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. Mark my words. This will come back to bite Ferrari. I can only assume that after Felipe has left Ferrari he will no longer be restricted to voice such controversy.

    Personal opinion:
    The punishment was an embarrassment. $100,000 is cheaper then a Ferrari car and if you asked Ferrari if they would like a race win for Fernando for a measly $100k thats spare change talk. It will only encourage more race fixing and less enjoyable races/championships.

    What needs to be done is a strongly enforced rule that is along the lines of “under any circumstances that team orders that ultimately influenced the result of the race are believed to be used then points should be deducted from both drivers. A protest will cost $100,000, if the decision is changed then the $100,000 is returned”

  2. This case just proves the theory that Flav tested – The FIA is not in charge. They are a redundant Gentleman’s Club.

    F1 itself (ie. it’s owners) should create a rulebook so anyone competing must abide by it or get kicked from the sport. The referee’s decision is final. A race review panel could act as an after-the-fact court, but the sanctions would be enforceable without fear of teams/drivers running to the law to bail them out.

    Lose the FIA = F1 is a sport again.

    1. So you’re saying Bernie should have full control over everything? That sounds like a great idea! We’d have shortcuts, new races every year, and a new formula once a month or so depending on his mood.

  3. Why did Ferrari bought up the battle of Mclaren in Turkey? They fought for their position! They should look at their eggs other then counting how have bad eggs do Mclaren have.

    One thing which we all learn from this is TEAM ORDER isn’t ban, so any team like Mclaren & Red Bull can use it.

  4. So basically, yes it was illegal on two counts
    – use of team orders wich interfere with the race result
    – discredited the sport by having a podium which did not reflect on track racing

    Conclusion: no punishement

    The mind boggles.

  5. Shame on FIA. Todt being old Ferrari president how one can expect harsh decision. Ultimately F1 is looser. By this way Ferrari not going to win title.

  6. Keith: I think theres something wrong in your article. You quoted:

    “…Alonso increased his engine speed WITH 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…”

    But the right one is:

    “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.”

    I think this is vital to understand that Ferrari had misled Massa shortly before Alonso passed him.

    1. Well spotted Becken – have changed the text accordingly.

    2. “I think this is vital to understand that Ferrari had misled Massa shortly before Alonso passed him.”

      Although I’m happy on one hand that Massa was genuinely shown to be quick it certainly isn’t a nice situation and is possibly the worst bit about it as I doubt Massa has the same faith in the team now.

  7. Ahh I don’t care anymore!

    Lets just have a great weekend watching F1 at Monza! Come on you Brits!

  8. The most surprising to me is the letter from Frank Williams.
    Sauber’s running Ferrari engines, so no surprise there.
    I guess Williams are planning to use Ferrari power as well then …

    1. Williams have Ferrari engines? Surely the world would implode?! :P

    2. There are actually a great number of people and F1 personalities that have been supporting Ferrari throughout this process and are against the rule. Following your great logical thinking, all those against Ferrari are Mercedes/ Renault powered or might be in the future. Uh!

  9. I respect that they are trying to be consistent, but it is in the rule book, like all other rules so not punishing them is still inconsistency. All this “the others did it too!” yeah but that was previous seasons. This season is a new season with new rules and the rules should apply if they are in the rules book no matter what the others did years before. I know that the rule was also there in the Hekki vs Lewis case, but that was another season. Forget the past because it is not relevant to the sport this year!And the Lewis vs Button “save fuel” argument is ridiculous. If they can prove that there was plenty of fuel left in the tanks to finish the race when racing each other, then YES they should e punished. But was that the case? I have never heard that it was.
    Also it is very unfair because Red Bull who did let their drivers race lost 43 points because of that, Ferrari should have to risk the same when their drivers are racing each other. Now i think that Red Bull should be allowed to get their 43 points back for the basic price of 100.000$ because if they had done the same they would never have crashed in Turkey.

    1. “If they can prove that there was plenty of fuel left in the tanks to finish the race when racing each other, then YES they should e punished. But was that the case?”

      We won’t know anymore. If all teams are to be treated equally, why has this case not been investigated????

    2. Nice post!

      Also it is very unfair because Red Bull who did let their drivers race lost 43 points because of that, Ferrari should have to risk the same when their drivers are racing each other.

      I have to disagree with you when you regarding the point above. Comparing the Red Bull point situation with Ferrari is not fair. Red Bull is dominating the field. If not for all the mistakes the drivers of RB has made throughout the season they would comfortably have won the championship by Monza at the latest.

      In the Ferrari case, when they arrived at Germany (after Turkey and Canada) they were so far from the battle for the championship that they could IN NO WAY loose or risk loosing more points. And if you had been following the season until Germany you could easily point out which of the Ferrari drivers that had the potential to take up the fight with the other team for the championship. Therefor the decision that Alonso had to score the maximum (without risking crashing with Massa) was the only one available and any single one of the team managers on the F1 grid would take the same decision that Ferrari took. If they say “No, I would not” I would see it as either they are not doing their job properly or they are lying.

      1. Well i think that it is comparable, first of all since Ferrari used it as an argument that they would not want to risk it. And i do think since Red Bull have favored Vettel over Mark i think that they would have said that Mark should move over. They did ask him to do so, but they still gave him the choice. Because team orders are not allowed.
        You are right that it is clear who is the fastest of the two Ferrari guys and it does make sense what they did, but that don’t change the fact that there is a rule in the book which says that it is illegal what they did.
        I just think that if Christian Horner goes to FIA and says that if team orders had been legalized or priced at 100.000$ then they would have used it to get Vettel the lead in Turkey then FIA should have to give Red Bull the points they lost because of the crash and strip McLaren for the points they gained because of it.
        That would be more fair then letting some play by the rules and let the once who don’t get away with only a slap on the wrist.

  10. I completely agree with Jenson Button, who said that he would walk away from F1 if team orders are legal.

    READ :

    I will certainly walk away from F1 if that was the case. I am honestly disappointed that Willams and Sauber turned out to be kissing Ferrari and FIA in the wrong places.

    But I will keep a close eye on F1 to ensure I have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with any company that financially supports or participates in F1.

    I will setup a Online Petition for a comprehensive boycott of the corrupt, amoral, farce called F1.

    1. I don´t agree with Button but I perfectly understand that he declares that.
      Anyone doubts who would McLarens nº1 driver??

  11. As expected. What a joke. I guess I know what my Todt vote the next time around will be…

  12. WMSC is FAKE
    more words i am not going to make dirty on this

  13. why is there no FORMULA ONE IN africa these days? and yet we have ONE VERY SENIOR FELLOW on the WMSC?

  14. Anyone who does not understand the concept and unavoidability of team orders simply do not understand what the word ‘team’ means.

    If you part of a team you play by the teams rules. Thats is the way it has always been and always will be. Artificial, superflous and unenforceable rules which attempt to stop team orders can never be implemented. I challenge anyone to formulate a ‘no team orders’ rule which is workable.

    Team orders do not manipulate the result of the Grand Prix. They cannot gain extra points or positions! They maximize a teams potential to improve the positions in the drivers championship, which is what teams are there for among other things. Remember, no team, no driver, The drivers should rememeber that.

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