Op-Ed: Waiting for the big Ferrari punishment

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Back in the days following the German Grand Prix, we all probably had our fill debating the Ferrari 1-2 finish and how the team accomplished it.

Well… it’s back.

Tomorrow, the World Motor Sports Council will be meeting, and the potential Ferrari punishment is on the agenda. As Grace noted, the Ferrari drivers won’t be there, however.

Well, would you want to go to your own hanging?

If the WMSC takes the hardline approach — docking Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa of their first and second place points — I’d say it’s safe to call it a hanging. Certainly, Fernando’s title hopes will be all but over, and losing the constructor points would push Ferrari more than 100 behind McLaren and Red Bull.

So the WMSC has it within its power to really wallop Maranello for its apparent flouting of the “no team orders” rule.

As a reminder, Ferrari officially faces possible punishment for violating two different rules:

One is article 39.1 of the regulations: “team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited.” The second is article 151.c: “any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition, or to the interests of motorsport generally.”

The big question today is: What will the WMSC do? Apparently Max Mosley — remember him? — thinks both drivers should lose their points. So much for a Red Rule, huh?

Jean Todt, Mosley’s successor as head of the FIA, is standing down from the hearing because of his conflict of interest: all those years wearing the Ferrari Red. That, at least, is a good move — and one on which I think we all can agree.

I’m not sure much else will earn the same consensus.

According to different media accounts, the other F1 teams are pretty content to let the matter lie as is — in other words, no more punishment beyond the $100,000 fine the team received right after the race.

That strikes me as interesting. One reason, apparently, is that the teams (at least) are getting along pretty well in the FOTA world. Another, I’d have to think, is that if they all do do it, you wouldn’t want to set the precedent for more punishment.

The strongest possible punishment — and you’d have to think this unlikely — is the team’s getting excluded entirely from the championship. Honestly, if it were another team, I might entertain this possibility. Call it the “lingering Red effect,” but an effectively meaningless Ferrari is not good for F1’s bottom-line, so I can’t see that happening.

I can see the two drivers’ losing their points, however. And, maybe more likely, is the team’s losing its constructors points. But either would shock me. As I said, either would be a death blow to any title hopes — and that’s why this punishment seems counter to F1’s best financial interests. Given I think a meaningless Ferrari hurts F1 — if you are a Brazilian fan, are you really going to be as interested in coming to the race if Massa has no chance of a title and his team’s out of it, too? — I can’t see the WMSC coming down so hard.

But it it doesn’t do anything, does that not reinforce the idea that either: a) there is a Red Rule or b) the WMSC is neutered? Is a $100,000 fine really enough for what Ferrari seems to have done?

Perhaps I should say that I think Ferrari is guilty — but mostly of managing the team orders ban inelegantly. The much-used example of Jenson Button being told he needs to conserve fuel is much more artful. And that probably falls first and foremost on Rob Smedley, and to a lesser extent on Massa.

Would it be possible to dock Felipe his points, and the team constructors points totaling Felipe’s second-place finish? As much as I think Felipe is the most innocent party here, that just might be the fairest cut the WMSC could make.

What say you all? Should the hammer come down? Is it enough already? Is there a creative punishment you’d like to see, preferably not involving a mankini or any prison garb?

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