The FIA will publish its full decision not to punish Ferrari further for using team orders in the German Grand Prix later today.
While we wait to learn why the governing body chose not to enforce the rule banning team orders, it’s clear the decision will have an immediate effect on the championship.
Red Bull and McLaren may feel they cannot afford to support the championship hopes of both their drivers while Ferrari put all their effort behind Fernando Alonso.
Alonso and Massa
It goes without saying that the WMSC decision strengthens Alonso’s championship position. Should Massa be running directly in front of him in any future races this year, expect another persuasive radio message about his relative speed followed by a change in the running order.
Alonso still has a lot of ground to make up, though – 41 points, just six fewer than his deficit arriving at the Hockenheimring, despite the seven-point boost handed to him by his team mate.
So the inevitable question is, with team orders effectively legalised, will Ferrari go further in their attempts to aid Alonso? Imagine a situation where this is the running order in the closing stages of a race:
Would Ferrari order Massa to pull over and let Kubica and Alonso past, giving their number one driver three more points? Yes, Ferrari would score fewer points in the constructors’ championship but as they’re already 80 points adrift they may already consider that a lost cause.
There are other scenarios in which team orders could come in to play. Ferrari may use Massa strategically to delay Alonso’s championship rivals. And, of course, other teams may do the same.
Button and Vettel
At Hockenheim, Ferrari took a look at the championship situation and decided it was time to forfeit Felipe Massa’s chances of winning to bolster Alonso’s points tally.
Going into the German race, Massa was 31 points behind his team mate, and needed to out-score him by 3.1 points per race to draw level.
Today, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel are roughly the same distance behind their team mates on total points – Vettel 28 behind, Button 35.
But there are four fewer races remaining so their situation is actually worse than Massa’s: Vettel needs 4.6 points per race, Button 5.8.
It’s true that Button and Vettel are closer to the championship leader than Massa was four races ago. But don’t expect Webber and Hamilton to care about that – they will be lobbying hard within their teams for number one status. As Webber said after Spa:
Red Bull have a good trophy cabinet but not one like McLaren’s, so it depends on how hungry we are to try and do that.
The WMSC decision shows the FIA is not interested in policing the rule on team orders and they’ve already indicated the rule will be “reviewed” next year.
In the meantime, their decision may mean we will soon talking about three championship contenders instead of five.
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