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

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

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

  1. VitaRedux said on 9th September 2010, 17:58

    This is the wooly and illogical explanation I was expecting.
    Ferrari claimed it wasn’t team orders, but by backing the stewards the WMSC basically said it was.
    To claim there might be other unpunished offences is no cause for a judge to throw out a case and it shouldn’t allow the WMSC to disregard the one before them either.
    Where rules are broken they need penalising consistently. Anything else makes F1 look more like politics and less like sport.
    As for bringing the sport into disrepute, that’s probably unprovable and the rule should be removed. Otherwise it will just be used to punish teams the FIA feel ought to be penalised.

  2. Very strange.

    This doesn’t match what Todt was saying about lack of evidence. Stripped to it’s basics the judgement says, you gave team orders, there is plenty of clear evidence, but we are not going to do anything about it because nobody has been punished for it before.

    The last point is certainly true, but hardly a good reason to do nothing now or in the furure. I am surprised that they did not at least impose a suspended points deduction as was proposed, that at least would have been symbolic like Renault in the crash gate scandle, but without any real effect.

    I’m also surprised that penalties on the drivers were never considered an option even though it was only the drivers championship position that was changed by the orders.

    I do think though that the FIA were in an almost impossible position, damned if they did and damned if they didn’t so a fudge was always on the cards, but I’m far from convinced that is good for the sport.

    • Exactly, giving only a suspended penalty would make perfect sense, if the FIA felt that it would not be good to start dealing heavy penalties the first time such a case is proven.

      With a suspended ban, the penalty does not hurt, unless they do it again. In that case they have been warned and the argument about it not being penalized before does not count any more.

      • Forgot to add.
        without a suspended ban, this means rule 39.1 can now officially be considered disfunct and unenforcable.

  3. So Ferrari’s defence boils down to:
    1. We didn’t do it.
    2. And even if we did, you can’t prove it.
    3. And even if you can, it’s not wrong.
    4. And even if it is, other people have done it too.

    And the FIA’s response:
    1. Nobody believes that.
    2. The stewards found enough evidence.
    3. It’s against the rules (151c as well).
    4. We’re talking about this (blatant) occasion.
    5. Er, but we’ll let you off.

  4. Sparkyj23 said on 9th September 2010, 18:14

    Good job Keith – Of all the blogs I visit only you and Joe Seward think the same as the fans. You Have shamed the so called jounalists at the BBC & James Allen.

    And this is why we the fans love you

  5. rmac923 said on 9th September 2010, 18:14

    I’m looking forward to the next “Todt Approval Rating” poll.

    • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 9th September 2010, 18:54

      Yeah. Todt has been lying flat out about the matter.

      He claimed there wasn’t enough proof to penalize Ferrari when in fact the WMSC stated that they do feel that there was enough evidence.

      Either the guy is an utter liar, or he is so out of touch with the actual goings on that he should have kept his mouth shut.

      Either way, bad marks for him.

  6. 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

    • 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?

    • you must understand, massa had to save fuel ;)

  7. 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!

  8. Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 9th September 2010, 18:20

    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.

    • 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.

  9. VitaRedux said on 9th September 2010, 18:23

    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 …

    • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 9th September 2010, 19:57

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

      • 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.

      • 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? ;)

  10. Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 9th September 2010, 18:35

    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.

    • qUattrO said on 9th September 2010, 18:48

      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.

      • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 9th September 2010, 19:21

        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.

        • qUattrO said on 9th September 2010, 20:44

          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.

          • David BR said on 9th September 2010, 22:43

            @ ‘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.

          • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 10th September 2010, 9:26

            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.

          • quattro said on 10th September 2010, 13:33

            @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

    • sumedh said on 9th September 2010, 18:57

      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.

  11. bosyber said on 9th September 2010, 18:36

    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.

    • 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.

  12. 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.

  13. Phil4sport said on 9th September 2010, 18:53

    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.

  14. claudioff said on 9th September 2010, 19:03

    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.

  15. qUattrO said on 9th September 2010, 19:12

    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.

    • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 9th September 2010, 19:43

      Read the verdict

      • qUattrO said on 9th September 2010, 20:14

        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!

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th September 2010, 20:15

          Read the text under “The FIA case against”.

          • qUattrO said on 9th September 2010, 21:08

            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…

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th September 2010, 21:17

            “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.

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