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Rediff.com  » Sports » Formula One team orders are not a new trend

Formula One team orders are not a new trend

July 26, 2010 10:23 IST

The 'team orders' that caused a furore at the German Grand Prix on Sunday were banned eight years ago after Ferrari and Michael Schumacher triggered a roar of outrage that echoed around the world.

Fernando AlonsoIn that 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, the German won after Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello was ordered to move over and did so at the last corner after leading from the start.

The fans reacted with uproar while Schumacher, embarrassed, hauled Barrichello to the top of the podium in a breach of etiquette that drew a $1 million fine for the team from the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA).

Ferrari's actions on Sunday, when Brazilian Felipe Massa allowed teammate Fernando Alonso to pass him for victory with 18 laps to go, came in different circumstances but served as another reminder that such instructions have never gone away.

Formula One is, after all, a team sport.

"There have always been team orders in Formula One," said Lotus technical head Mike Gascoyne, who has worked with Tyrrell, Jordan, Renault, Toyota and Force India.

"There will come a point in the season where you've got to prioritise one driver, because he's got the best chance of winning the championship, and you've got to do what's best for the team.

"There are team orders, you have to accept there will be. It just was handled very badly (today).

"The bottom line is - if you are going to do it, just do it far more cleverly than that."

As with everything in Formula One, appearances matter and the devil is in the detail.

Ferrari were fined $100,000 by the stewards for breaching article 39.1 of the sporting regulations stating specifically that "team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited."

They would doubtless have got a one-two anyway, but the fans were deprived of a battle between the drivers.

Plenty of drivers have allowed team mates with a better chance of the title to go past, sometimes sacrificing wins to do so, but there are still eight races to go after Germany and Massa was not out of the reckoning.

It would have been an emotional win for him, coming exactly a year after he cheated death in an accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

While there was no denying that Alonso was faster, most neutral fans would probably rather have seen him fight for position than be gifted 25 points.

But, despite sending Massa a radio message alerting him to the fact that Alonso was quicker and then thanking him for his actions, Ferrari did not explicitly order him to move aside even if that was the understanding.

There is nothing to stop a driver acting of his own volition, or pretending to do so for the team's greater good.

Indeed, Red Bull were heavily criticised only in May for allowing Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber to get into a situation where they crashed into each other while fighting for the lead in Turkey.

It is common practice for teams to tell their drivers to turn down the revs in the closing stages of a race to save fuel and reduce the strain on engines - effectively to hold station.

Former team boss Eddie Jordan, who enjoyed a one-two with Damon Hill and Ralf Schumacher at Spa in 1998, said he had frequently issued orders in the old days and had no doubt about what he had seen at Hockenheim.

"For me this was wrong," he said. "What has happened today was unlawful."

That said, he rejected comparisons with Austria.

"Austria was at the very last corner of the very last lap and it was just so blatantly obvious that everybody booed. Ferrari did not need to do it at that time because already Schumacher was miles ahead in the championship.

"This is a lesser crime," added Jordan, while pointing out that Vettel had lost 25 points in Turkey because he had raced.

Source:
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