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FIA publishes full Ferrari ruling – it makes for interesting reading...

9 September 2010

The FIA has published in full the verdict of the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) into the Ferrari team orders controversy – and it makes for interesting reading...

Here are a few choice excerpts from both sides:

The Prosecution:

'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 being informed. Mr. Fernando Alonso was therefore benefiting from a definite performance advantage over Mr. Felipe Massa in the moments preceding the contentious overtaking. The fierce battle between the two team drivers a few laps prior to the contentious overtaking, corroborated by the content of the communications between the drivers and the race engineers, as well as the use of the term 'sorry', are revealing of the fact that Mr. Felipe Massa allowed Mr. Fernando Alonso to overtake him following a team order. This team order interfered with the race result, as the positions of the two team drivers were modified consequently... It is undeniable that the race result would have been different had the contentious instruction not been issued to Mr. Felipe Massa.'

'The contentious communications have proven prejudicial to both the competition and motorsport generally by entirely eliminating the competitive character of the race between the two drivers. Irrespective of their fitness, talent or position in the race and/or championship, competitors should be able to rely on themselves for purposes of winning the race without any form of external aid influencing their sporting performance.'

'On the facts, team orders clearly existed here as on lap 49 Mr. Felipe Massa let Mr. Fernando Alonso by, and Mr. Felipe Massa accepted this. He was leading the race and could have won, and the orders interfered with the race result.'

'Whilst teams are free to adopt a strategy, there are a number of indications here this was prohibited team orders, and when there is pressure on a driver this is equivalent to team orders. The indications included the fight to lap 21 and letting Mr. Fernando Alonso past on lap 49, the radio communications, the mood of the drivers on the podium, their answers in the post-race press-conference...and the fact Ferrari did not appeal the stewards' decision.'

'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.'

'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 re-passed, and 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.'

'It is important for the FIA to act to protect the sporting integrity of the FIA Formula One World Championship, and to ensure the podium finish has been achieved by genuine on-track racing.'


The Defence:

'In the view of Ferrari, Mr. Felipe Massa was not ordered to let Mr. Fernando Alonso pass; rather 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. Mr. Felipe Massa realised that the best interests of the team and the drivers' safety were going to be served by allowing Mr. Fernando Alonso to pass, and acted accordingly. In the view of Ferrari, 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 as 'team strategy and tactics'.'

'According to Ferrari, a team order in the context of article 39.1 of the Sporting Regulations has to mean an instruction to a driver from the team which he is required to follow. If the driver has discretion as to what to do, then that cannot amount to an 'order'. It is not the same as giving the driver information, or even an indication of what the team would like him to do. In the view of Ferrari, the contentious communication does not amount to an order, and the decision to let past Mr. Fernando Alonso was Mr. Felipe Massa's decision ultimately.'

'Team orders are different from team strategy. There was no instruction here that Mr. Felipe Massa was required to follow. This was the giving of information, and what the team wanted him to do. Pressure was not enough, and the information enabled the driver to choose. If this was not permitted, there was a risk of accidents and collisions between team-mates, such as suffered by Red Bull in this year's Turkish Grand Prix... Reference was also made to letters of support from Mr. Frank Williams and Mr. Peter Sauber, who both pointed out the risk of collision of team-mates, that this was a team sport and the rules need revising.'

'Ferrari thought the prohibition in the rules only applied to clear team orders. There were ambiguities in the rule and inconsistencies in its application, and this had influenced Ferrari's approach.'

The ruling also makes reference to 'the ambiguous nature of the rule' regarding team orders, the 'uncertainty and complexity' of the ban and 'the difficulties of policing it and ensuring consistent treatment between different teams'. It adds that 'it was accepted that there were issues over its interpretation and policing and it might sensibly be referred to the F1 Sporting Working Group', given that there is 'clear support for team orders in some quarters'.

It is acknowledged that there exists a 'grey area between impermissible 'team orders' and legitimate team strategy and tactics', and there are allusions to 'many examples' of alleged team orders in recent years, some involving McLaren-Mercedes.

The verdict recognises, finally, Ferrari's 'legitimate concern' to avoid a collision between Massa and Alonso as they disputed the lead of the race.

To read the publication in full, click here


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