Ferrari fined, but does the punishment fit the crime?
Ferrari have been fined $100,000 by the FIA for deploying team orders to allow Fernando Alonso to win the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, but their one-two result stands.
Felipe Massa had led the race from the first lap and after their respective pit stops, Alonso was up on the gearbox of the Brazilian but unable to get past despite a couple of attempts.
At one point, Alonso called the situation “ridiculous”, almost demanding he be let through.
The Spaniard eventually backed off by almost three seconds as Massa quickened his lap times. Alonso, however, came back at him and the inevitable happened as Massa received the coded message: “Fernando is quicker. Can you confirm you understand?” from race engineer Rob Smedley.
After the move, Smedley said to his driver: “Good lad. Stick with it now. Sorry,” further adding to the proof that he had been asked to move over by team bosses.
Ferrari were understandably thinking about the bigger picture. Going into the race Alonso was 31 points ahead of Massa in the championship and the more likely of the two to win the drivers’ title. As their clear No1 driver, he is expected to get special treatment.
It is not known whether Massa’s contract means he is Alonso’s wingman in the way others have been No2 drivers, but he certainly gets the short straw on the anniversary of his horrific injuries sustained in Hungary last year.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was upset with his rivals’ actions, calling them: “more blatant than Austria 2002” when Ferrari’s Jean Todt asked Rubens Barrichello to move over to let Michael Schumacher win, and “a shame for F1”.
Following the Ferrari team orders at the A1 Ring in 2002, the ban on team orders was introduced. The rule had never been tested until Sunday, but the FIA have failed to handle the aftermath correctly by fining Ferrari.
A measly fine to engineer a race is hardly a punishment fitting the crime -the same issue Ferrari were complaining about when a drive-through penalty was issued to Lewis Hamilton for overtaking the safety car at Valencia.
Unless the FIA address the issue before the next race in Hungary, what’s to stop any of the big teams from deploying team orders again this season to benefit a particular driver knowing that Ferrari were only fined $100,000 for it?
So long as there is a ban on team orders in Formula 1, any team found guilty of using such tactics should be disqualified from the race with repeat offenders also banned from future races.
It is interesting that Ferrari have decided against appealing their fine. Domenicali said: “As for the stewards’ decision, given after the race, in the interests of the sport, we have decided not to go through a procedure of appealing against it, confident that the World Council will know how to evaluate the overall facts correctly.”
Ferrari could be punished further by the World Motor Sport Council and after the FIA failed to act appropriately on Sunday, it should be hoped that they do.
Too many times over the years have Ferrari ran roughshod over the rules of the sport in the best interests of the team, only to shrug their shoulders in defence.
It is time the authorities stood up to them and handed out appropriate penalties in all circumstances. Hopefully former Ferrari boss Jean Todt will step aside when the WMSC meets to consider Ferrari’s fate.