“Team Orders” became “Team Tacitics” now “Mathematics”

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The team orders issue is still a hot topic since it reared its ugly head at Hockenheim this year draped in the read glow of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso passing a hard braking Felipe Massa. With that move, Alonso has become the team’s number one priority in what Ferrari called “team tactics”. The crafty re-chiseling of the term “team order” into the more palatable and FIA-thwarting “team tactic” saw the Italian team walk away from Germany with only a $100,000 fine. The move was criticized by former FIA president Max Mosley as not enough as he said F1 would be de-valued if Alonso wins the title by seven points or less.

The Ferrari move flew in the face of what many considered a black and white case of breaking the rule that forbids team orders in F1. Some of the most vocal criticism was Red Bull team boss Christian Horner who has maintained that his drivers are free to race come hell or high water. Hell did come in Turkey when both drivers collided costing the team crucial points.

As we head in to this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Horner is suggesting a new terminology for “team orders”. As AUTOSPORT’s Mr. Noble reports, the team boss is now suggesting that it is not “team orders” that will see one of his drivers give way to the other, it’s now “mathematics”.

“Certainly going into this weekend we’ll continue to back both drivers with absolute equality, but inevitably the mathematics talk for themselves.

“Both drivers drive for the team and will inevitably do the best that they can for the team. You don’t need a rocket scientists to work out the points and those permutations”.

Apparently “mathematics” will be the catalyst at Red Bull to determine which driver supports or moves over for the other one. Because Vettel knows these “mathematics”, he will understand that if he is mathematically eliminated (by finishing behind Alonso this weekend) that he is to support Webber’s efforts in Abu Dhabi.

“As we all know, team orders are banned,” explained Horner. “But you’ve only got to look at the mathematics. If Fernando beats Sebastian, his championship is over.

“Both drivers are acutely aware of what the mathematics are, and both drive for the team and will do the best that they can for the team.

“But going into the grand prix they both still have that chance of winning the championship and we will continue to support both equally. The mathematics will speak for themselves.”

Sure, it all makes sense. The “mathematics” of the situation will speak volumes on who the team supports. Makes sense to me but there is a catch. I thought the drivers were free to race each other. Vettel wants a win in Abu Dhabi just as much as Webber does and even though, if he is eliminated mathematically in Brazil, what would prevent him from not wanting to increase his grand prix victory tally at the next race?

If the drivers are “free” to race each other and there are no team orders in F1, why would the new terminology of calling team order’s “mathematics” be more applicable? Ferrari’s Felipe Massa may have known in his head that he really had little chance of catching up to Alonso and also beating the Red Bull’s and McLaren for the title this year even as early as Hockenheim. I would never have placed a bet that Massa could suddenly turn his year around and beat everyone else to the title even before Hockenheim. I could have told you back then that he was “mathematically” eliminated from the 2010 championship.

No matter what you want to call the, team orders, team tactics or mathematics; they are all the same. The stakes are too high, the money too big and the prestige too great to exercise ham-fisted buffoonery such as “letting our drivers race each other no matter what”. That is just nonsensical by anyone’s measure. It may not be the purest form of racing but if you want that in F1, do away with the Constructor’s Championship.

My hat is off to Mr. Horner for lambasting Ferrari for “team tactics” while taking a few months to devise a new term in “mathematics”. You can’t have it both ways, mathematical elimination or not, the drivers cannot interfere with the outcome of a race and you have stated they are free to race. When did “mathematics” become the key indicator of when team orders are okay or legal?

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