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Ferrari escape further sanctions over team orders row

8 September 2010

Ferrari has reportedly been let off any further punishment over the Hockenheim team orders controversy, with the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) instead announcing that it plans to review the regulations on the matter following its meeting in Paris today.

Ferrari was summoned to appear before the WMSC disciplinary hearing after Felipe Massa was given a coded message by his race engineer Rob Smedley to move out of the way to allow 'faster' world championship-chasing team-mate Fernando Alonso to inherit victory in the German Grand Prix in late July – with the distinctly crass manner in which the Scuderia orchestrated the move enraging observers and causing former team owner-turned-BBC F1 pundit Eddie Jordan to blast the team for having 'treated us all like muppets' [see separate story – click here].

Many had opined that for the sake of the sport's credibility, the governing body had to take a strong stand against the Prancing Horse and come down substantially harder than the initial $100,000 fine imposed for having brought F1 into disrepute by blatantly transgressing the rule that has banned team orders in the top flight since 2002 – but no such punishment has apparently been forthcoming.

Instead, after evaluating and dismissing the possibility of demoting Alonso to second place in the Hockenheim results by way of a retrospective five-second penalty, the FIA has vowed simply to uphold the initial fine – a move that is almost certain to unleash a second public backlash – and has appointed its Sporting Working Group to examine what is widely-recognised as a grey area in the regulations and one that is both unpopular with the teams and difficult to effectively police.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali had professed his confidence prior to the Paris reunion that 'the World Council will understand our position' and accordingly mete out no further sanctions, with the Italian maintaining that Smedley's communication with Massa at Hockenheim had been intended merely to keep the Brazilian abreast of the race situation rather than an explicit instruction to move aside.

“Because we have already seen in the past that certain situations could not give the best result for the team, that was the information that we wanted to give,” he is quoted as having said by the BBC, doubtless alluding to the calamitous Red Bull Racing coming-together between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul earlier on in the campaign. “We leave the drivers to understand and take notice of it in order to make sure that the result in terms of the team is the best.”

New FIA President – and former Ferrari team principal – Jean Todt has made a point of adopting a rather more low-key, conciliatory attitude towards sanctions during his eleven months in charge thus far, in marked contrast to his confrontational predecessor in the post Max Mosley, a man who was accused by the end of his presidency of having become increasingly autocratic and even dangerously arbitrary in his decisions.

It is deemed that the Frenchman's approach has been key in ensuring a far smoother and more harmonious relationship with the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), with whom Mosley's very public row last summer threatened to tear the sport in two.


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