Full WMSC decision: Ferrari used team orders but shouldn’t be punished

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Hockenheimring, 2010

The FIA has published its full decision concerning Ferrari’s use of team orders in the German Grand Prix.

The World Motor Sport Council agreed that team orders had been used and that Ferrari had interfered with the race result.

However it added there had been other examples of “what could have been said to be team orders” in recent years and that there had been “inconsistency in its application” of article 39.1 which forbids team orders.

They also took into consideration Ferrari’s concern their drivers might crash into each other in light of Sebastian Vettel’s crash with Mark Webber in Turkey.

The WMSC also noted it had received letters of support for Ferrari from Frank Williams and Peter Sauber.

Despite not adding any further punishment the original $100,000 fine imposed by the German Grand Prix stewards was upheld and Ferrari also had to pay the cost of the proceedings.

Ferrari’s defence

Ferrari’s defence was that Felipe Massa was not ordered to let Fernando Alonso past.

They claimed he was “given relevant information, based on which he decided, for the benefit of the team, to allow Mr Fernando Alonso to pass. The relevant information was that Mr Fernando Alonso was faster than him, and that Mr Sebastian Vettel was closing the gap on both of them.”

Ferrari added:

There is a clear distinction between ‘team orders’ on the one hand, and ‘team strategy and tactics’ on the other hand. The disputed communication should be considered ‘team strategy and tactics’.

Ferrari also challenged the charge under article 151 (c) of The International Sporting Code (bringing the sport into disrepute), saying:

It would be improper to try to make good some deficiency in the Regulations (if such there be) by relying on some generally worded provisions which are clearly intended to apply to different situations.

The example of Lewis Hamilton passing Heikki Kovalainen in the latter stages of the 2008 German Grand Prix was cited by Ferrari, describing it as “the same” as what happened between Alonso and Massa while noting that it did not receive a sanction. They did not offer any evidence that the change of position was instructed by the team.

Ferrari also claimed McLaren’s instruction to Hamilton and Jenson Button in this year’s Turkish Grand Prix to “save fuel” was “a coded instruction to the drivers to preserve their existing positions”.

According to Ferrari, the stewards were reluctant to punish them in way that would affect their finishing positions in the German Grand Prix.

They said: “The decision of the Stewards not to alter the race result no doubt reflects a degree of realism on their part regarding the ambiguous nature of the rule itself, and the difficulties of policing it and ensuring consistent treatment between different teams.”

The FIA case against

The FIA noted the exchange of radio messages between the drivers and the team, parts of which weren’t broadcast at the time:

On lap 19 Mr Fernando Alonso put pressure on his engineers saying “Guys, I am a lot quicker”, and the engineer said in reply: “Got that, and we are on the case, don’t worry”; and on lap 28 Mr Felipe Massa’s engineer said: “You must keep up the lead, you must keep the gap to him, you know the score, come on”.

They added:

It is self evident to the Judging Body of the WMSC that this was an implied team order using a message, and as such was contrary to article 39.1 Sporting Regulations.

The FIA also made the case that Ferrari had “interfered” with the result of the race:

It was said by Ferrari that with 18 laps to go at the moment of the overtaking the race results were uncertain, but the Judging Body of the WMSC noted that from lap 1 to lap 49 Mr Felipe Massa comfortably led the race, on lap 21 Mr Fernando Alonso [passed] Mr Felipe Massa only to be immediately repassed, and that Mr Fernando Alonso only eventually [passed] Mr Felipe Massa on lap 49 when Mr Felipe Massa unexpectedly slowed down after receiving the messages.

This clearly interfered with the results of the race, and with Mr Fernando Alonso standing on the podium for first place, when his team mate had slowed to allow him to pass, was in the Judging Body of the WMSC’s view prejudicial to the interest of the motor sport and contrary to article 151 (c) of the [International Sporting Code]. It is important for the FIA to act to protect the sporting integrity of the FIA Formula One world championship, and ensure the podium finish has been achieved by genuine on track racing.

It also pointed out that part of the reason why Alonso was faster than Massa in the lead-up to the change of positions was because he’d been told to turn his engine up:

The Reporter considers that Ferrari’s argument relating to the fact that Mr Fernando Alonso was faster than Mr Felipe Massa appears not to hold up. Indeed, a few laps prior to the contentious overtaking, Ferrari’s drivers reduced their engine speed at the request of their respective race engineers. Then Mr Fernando Alonso increased his engine speed without Mr Felipe Massa’s being informed. Mr Fernando Alonso was therefore benefiting from a definite performance advantage over Mr Felipe Massa in the moments preceding the contentious overtaking.

Read the full decision here

The World Motor Sport Council's verdict on Ferrari is...

  • Far too harsh (3%)
  • Slightly too harsh (1%)
  • About right (19%)
  • Slightly too soft (14%)
  • Far too soft (61%)
  • No opinion (2%)

Total Voters: 2,435

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Ferrari team orders in Germany

Image ?? Ferrari spa

167 comments on “Full WMSC decision: Ferrari used team orders but shouldn’t be punished”

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  1. Interesting observation from Jonathan Noble:

    “…Fascinating the revelation in the FIA document that Alonso was allowed to turn his engine up a bit when following Massa to be ‘faster…

    — Jonathan Noble via Twitter

    1. It is in Keiths article as well. I find this very worrying.
      Even the argument that Alonso was consistenly and genuinly faster is shown to be manipulated.
      If Felipe and Smedley would have known, would he have moved aside. And now that he knows, what about him saying he is not a second driver?

    2. you must understand, massa had to save fuel ;)

  2. Wasn’t it John Todt who got this whole team orders ban rule?
    Looks to me like he did it so Ferrari can exploit it while other teams don’t cause well, u cant according to the rule book!

  3. How does it work at the WMSC anyway?

    From what I understand there is just a bunch of national car union leaders sitting together. Probably someone explains them the case from the steward’s point of view. Then they hear the case from the defendant. Followed by a vote on the matter. Based on this vote they decide if they favor the stewards or the defendant. From that vote they work out some sort of verdict to go with they vote.

    1. I think thats about it. Let us just hope Todt makes up for this mayor fail in the future and brings some genuin rule enforcing and judicial system to the FIA, or just quit “governing” F1 altogether.

  4. Oh and one more thing. I realise the WMSC is not a law court but they could learn a few lessons. Surely the fact that Ferrari were STILL claiming it wasn’t team orders is akin to pleading not guilty, this should surely provoke a harsher penalty. Didn’t McLaren get persuaded to plead guilty in order to reduce their penalty. Oh uhm …

    1. Yes, but McLaren have some shred of integrity. Ferrari does not.

      1. Spygate, anyone?
        Oh, yeah, it was McLaren so it is ok to steal and copy as long as you do it with integrity.

        You are the very definition of a fanboy.

        1. I wasn’t following F1 during the Spygate saga, so I’m not familiar with the details of that, and McLaren isn’t even in my top five favorite teams. Sorry to disappoint.

      2. It’s not a question of having integrity or not. McLaren had solid proof against them in the spygate case. In Ferrari’s case, there was none.

        Unfortunately, courts have to stick to the available proof when giving their verdict. Just because something is obvious doesn’t mean it can always be proved.

        Just to back that, remember how Al Capone was finally caught? ;)

  5. What I don’t understand about this farce is that Ferrari now claim that team orders were used to interfere with the race result in Hockenheim 2008 and in Turkey 2010. If so, they should have protested.

    Seeing how they didn’t protest, how can they now claim that a penalty should have been given then?

    Besides, the verdict of the 2007 Monaco team orders inquiry quite clearly states that what McLaren did in Turkey is allowed.

    Also the suggestion that Vettel crashing into Webber at the same race is an excuse to allow team orders is just absurd.

    Utterly disgusting verdict. I don’t think I have ever read something as incredibly lame in my life.

    1. It is FIA’s job, and not Ferrari’s, to enforce the rules.
      FIA should have investigated such an apparent breach of the rules that was witnessed in Germany 2008, no matter if someone protests or not. Especially as it enabled LH to win the race at the time.

      When rule enforcment becomes protest (or media driven as in this case) then FIA needs to punish itself and that is i reality what has happened.

      1. By the WMSC’s own verdict, they do not consider it “interfering with the race result” if the driver could have gotten past on his own. Obviously Hamilton and Kubica were so much faster that there was no doubt that these were not illegal team orders. Why investigate?

        Clearly the WMSC does not consider Hockenheim 2008 and Canada 2008 as illegal team orders.

        Similarly they do not consider Mc:Laren’s save fuel orders in Turkey 2010 as illegal team orders because of the verdict of the Monaco 2007 team orders case. Apart from the fact that they really had to save fuel.

        Every example that Ferrari has mentioned is clearly NOT in breach of 39.1. How on earth can the WMSC then say that the order has not been applied properly?

        I’m all for more stringently enforcing the rule, but to say the rule cannot be inforced because some clearly not illegal team orders might have been illegal is just ridiculous.

        1. LH was faster than Heikki? 100% Correct! Did he overtake him by speed/making a move? 100% not (refer to video). It looked exact same way as when LH overtakes a back marker, only that time the back marker was sitting in a Mclaren F1 car.
          However, I agree with you that there are important differences between the two cases, which changes how the observer will react:
          1. Heikki did not have the courage to slow down and let LH by on the straight, as Massa did.
          2. Mclaren management has more experience than the current Ferrari management. They did not ask Heikki’s race engineer to make things happen, hence they avoided problems similar to the one Rob Smedley created for his team by being so outspoken.

          1. @ ‘It looked exact same way as when LH overtakes a back marker’

            Which pretty much sums up how it looked when Hamilton subsequently overtook Massa and Piquet too.

          2. qUattrO, you obviously haven’t even read the verdict.

            Both the FIA prosecuter, the WMSC and Ferrari in it’s defence agree that whether the driver would have been able to pass on his own merit is a key element in determining if the order was illegal or not.

          3. @David BR says:
            September 9, 2010 at 10:43 pm

            Which pretty much sums up how it looked when Hamilton subsequently overtook Massa and Piquet too.

            So you are admitting to that Massa behaves like a back marker…and you still want Ferrari to allow championship contender Alonso stay behind?
            The only time Massa does not behave like a back marker is when it is Alonso who is behind trying to pass. And regarding Piquet…oh well…oh well

    2. Ferrari aren’t asking Mclaren to be penalised for Germany 2008 and Turkey 2010. Ferrari are saying, “don’t punish us since, you did not punish them” and not, “punish them first!” While both sentences mean the same colloquially, they mean entirely different in legal sense.

  6. Well, one thing holding back a non-approve of Todt next time is that he did start a process to stop this stuff and hand appeals to a proper forum instead of this bunch of wafflers.

    1. Not enough, and far to late to influence this months approval rating.

      If he puts that through, wait and see if it will work better. The WMSC process is still pretty much defunct for justice in the sport.

      1. He’ll have to work miracles rewriting the team order ban rule for me to vote anything but “disapprove.”

  7. Here is an idea to kill this. Let teams race the number of cars they want. If Big Red want three, let them, if Force India or Virgin want to just run one then let them. Part of F1’s issue it the are required to run two cars, no more or less. I still find that to be a dumb thing.

    1. How would that kill this? Ferrari would then have two drivers at their disposal to act as road blocks/speed bumps and manipulate races for their golden child.

      1. Sorry poor choice of words.

  8. The only way to stop this happening again is for the fans who are aggrevied to take legal action against Ferrari/Alonso/Massa/Todt/FIA for loss of earings thru placed bets. There is no difference between Pakistan cricketers & Ferrari racing drivers influencing the outcome of a cricket match or F1 race.
    How about F1Fanatic presenting the case on behalf of it’s loyal fans? Think of the publicity & the promise of good racing in the future.

    1. Betting on F1 is a fools bet in the first place.

    2. Pakistan fixed the game to let another team win. Ferrari didn’t move their drivers over for Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton.

  9. The law can subvert the reason, but the reason can not subvert the law. I took this quote from the book Shogun by James Clavell. Any civilization/Organization which doesn´t respect this idea is doomed to caos.

  10. I have read the article two times now, and I just cannot find where the evidence proving Ferrari really deployed team orders is. The author claims that “The World Motor Sport Council agreed that team orders had been used and that Ferrari had interfered with the race result.”, but nowhere it is mentioned how they can prove that. The “evidence” that is mentioned is the observation that first Alonso was NOT able to overtake Massa and then suddenly he was able to do it when Massa slowed down. But that is really only evidence of Massa slowing down, without proving the reason. Unless FIA can prove Massa did not do it for the best of the team but was forced to take that action, they have no case.

    1. Read the verdict

      1. I have already. If you have found the text stating the evidence they have, I would very much appreciate it if you could paste it in a reply!

        1. Read the text under “The FIA case against”.

          1. I had already figured that one out. Thanks anywhy.
            English is not my mother tongue so I may not understand every phrase.
            I guess you are referring to:

            “You must keep up the lead, you must keep the gap to him, you know the score, come on”

            I am not sure if I get what “you know the score” is supposed to mean. Or even how “cat was out of the house” should be perceived…

          2. “You know the score” is another way of saying “you know what that means”.

            As for”cat was out of the house” I’ve no idea! “The cat is out of the bag” would mean a secret has been revealed.

  11. The comment about the rev-limit orders is crucial, and, to my mind, the most damning evidence there is against Ferrari. The team told them both to turn down the wick, then, a few laps before the crime, Alonso turned his engine up, all the while Smedley was berating Massa for not going faster. So while Massa was being told “you know the score,” i.e., the rule that if Alonso is on your tail let him by, the team were contriving to let Alonso catch him up by cheating against Massa. This is a tremendous indignity to Massa.

    I find this the most dastardly aspect of the event. When you think of the blow to Massa’s confidence of these events, you must consider this a great cruelty. Further, it is instructive for all the fans of Alonso to know the only reason why he was able to catch Massa again, was due to the team contriving to give Alonso more power. This also throws the RBR are catching us gambit out the window.

    As to the ruling itself and Ferrari’s sorry defenses, weak sauce. Ferrari couldnt resist using the words “Lewis Hamilton,” but citing past events is totally irrelevant because these events they name were not the subject of WMSC decisions defining the rule. The most relevant examples, like Monaco 2007 distinguish the facts badly against them, so there may be a reason they want to ignore actual precedent. And 151.c is not intended to apply to this situation? What does it apply to if not the open manipulation of the race result.

    Their patting the WMSC on the head, saying that letting them off was the only thing to do with such a hard rule to apply, was offensive. The WMSC crawling into Ferrari’s lap to have its ears thus stroked is also pretty profound. The excuse that the rules have not been enforced by stewards, or decided by the panel, consistenly in the past is totally irrelevant. Their job is to decide the case before them, not the ones that happened before—or the ones that never happened, but could of, if Ferrari were the stewards. If they are claiming that acquitting brings more consistency to the rule that is one thing, but they are only saying that justice requires that the judges throw their hands up. In this case, they should decline their next pay check and seek new work.

    1. Great post, love your writing but it has been repeatedly said in posts here, that “save fuel orders” are considered “team strategy” and not “orders”, and that is perfectly comparable to limiting motors.

      Legally, there is something called law of precedent, based on past actions and decissions: if a case has not been investigated because it was legal without a doubt, my very same action can not be judged just because it didn’t look “morally correct(?)” no case there.
      Ferrari said they would have gone to ordinary courts in case of further punishments. That would have been a huge slap in the FIAs face after final veredict, no case.

      Finally, Ferrari did not walk away for free. Apart from the 100k paid (don’t know if it’s true, but Ive heard the race stewards can not fine over 50K, dodgy… Whiting in da house) Ferrari has received constant attacks from Britsh and German media, and this will continue as for many of them the WMSC veredict was “too soft”, further harm to Ferrari…

  12. like it or not, they were far too soft with this…

    the result was interfered, yes. That the others did it doesn’t mean you’re also allowed to do it.

    They talk about Mclaren in 2008, Heikki being asked to leave the door open for Lewis…

    but in 2007, Mclaren was penalized in Hungary AT QUALIFING!… they didn’t score points as a team in the race, and penalized Alonso 5 places (or 10, i dont’ remember) for the starting grid…

    They should’ve done the same here… just remove the constructor points

  13. Crime? Wow, that was strong word. Not that it was espionage or something like that…

    1. No it was more like lying AND breaking 39.1. So you’d expect at the very least the same punishment as was handed down to another team for lying.

  14. So….. the lunatic are running the asylum :(

    1. Haha! Just about.

    2. No, they’re just posting on blogs….

      (I jest, I could not resist)

  15. Last week NASCAR collected 16 engines from several teams to put on the dynamo for testing. Heaven help anyone whose engines exceeds the specs.
    NASCAR is hard and fast with it’s rules and no amount of semantics is going to get you out of severe fines and points lost. Ask any driver, engineer or team owner, they all understand the rules and the consequences for braking them.
    It is a shame that FIA is no NASCAR.

    1. And fans appreciate the fact that they can depend on NASCAR to protect the integrity of the sport. They take it for granted that NASCAR will do it’s job.
      I’m not a big NASCAR fan but I appreciate the organization. It’s too bad we can expect the same from FIA.

      1. It’s too bad that NASCAR is a boring sport. Maybe we can recruit its governing body to take over the FIA.

        1. Is it a boring sport????
          Than what´s F1?? Painfull sport!!, and i´m a big F1 fan. ( don´t loose a F1 race since 1983 ).
          You should try to watch it some time, i would be a happy F1 fan if F1 had 20% of the excitment and unlikely that nascar races usually have.

          1. I’ve tried. Just does nothing for me.

  16. I’ve been trying to get on FIA.com now for hours to read the Thursday press conference, but FIA.com won’t load. Angry fans inundating their site to find a contact email address?

    1. Finally got it to load:

      …but they still don’t have today’s press conference up.

  17. Most sports fans support 1 team/athlete/player etc. It is hard to remove oneself from such loyalties, but it is largely pointless to conduct a debate about the generalities of a sport in general if you are unable to do so.

    However, is F1 truly a sport in the way that tennis is? The massive reliance on technology is leading it to become largely a measure of technical prowess.

    Keith, it would be interesting to look at the fundamentals of what we really want F1 to be. I primarily follow one driver rather than a team, but have teams I am fond of. There are other drivers I follow & find the technology fascinating. I almost enjoy the Friday sessions more than the race…

    If we want a sport that is purely about driver prowess, then we need something more like A1GP (?) with same engines, chassis etc etc.

    Whilst none of this tension justifies ‘cheating’ or manipulating rules I think we will always have conflicts between the commercial needs of business that invest in running a team, the indivuality skills of drivers & what fans think or want the sport to be.

  18. In reality, team orders on this occasion resulted in us as the viewer being robbed of a chance to watch a hot headed Alonso have to make an over taking manoeuvre on Massa, whilst taking on the possible risk of (I can’t over take without carnage) Vettel joining the battle from behind. In a sport where over taking has become even less common, our right to view were manipulated in such a blunt and obvious way (nice one Rob Smeadley, we needed to know) that further action needed to be taken, or the rules change; but let’s face it, we are talking about Ferrari here, nothing was really going to ever happen, was it?

  19. Seems fair I guess.

    Opens a can of worms really doesn’t it? And the last thing they want is a media circus by trying to be all ethical about it.

  20. Just caught this update where they finally mention 151c.

    As I’ve been told elsewhere, breaking 151c hasn’t always resulted in punishment. McLaren didn;t have one for the first Spygate hearing (not enough evidence at the time, it was said), and Renault didn’t for doing the same thing McLaren were fined $100million for (I don’t recall the reasoning). So conviction doesn’t always equal punishment.

    But note the reasoning for the McLaren case: not enough evidence. At the time, there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest it was McLaren at fault rather than an employee. McLaren were at fault for having the guy, but that was it. So the precedent is that if there’s enough evidence that the team or its principals was complicit, there’s a punishment.

    In this case the evidence is watertight, as per the WMSC’s own interpretation. So I’d really like to know what exactly more they needed to give a punishment for 151c, rather than simply find a breach.

    So today we’ve learned that Ferrari manipulated a race (Massa’s engine) so that it could be manipulated further (to make him move over), then lied to the stewards, but that’s not enough to make the sport look bad. In 2007, the mainstream public only really got bothered when the actual final proceedings came around (not that I’m implying that’s any kind of defence). In this case, the public were mad at the time of the event. And yet F1 didn’t look as bad with the latter occurrence than it did with the former? Absolute madness.

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