave it to all the British teams because that is what they want. Ferrari will be happy, the fans will be happy, the British journalists will be happy.

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

    Fernando Alonso is part of the team and winning the WDC is a major objective for any Formula 1 team, arguably much moreso than the WCC. So you could argue that statement.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th September 2010, 14:50

      The teams have the constructors’ championship and the drivers have the drivers’ championship. When a team interferes with the drivers’ championship – by making one driver subordinate to another – it lessens the achievement, devalues the title and harms the sport. The FIA should step in to protect the integrity of the drivers’ championship.

      • Oh keith again you say little of the truth…. So tell us ONE WDC title winner in 2002-2009 (where the roule 39.1 exists) that was NOT his team in the hole season given the other driver team orders to win the championship (when??? In 2009? 2008? 2007? WHEN???)!!! Don’t play with us and tell us rubish we have memory and we remember what all the teams done! When you realise that this things will happen besides if we want it or not then you can tell that Ferrari must be punished (I know you hate ferrari but don’t be blind look around the paddock who of them saying the truth??? NO ONE!!!!)…So to tell that the roule exists….the roule is here for the hole season (and in the last race) so why ferrari must be punished when the others NOT???

    • chemakal said on 7th September 2010, 14:51

      Totally agree. A F1 team will see their brand and image, and consequently their sponsors’ branding, far more amplified in media by WDC tittle rather than winning the WCC. WDC is the tittle that brings the $$$ on board

  5. It seems as if everyone keeps forgetting that Ferrari benefit greatly from having a Driver’s World Championship (no matter which driver gets it) than not having one, regardless of having the constructor’s trophy.

    Massa needed several wins just to catch up to the rest, Alonso needed just the one to get back in the game. That’s why it benefits the team, not just Alonso.

  6. ElAbuelo said on 7th September 2010, 15:00

    If Ferrari is penalished in any way, then the f1 pandora’s box will be open.

    Until 30-11-2010, any, in any 2010 race, can be judged.
    There was a lot of team orders, and practically all participants have infringed Article 39.1 with coded orders.
    And these is the first problem:
    what are coded orders and what are only race instructions?

  7. Johnny86 said on 7th September 2010, 15:16

    Keith,you say that no media hype was made about brazil and china because one driver was mathematically out of the championship running. But is there a rule that says team order are allowed under such circumstances ? I guess not. You may say its common sense but in f1 common sense doesnt always prevail. So it seems that ferrari won a championship illegally going strictly against the rule books .yet you credit kimi of winning wdc 07 but not alonso for winning german gp 10.did kimi win the championship on his own? No..so I feel If something is banned it should be banned completely. No ‘ifs’ and ‘but’.(But i dont think its possible. So ban d rule). And regarding the fans being robbed i think f1 has shown mid finger to fans so many times in the past that i dont think it matters to them any more.So yes, i am accusing you of hypocrisy. Sorry.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th September 2010, 15:36

      Keith,you say that no media hype was made

      When did I say anything about “media hype” or “common sense”?

    • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 7th September 2010, 16:58

      Did Ferrari order Massa to let Kimi past in 2007? Did Ferrari oder Kimi to let Massa past in 2008?

      Both drivers said up front that they would help their team mate.

      No (illegal) team orders were neccesary. So nothing illegal happened there either.

  8. xabregas said on 7th September 2010, 15:27

    Since Ferrari accepted the penalty given by the stewards after the race, then they found themselves guilty so Ferrari should be punished by the WMSC, but only the team, not the drivers.
    Also WMSC should consider that from now on till the end of the championship strange things will hapen, so if anything will happen like what happened with Ferrari in Germany but let say in Interlagos with Red Bull or Maclaren are we gonna have to wait to another WMSC to know who´s gonna be the champion??
    So to finish in a good way i´ll just say finish this forbiden rules thing. Puts this sport much cleaner

  9. chemakal said on 7th September 2010, 15:33

    What do you think about this possible solution?:
    1. Remove WCC tittle. In the end, teams only/mainly care about WDC
    2. Split the teams creating 2 teams supporting one driver each with it’s own pit crew, under the condition that the manufacturer supplies equally. (similar to whats hapenning in Yamaha’s team @ MotoGP, with a wall separating Lorenzo | Rossi)
    3. Each team would have their own race/ season strategy with no interference from the other.
    4. Remove team orders ban as it wouldn’t be necessary anymore

  10. Johnny86 said on 7th September 2010, 15:41

    Whatever you want to call it.it doesnt matter.may be u used the word scandal to describe this incident but not the 2007 and 08 incidents. And whatever be it i want you to respond on the next part of post. Which asks why u support those incidents but not this despite the specified reasons.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th September 2010, 15:58

      No I haven’t used the word “scandal” either. And I’ve already explained what I think about that point in the article.

      By the way, you can reply directly to a comment by clicking ‘reply’ underneath it.

  11. Johnny86 said on 7th September 2010, 15:45

    And by the “you may say” i meant the general view of the readers and not specifically you.

  12. David BR said on 7th September 2010, 16:11

    Technically I think Ferrari should be penalized, or more specifically, the team and drivers deducted all points for the race.

    But I really don’t know which I least prefer – seeing Ferrari walk away again with a minimal punishment (just team points deducted) or Alonso and Ferrari having a ready made excuse for why they failed to win either championship this season. I think the latter is worse on balance, let him keep his lousy points.

    • chemakal said on 7th September 2010, 16:37

      Imagine the other way around! Ferrari no points taken off and Alonso winning the tittle. OMG, we would have the british media hammering our brains for years, unbearable!!! From this point of view, WMSC be hard to Ferrari, ban the team for the rest of the season. Then Ferrari, speak to other teams and create a proper Championship under neutral management, and ban entry to Whiting to all races. No more maFIA

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th September 2010, 16:44

        Charlie Whiting was not one of the stewards of the German Grand Prix, who fined Ferrari and referred the case to the World Motor Sports Council, so I’m not sure what you’re blaming him for.

        • chemakal said on 9th September 2010, 9:36

          He headed the most horrible and biased race management ever seen, Valencia, and in Spa with Massa 2 meters ahead of his starting position. The only one that didn´t see it!! But yes, he was faster as any car to point at Alonso when he started early in China!
          Besides, hes FIA F1 Race Director, Safety Delegate, Permanent Starter and head of the F1 Technical Department, so you could say he’s chief of stewards

      • David BR said on 7th September 2010, 18:06

        Well, I can’t deny that’s true – except for the extreme implausibility of Alonso winning this year under any circumstances.

        • chemakal said on 9th September 2010, 9:40

          A bit more plausible now, no points taken for a start. Don´t forget, 25 points a race this year, still 150 to play with…

  13. Johnny86 said on 7th September 2010, 16:24

    Actually my laptop is infected and so m using a mobile to post which doesnt show the reply option.
    And sorry again, my bad. But whatever be it “manipulation or cheating ” the fact of the matter is you dont support this incident which i dont too but you support the other given incidents in ’07 and ’08 apparently due to the reason stated in my first post(mathematical part) and i dont due to the fact that team orders were banned.hence a team cannot swap their drivers by imposing their will . I think you can say sorry “I” can say that if german gp result was manipulated so were the 07 and 08 season results. And if it was ok in ’07 and ’08 then it is surely ok in ’10.No team order rules have changed since then isnt it? And i dont buy that mathematical thing simply because its not in the rule book.Thats the point i want you to comment on because i dont find any points on the article. If it isnt so plz specify the part i may refer to.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th September 2010, 16:53

      Actually my laptop is infected and so m using a mobile to post which doesnt show the reply option.

      Ah, sorry about that – it is a requirement for the next version of the mobile site.

      But to address your point, yes, I believe it comes down to “the mathematical thing”, as I wrote in the article.

      Why (in general) were people angry about Germany 2010 but not China 2008? They both involved the same team so ‘Ferrari bias’ doesn’t enter into it. Indeed, in 2008 you couldn’t even make the case that Massa was quicker than Raikkonen – Raikkonen had to slow down a lot to let Massa pass.

      It was because at Hockenheim Ferrari took away Massa’s right to fight for the drivers’ championship. Raikkonen’s championship was already over by that point in 2008.

      • I’ve thought about the whole team order debate a lot and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with why people are upset.

        “It was because at Hockenheim Ferrari took away Massa’s right to fight for the drivers’ championship.”

      • Ads21 (@ads21) said on 7th September 2010, 18:08

        “It was because at Hockenheim Ferrari took away Massa’s right to fight for the drivers’ championship.”

        To be brutally honest Massa was given the chance to win that race, if he’d driven away from Alonso Ferrari wouldn’t have asked him to move over. Fernando was faster than him and under the team agreement Massa was told. Massa was even told “Alonso is 3 seconds behind. That gap is important” If Massa had driven faster and been able to keep the gap he’d have won. Since Alonso was quicker and was their only realistic hope of winning the WDC they quite sensibly moved Massa over.

        Massa had the right to win the WDC at the start of the year but after his team mate has shown far superior pace a team should have the right to prioritise that driver when it becomes clear he is faster and is the only hope of winning the title.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th September 2010, 18:38

          To be brutally honest Massa was given the chance to win that race

          By the same measure Alonso was given the chance to win that race – when he got alongside Massa but failed to make the pass stick. And if he hadn’t gone off on lap 35 he might have had another chance too.

          The difference is Alonso blew his chance to win, Massa held on to his until he was told to give it up.

          • Ads21 (@ads21) said on 7th September 2010, 19:34

            But you claimed that Massa wasn’t given the chance to win which he clearly was. If he’d driven clear of Alonso he would have won, but he was incapable of doing so.

      • I wish people would stop comparing apples to oranges. Yes there are lots of examples of drivers passing their team mates when they perhaps were not fast enough to (Brazil 07, China 08, Germany 08, etc). The reason why this is different, in my opinion, is not per se because it was early in the season, but because we have reason to believe that the team told Massa to move over. If the drivers want to exchange positions, they can do that. And in the examples cited, they did it so that their team mates could win the championship. But that’s not illegal, because we had no reason to think that the team told them to.

        That’s why the stewards had a case in this instance, and that is why the FIA can legitimately try Ferrari for breaking the Team Orders rule.

        • Ads21 (@ads21) said on 7th September 2010, 19:38

          We all understand that Ferrari told Massa to move over but whether “Fernando is faster than you” can be proven to be a team order in a court of law (which is where it would go should Ferrari get an excessive penalty) is debatable. Its certainly not beyond reasonable doubt.

          Also it was nearly identical wording to Honda’s in Turkey 2007, only difference was nobody cared because they were miles off the front but they did exactly the same as Ferrari.

  14. JCCJCC said on 7th September 2010, 16:36

    The team-orders have been part of F1 since its beginning, in my opinion it makes no sense if Ferrari is punished.

    Team orders has been forbidden for several years, but several teams have already make use of them, Massa-Raikkonen in Brazil 07, Massa-Raikkonen in China 08, Kovalainen – Hamilton in Germany 08, etc.

    Why punishing Ferrari now for the same crime?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th September 2010, 16:55

      For the reasons explained under “The team orders debate”.

    • Ads21 (@ads21) said on 7th September 2010, 18:31

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

      You’re trying to seperate the inseperable. The WDC is won by the team and driver not just a driver. When its clear that one driver is the teams of winning them the WDC they should be free to support him.

      Also the WCC is and always has been a poor second to the WDC. In 1999 nobody at Ferrari celebrated cared much it was their first WCC since 1982, they cared far more the year after when the team won their first WDC since 1979. Or in 2008 McLaren celebrated their first WDC since 1999 not minding that they hadn’t won a WCC since 1998. Its the WDC that everyone cares about.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th September 2010, 18:42

        You’re trying to separate the inseparable.

        McLaren and Red Bull seem to manage alright. They’ve both had one-two finishes with their drivers in different orders this year.

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