FIA President Jean Todt has argued that persistent denials from all concerned at Ferrari that the radio communication given to Felipe Massa during the 2010 German Grand Prix a month-and-a-half ago was a team order made it impossible for the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) to prove the Scuderia's
guilt and thereby impose further sanctions.
With less than 20 laps to go at Hockenheim and having led since lights-out, Felipe Massa was informed over his pit-to-car radio by race engineer Rob Smedley that his pursuing team-mate Fernando Alonso was 'faster' than him. Whilst Ferrari maintain that the remark was merely an update intended to keep the Brazilian abreast of the way the race was developing, the general paddock consensus is that it was an implicit instruction to move aside and let the Spaniard through to claim a victory that would significantly enhance his superior world championship prospects. Massa duly – if not happily – acquiesced.
Smedley subsequently praised the 2008 world championship runner-up for being a 'good lad' and 'magnanimous' in his response, and Ferrari was fined $100,000 once the grand prix was over for being deemed to have deliberately manipulated the result for their own ends, transgressed the ban on team orders in the top flight and in so doing brought the sport into 'disrepute'.
That led many to believe that once the Prancing Horse was summoned to appear before the WMSC in Paris this week, there would be further ramifications along the lines of a loss of points from the race or even a temporary ban, but Todt – who was not present at the so-called disciplinary hearing – reveals that ultimately, there was insufficient evidence for the governing body to do any more than merely uphold the initial fine, even if he 'tends to agree' that team orders were used.
“Before you say someone is guilty, you need to be able to prove that they are guilty and, if you understand all who were asked, everybody has denied that it was a team order,” the former Ferrari team principal explained. “I tend to agree [that team orders were used]. You should ask the people who have been deliberating over that; the decision here was to keep the order in which they finished the race.”
Pending a full official verdict, the FIA has published a statement summarising the musings of the WMSC's 'extraordinary hearing' into the 'infringement' of 'the prohibition of team orders interfering with a race result' at Hockenheim – and confirming that the rules regarding team orders will henceforth come under review.
'Prior to the hearing, the members of the Judging Body of the World Motor Sport Council received all the documents in the case, including the observations submitted by the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro,' it reads. 'The FIA President did not attend the hearing, but was represented by Maître Jean-Pierre Martel from the law firm Orrick Rambaud Martel.
'The hearing before the Judging Body of the World Motor Sport Council, assembled on 8 September, 2010 in an extraordinary meeting, was chaired by the Deputy President for Sport and allowed the hearing, in person, of Mr. Stefano Domenicali, team principal of the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, assisted by lawyers, Mr. Henry Peter and Nigel Tozzi. The World Motor Sport Council had the possibility to join the drivers Mr. Fernando Alonso and Mr Felipe Massa via video-conference.
'After an in-depth analysis of all reports, statements and documents submitted, the Judging Body has decided to confirm the Stewards' decision of a $100,000 fine for infringing article 39.1 of the Sporting Regulations and to impose the payment of the costs incurred by the FIA. The Judging Body has also acknowledged that article 39.1 of the Sporting Regulations should be reviewed, and has decided to refer this question to the Formula One Sporting Working Group.'
Ferrari – which has always held that F1 is first and foremost a team sport – welcomed the WMSC's conclusion, and noted its 'appreciation' of the resolution to closely examine the current team orders regulation.
'Ferrari has taken note of the decision of the FIA World Council, relating to the outcome of this year's German Grand Prix, and wishes to express its appreciation of the Council's proposal to review article 39.1 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, in light of what emerged during the discussions,' read a statement from the Maranello-based outfit. 'Now, all the team's efforts will be focussed on the next event on-track, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza this weekend.'