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 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.”
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”.
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.
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
Ferrari team orders in Germany
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- Crucial mistake delayed Alonso’s pursuit of Massa (Ferrari race review)
- Vettel not pressuring Ferraris ahead of switch (German Grand Prix analysis)
- Controversy as Alonso wins manipulated race (German Grand Prix review)
- Massa ordered to hand win to Alonso
Image © Ferrari spa