FIA: Actually, yeah, Ferrari did use illegal team orders

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Updated to include ruling information.

Today’s Formula 1 riddle: When does being guilty not matter?

Answer: When you’re Ferrari!

I kid, I kid.

But that’s one way to understand the FIA’s ruling on the German Grand Prix and Ferrari’s use of team orders.

The FIA’s claimed rationale? The one we’ve all been hearing: Everybody does it!

The FIA’s ruling is there, but be warned, it is a nine page PDF and it has been slow to load. Here is a key excerpt:

In the view of Ferrari, Mr Felipe Massa was not ordered to allow Mr Fernando Alonso to 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 dispute communication should be considered as ‘team strategy and tactics.’

In addition, the FIA noted that stewards had not imposed as harsh a penalty during similar instances: the 2008 German Grand Prix when Heikki Kovalainen let Lewis Hamilton by; this year’s Turkish GP with the two Red Bull drivers and the two McLaren drivers.

Ferrari really does press the difference between team orders and team strategy. Also, Frank Williams and Peter Sauber submitted letters supporting Ferrari, with the basic idea being that team orders have existed and are used.

So, no surprise, the FIA seems to in no way — that I see — put to rest the central questions we’ve all been debated. What’s the difference between “team orders” and “team strategy?” Is it all just a matter of being really discrete?

Is anyone satisfied by this? Well… other than Fernando Alonso?

And finally, here’s an interesting take. Adam Cooper notes that the World Motor Sport Council’s investigator suggested that the FIA give the win to Massa. But the WMSC ignored that recommendation:

Although Osterlind presented a compelling case – and clearly was not swayed by Ferrari’s claims that team orders were not involved – the WMSC chose not to change the original penalty.

Its reasoning was in essence that the FIA’s own rule, which has been in place for eight years, was difficult to police. Ferrari’s evidence included other alleged cases of team orders, involving McLaren in Germany last year and Turkey this year, and it also referred to RBR in Turkey this year.

It also insisted that Massa was not subject to team orders, but had made his own decision based on evidence that was presented to him. “Fernando is faster than you,” etc…

Intruingly Osterlind determined that was not necessarily the case and found that both drivers had been asked to turn their engines down – before Alonso turned his revs up again “without Mr Felipe Massa’s being informed.”

I think if anyone wants to keep making a big deal out of this… the fodder is there to do so. Way to go FIA!

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