News and views on motorsports

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Goodbye Jimmy

I guess from this day forth, those of us in and around the little Malaysian racing community will always remember All Hallows' Eve as the day a Malaysian racing legend passed on. At around 2 p.m. today, Jimmy Low (left in picture) was lost to the world, suffering from a heart attack.

The news spread quickly within the community via phone calls and text messages and as befitting a man we all have come to respect and cherish, there was an outpour of grief. Some drivers were reportedly close to tears, voices choked with emotion. In general, there was a sense of great loss. Even among those who counted as his deadliest rivals on the race track.

I never knew him personally but I did meet Jimmy Low a couple of times. I remember watching him in the Asian Touring Car Championship in his 1.6 litre Amoil Honda Civic keeping the works BMWs in close check at the old Shah Alam circuit. And who could forget his battles with perhaps his biggest rival, Eddie Lew. Everytime those two took to the track, there was certain to be some argy bargy as you do in saloon cars.

My fondest memory of Jimmy Low though happened at Shah Alam on the Batu Tiga circuit. I was being coached by a racing driver friend of mine in preparation for an upcoming endurance race. My friend was at the wheel at the time showing me the right way to do things. On track at the same time was Jimmy Low, who was also coaching another driver. Whilst we were in my daily driver, Jimmy and student was in a race prepared Proton Putra.

In the turns Jimmy was tremendous as you would expect. The roll caged and semi slick shod Putra simply eating up the distance between him and ourselves. But on the straight the MIVEC engine on my car could hold its own. Or so I'd like to think. I think maybe Jimmy was taking it easy. He didn't even have a helmet on. But still it was fun and exciting as we diced for 5 laps or so. The most vivid image in my mind was on the Shell straight going into the flat out right hander before the loop. We had the inside line and I remember hearing an absolutely deafening noise, so I looked left and there he was. Jimmy was on the outside, racing muffler blaring out loud. There was nothing to fear for the man was a pro.

After 5 laps or so, my engine blew up having been pushed to its absolute limits but luckily we managed to get back to the pits. Jimmy came in as well and came to speak to us. A very nice person, he inquired about my engine and expressed sympathy for the broken motor. I didn't have my own ride for 5 weeks after that.

By all accounts, Jimmy was a very generous competitor, never hesitating to offer advice on both driving and car setup. In fact, during my race, he even shared some setup information with us, which thanks to him, we managed to use to very good effect and we ended up on the podium. Thanks for tip Jimmy! This incident wasn't unique though and plenty of drivers (even his rivals) owe him a debt of gratitude.

And I know of some ( famous and internationally renowned) Malaysian racing drivers who would kill for the kind of respect commanded by veteran Jimmy. I remember during a practice day at Sepang a few years ago. We were all hanging out and as usual among lads, talking loud and mucking about waiting to go out on to the track again. In walked Jimmy into our pits and I remember everyone just fell silent. A mark of respect for the sifu.

Jimmy Low started racing in the most unlikely of places, in motor-cross back in the 80s. By all accounts, he was up and coming in the sport before objections from his parents put paid to his plans. If racing was what he wanted to do, then it would have to be in cars. He made his name racing in numerous events in Johor and at Shah Alam. His prowess at the wheel ensured that despite not being fabulously wealthy, he was offered drives by many a team including the works Petronas Eon Racing Team with whom he won the first ever Merdeka Mellenium Endurance race. And of course there were drives with the BSA team in Porsches and Radicals. And not forgetting of course, the one team that I always like to associate him with, Amoil.

Despite having a cabinet creaking under the weight of numerous winner's trophies, Jimmy was hardly recognised outside the Malaysian racing community and I think that is most unfair. For he had the ability to take on and beat any of driver on his day and most of 'em on his off day. Including those drivers that had a went on to race in single seaters. Perhaps the greatest injustice of all was not to have won any accolades or awards for driver of the year. The award as usual went to the fabulously rich but utterly talentless businessman.

But in the end, it matters not, for Jimmy will live on in our thoughts. A unassuming and genuinely nice fellow is lost to us in Malaysia. Not even fifty years of age, I should think it would be appropriate to say that he went before it was time. But as Iron Maiden put it; Only the good die young. Rest easy Jimmy Low. It has been a privilege to watch you race and to have shared the same piece of tarmac with you in a race.

Friday, October 27, 2006

On Michael Schumacher

Statistically the greatest but I think one of Michael Schumacher's greatest achievement was to stick around for as long as he has. I watched his debut at Spa in 1991 and now thankfully, he has safely left the sport with his life intact after 15 and a bit seasons. If I think about it, I've only watched 8 full seasons without him being present in the world championship. In the time that he's been in Formula 1, I graduated from university, completed my professional exams and have gone through some pretty interesting times in my life. All the while, the spectre of Michael Schumacher has been ever present. When Michael announced his departure, I looked back at his career and how far it has come and because of the sheer length of time he's been around, I couldn't help but look back at my own. Unfortunately, it has not been anywhere near his level of success but this article is about him and thankfully, not about me.

For sure, I'm not a fan of his by any means. But then he's quite a paradox, this German. On one hand we see the charitable and great human being who was kind enough to donate 20 of his untold millions in aid of anonymous victims of the tsunami. And yet, on the other hand, he has in him the demon who has stooped down to the base level of a cheat. A wonderful family man and father and yet within him lies a certain ruthlessness and selfishness that has characterised his time in the sport.

I like him not for his on track cheating and self centeredness but there's the thing isn't it? Would it better for him to be like Alain Prost, ever the gentleman on the track (barring Suzuka 1989) but faced with an absolute horror of a private life? I am sure to Corinna and his kids Michael is perfect as he is. An angel in his personal life but ruthless and deadly to his rivals.

Nevertheless, those on "his" side, his family and his team, notably Ferrari, receive unquestionably good treatment. Other drivers have been seen thanking the team after victory and even in defeat but never a bad word from Michael about his team even going through some pretty rough times in 1996 and 2005. Other drivers would have no hesitation slagging off but Michael maintains infinite patience with his squad. At least in public. I'm sure at the factory he can be (and by some accounts is) as demanding as the rest of them.

One could say that as far as determination and focus on winning, there hasn't been anyone to match him and thats probably why he wins as often as he does. In order to win, Michael understands that all the conditions have to be right. The team needs motivating and at the same time forgiveness and understanding when things do not go as planned. Ferrari have always had the best of resources to go for the championship but this needs to be shaped and moulded in a proper manner to extract the very best. Add a touch of technical savvy to the mix and the resulting cocktail is a military elite squad designed to win world championships. Sure, I would say that Alonso, Senna, Hakkinen, Raikkonen and maybe Prost are a match for him for blinding speed on the circuit but at the factory I think no one works harder and smarter than Michael. And that really is the key to all his successes.

Of course Michael does not stop at the factory for the work on Sunday rests firmly on his shoulders. After all the development, the practice, the strategies, the driving too must be impeccable. Like Martin Brundle, I too have a hard time recalling Michael's greatest overtaking moves. I'm sure die hard fans will want to fill me in on that but I have a much easier time recalling overtaking moves done upon him. Villeneuve's move on the outside at Estoril in 1996, Hakkinen's excellent move at Spa in 2000 and of course Alonso's ballsy and sheer brilliance at Suzuka last year rates as the best. But you see, the way Michael works he doesn't need to pull off these sorts of moves.

I don't recall many great overtaking moves but I'm sure we all remember Michael's ruthless and inexorable drives prior to pitstops. His fitness ensures that he is able to deliver quick lap after quick lap race after race. And at no point during the race is this better demonstrated than prior to the round of stops. Michael more often than not was fuelled heavier and ran longer than his rivals and yet all the while keeping apace with them. When they dive in, he turns up the wick and goes on a charge leaving those behind him in the dirt and pass those in front of him. In short, he relies on consistently blinding speed and avoids the need for risking a potentially hazardous move on the track.

Michael does make mistakes. This was usually so when he is put under pressure. But more often than not, he is never under pressure thanks to having a brilliant car underneath him. But even with superb machinery he can wilt under pressure and it usually happens when he's chasing someone in front of him.

So indeed, Michael is a true professional. Perhaps the most professional driver I have borne witness to. But is he too professional? After great success with Benetton, his decision to move to Ferrari was questionable to many people, not least to me. Some say, he needed a new challenge. Some might say he wanted to leave his mark with Maranello. Could it be simply for the money? No doubt Maranello was prepared to and could afford to pay far more for his services than Enstone. And of course, the slimy Willi Webber no doubt had a hand in convincing him that Ferrari would be a good move (especially for Willi himself). But once in Ferrari, Michael began to forge a team around him. No big deal, its been done before in the past. But what I was so against was the fact that his teammate would have to be a subordinate to him.

Consider some comparisons. Ayrton Senna comes to mind. I know the English never forgave Senna for vetoing the choice of Derek Warwick as his teammate at Lotus. Because of Senna, the choice instead went to the Earl of Dumfries, a bloke named Johnny. But to my mind this was only because Senna knew that Lotus did not have the resources to devote to two equal drivers. Even back in 1986, Lotus was not the team it was in the early seventies. Knowing this, Senna made the choice to be clear number one. When Lotus could not deliver a championship winning car, Senna had no reservations about moving to McLaren, even if a certain Alain Prost was incumbent and de facto number one at Woking. Senna knew he would beat the Frenchman or anybody else for that matter and he wasn't afraid to take up the challenge.

But Ferrari is no Lotus. For ages now and even today, the team with the best and most resources, Ferrari did not and doesn't need to resort to such clear distinction in the status of its drivers. And yet, this was their modus operandi throughout the entire reign of Michael at the team. And if anyone thinks that this has always been Ferrari's standard practice, I beg to differ, for in the past old man Enzo had no reservations in letting his drivers battle it out so long as they brought home the constructors trophy.

But as I said earlier, Michael is a professional winning machine. Driving is a means but driving alone isn't enough for him. He enjoys the driving and probably would love to drive some more. But the man needs to win. And why risk having an equal teammate who could potentially take race wins away from himself? Even if he were 100% certain he could beat his teammate, why risk it?

Its not sporting but Michael is designed to win. Being a sportsman is secondary and as some cases in his career have demonstrated, entirely optional. Adelaide in 1994, Jerez in 1997 and Monaco this year are some instances that come to mind. In addition, I've always found his angled starts pretty distasteful as well. I agree that Ayrton Senna was also guilty of argy bargy. But as Martin Brundle so nicely put it, Ayrton was in most times caught up with emotion, a product of what he saw as blatant biasness and unfairness in certain decisions made by the governing body. At Suzuka, he lashed out against decisions made against him at the same venue the previous year and by the stewards' decision to inexplicably switch the starting positions of the grid. A decision he thought unfairly put him at a disadvantage and many sympathized his plight. Being of fiery latin temprament, Ayrton lashed out. He would tell all that he would do it, he then did it and once done, he would admit to it.

Not so Michael. Neither Damon Hill (in 1994) nor Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 had done anything to him to justify barging them off the track (or at least attempt to do so). There were no unfair stewards decisions that worked against him. It was simply cold and calculating. But as I say, Michael is a professional winner. Sportsmanship is optional. Taking out his rivals is simply the professional thing to do. All in the name of winning. See the difference? Ayrton was being emotional not professional. Michael was simply being a professional. The world cup winning Argentinian captain Daniel Pasarella used to say that given the choice of going for the ball or Maradona, he would simply go for Maradona every single time. And why shouldn't he, argued the great man. There's no chance of taking the ball away from Maradona so simply take him out. That attitude wins matches. And when the occassion called for it, it was something Michael Schumacher had no reservations in employing.

To this I would add the ocassional screwing your team mate events that crop up time and again. As happened to Rubens Barrichello in Austria 2002. Rubens was clearly faster all weekend. It doesn't happen very often but on that occassion Michael had no answers to Rubens pace. The best man deserved to win but Michael thought otherwise. Had the crowd not voiced their displeasure at the result you can bet that Michael would happily accept the result as graciously as with any of his other victories.

Then of course, there's the outright cheating. Monaco this year being the classic example and has already been thoroughly discussed. But I would like to touch upon the Benetton years. In 1994, many observers and even fellow drivers commented on how they felt that illegal traction control devices were being employed on the Benettons. In fact traction control was found by the FIA the following year but no action was taken. The official explanation given by Benetton was that whilst the software codes for traction control were contained in the black boxes, they were not used during the race. They remained in the ECU because it was too difficult to remove. I'll bet. Whilst some may use this as evidence against Michael but I think that would be unfair. It was the team that placed the traction control. It was the entire team that cheated and I would bet that it is something any team would do if they knew they could get away with it. Promptly after being found, the Benetton team removed the traction control codes immediately. So much for being difficult to remove.

Outright cheating is difficult to prove especially if you only read the mainstream press. Even then there are only hints and innuendos to the point. But nevertheless, the rumours and Michael's own gamesmanship taints the otherwise his otherwise proud and unbeatable achievements. I would like to recall Silverstone in 1998 as one example. Michael had to serve a stop and go penalty. This he did on the very final lap of the race. On that lap he entered the pits and in doing so had already crossed the line and taken the flag. He stopped and then drove off again for what was the warming down lap.

Is Michael the most talented driver in history? I have my doubts. Jochen Mass, the senior driver at the Sauber Mercedes team that Michael once drove for, once said that he thought that Heinz Harald Frentzen was the more talented of his two best known junior drivers. Of course that is not to deny Michael's talent but he simply is not the most talented. Ayrton Senna is thought by many to be the most talented of all and I agree. But talent only gets you so far. Physical fitness is supremely important in grand prix racing and Michael rewrote the rule book in that department. With physical fitness, Michael is able to go flat out all the time instead of merely some of the time. As Ayrton used to say, any guy can go fast on a single lap but champions can do it for lap after lap for the entire race. This Michael was able to do better than anyone. I still think that as far as fitness is concerned, even at this advanced age his is in better shape than the rest of the field.

The other question that is often asked is whether or not Michael is the fastest one of all? No, I don't think so. So why does he win so often? Well, Michael is the most complete driver of all time. Whatever he lacks in natural talent or speed (and this is all relative, any difference in speed between Michael and say, Hakkinen, being absolutely microscopic), he more than makes up for with fitness, attention to detail, tchnical ability and knowledge and the fact that the team not only rallies with him through his motivation but designs whole cars to suit him. All these factors combine together to make up his 91 grand prix victories.

But racing being a team sport, Michael has as much to thank Ferrari for all his successes as the other way around. Specifically, Michael has behind him, two men who have been there throughout all his championships. Namely, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne. Both were with him during the Benetton years and they were right there for all of Michael's five titles with Ferrari. The professional winning machine you see could not have done it without these men. Every win Michael has had save 3 can be attributed to them. No other driver has managed to have such great rapport with the technical director and chief designer. And that is why the cars are always built to his specifications and requirements further guaranteeing success. And quite clearly another factor that makes up for any weaknesses that Michael may have.

The German football team may not always be the most talented of individuals but bloody hell, they do not lack for any fighting spirit. How many times have we seen the Germans behind but fighting their way back to level the score? It must be sequenced in their genetic codes or something. And so it is with Michael. His drive in Brazil was characterized by that never say die attitude that has been ever present throughout his entire career. I think if he has many fans it must be because of this factor alone. Michael is similar to Mansell in that sense. While he lacks the Englishman's flair for overtaking, he matches him in fighting spirit. Its like watching an inevitable heat seeking missile. It cannot be stopped.

I still think that Michael's best years were during his time at Benetton. I think his best championship was in fact 1995 for Benetton Renault. On the surface, some would say that he did not have the best car, that advantage belonging to Williams Renault and Damon Hill. The car was undrivable to all but Michael. The back end it was said was too eager to step out. But I would say that it was exactly how Michael liked it although we have not seen many wild Ferraris. But sometimes I think that his driving was more exciting to watch during his Benetton years. Recall how he would lock up at least on wheel going into a turn lap after lap. Whilst this does not adhere to the smooth is best school of driving but even Jackie Stewart, who along with Prost must rate as the smoothest drivers ever, had to admit that those lockups meant speed for it ensured a greater overall stopping power. And somehow I have to agree with Michael on one aspect of driving. Michael used to say that he didn't really care what the car did when he turned the wheel but he certainly was concerned about its braking and what it would do in that state. And somehow I think he also likes a car with fantastically quick turn in. Just like the Benetton B195.

Especially after the events in Suzuka and Interlagos this year, I cannot for the life of me recall the details but the fates have mostly seemed to be on Michael's side. Not for nothing was he once been deemed by Martin Brundle to be the luckiest grand prix driver ever. How many times have we seen a blown engine from his rivals hand him the victory? How many times have conditions simply favoured him? And lets not forget the FIA who are always behind the team he drives for, namely Ferrari.

But to Michael, the manner of victory is secondary. The win is all that counts. But there are plenty who do care about the means to victory and I am one of them. Michael has had plenty of great moments. And I will admit, he is the most complete of all drivers and therefore deserves his success. He's just a little too cold and calculating for comfort and there's just one too many cases of crafty and underhanded gamesmanship for my liking. Added to the fact that for some reason (and I think its also due to Michael himself) the two teams he has had his successes with (Benetton under Briatore and Ferrari and Todt), are also the most political in the sport, I will continue to admire him but like him I do not. He shall not be missed the way Ayrton Senna is.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Last Of The Specialists

The irony was that the new regulations were meant to protect the independent teams and by extension, the specialist engine manufacturers. Alas with Cosworth now set to depart Formula 1, all that remains are the manufacturers. Once upon a time, it was Cosworth who was perhaps the largest of the engine suppliers. Back in the 70s, they supplied powerplants to nearly every single car on the grid bar of course Ferrari and one or two odd units.

With the WSMC's decision to allow Ferrari to supply more than a couple of teams from next year (the other two being Spyker and Toro Rosso), it is now Ferrari that is the largest of the suppliers. Quite why one would choose Ferrari is beyond me since they would never allow the customers to win.

Interestingly, there is a plaque at the Cosworth factory, given by one Enzo Ferrari. The old man you see, might have been dirty but the man had some honour in him, unlike his successors today. It was a salute from Il Commendatore to the engine manufacturer who had beaten him too many times for (his) comfort. A great man recognizing greatness in Costin and Duckworth.

I suppose Cosworth's last real chance to stay was with Williams but with Grove seemingly unsatisfied with reliability they have chosen Toyota power for next year. Could Cosworth in this modern age still have a reasonable chance to produce championship winning engines? I would like to think so but then one could argue that perhaps if they really did have any chance at all, Williams might have stayed with them. Still, I think Williams were motivated by factors beyond simply competitiveness. With the Toyota brand riding on their cars, there are better chances of gaining much needed sponsors. It is no secret after all, that the split from BMW lost them more than one multinational sponsorship. Sponsors want to be associated with brand names rather than racing teams. To the causal fans, Williams was BMW. And to be associated with BMW was great exposure for other big names.

I suppose if Ford wanted to make a comeback to grand prix racing, they would be knocking on Cosworth's factory gates. But Ford is a company in financial difficulty and companies in dire straits are really run by the Chief Financial Officer, not the marketing guy or even the CEO. Formula 1 is therefore a frivolous pursuit to a company like Ford. In fact the relationship with Ford has always been one sided. Sure, Ford supplied funding and I suppose other technical facilities but the saying was that if the car won, then it was called a Ford engine. If it didn't then it was a Cosworth. Big corporations, huh?

Ideally of course the sport would have a large number of competitors powered by a mix of engine suppliers as it did when the normally aspirated formula began in 1989. Remember, Judd, Hart or even crazy loonies like Yamaha? In fact, even Ilmor could be counted as a specialist once, in the mould of Cosworth. Now of course, Ilmor's Formila 1 operations has been taken over by Mercedes in its entirety. I've always fancied Hart as a good power unit if only someone were to properly fund it. Unfortunately we don't see any other Mansour Ojjehs anywhere. Again, I think this has as much to do with commercial associations as much as technical ability.

Apparently the Koreans are looking to launch a team. Hyundai for one have been mentioned several times by as a possibility for entry using Hyundai badged Cosworth engines. Volkswagen is another name that has been mentioned before as well. But frankly these are cases of wishful thinking.

The Cosworth name still lives on in Indycars and long may it continue. But from a historical and sentimental standpoint, it is sad to see it leave Formula 1, for it has contributed much to the sport. Perhaps it is apt that its departure coincides with that of Michael Schumacher, the last person to give Cosworth a world championship. Some might try to correct me and say that it was a Benetton Ford that won the 1994 driver's title. Only in name for it really was a Cosworth. 10 drivers title, 13 constructors championships and god knows how many victories.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Watch Alonso

With Michael needing Fernando to finish outside the top eight, if at all, there have been suggestions in the press that perhaps some argy bargy would transpire at this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix. Others suggest that perhaps we should be watching the teammates instead. Filipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella are themselves in a battle for the second runner up spot but perhaps it is not unthinkable that they may be called upon to help settle the issue. Perhaps Filipe could "accidentally" run into Fernando at the start. Or indeed Fisi could do the same to Michael. Though I do have my doubts about Fisi wanting to do such things.

All these speculation are purely conspiracy theories you understand. Although I should point out that the three most successfuly drivers of the modern era Prost, Senna and Schumacher have all at one point or another resorted to questionable tactics to win the world title. I can hear the Prost fans howling in protest but lets be realisitic shall we. If you believe that Prost did not know that Senna was side by side with him going into the final chicane at Suzuka in 1989 then you simply must be blind. He knew Senna was coming and bloody hell anyone, least of all a double world champion would notice the red and white nose cone to his right. After all the chicane begins with a right hander and as everyone who has ever driven on a circuit knows you look to where you want the car placed next. And the next corner is a right hander and thats where Senna was incidentally, to Prost's right. That Frog knew he was there and took the line in any case. Of course Nigel Roebuck would never agree with you because he and Prost are such good pals.

Anyway back to 2006 and we ask the question: will Fernando Alonso join the ranks of these greats? Will he simply settle the score and put the game beyond a shadow of a doubt. Why risk engine blow outs, tyre troubles, accidents with drivers and not simply end it right there and then? Its a tight first corner at Interlagos. He can drive straight into Schumi ala Senna or attempt a more subtle but clumsy approach ala Prost and Michael Schumacher circa 1994.

Perhaps Vince McMann... oops sorry, Bernie Ecclestone, will have a hand in this, as alleged by Nigel Mansell, as he did on that fateful day in Adelaide in 1994. Its not beyond shorty.

Whatever it is, I think I will watch Fernando very closely on Sunday. It would be ironic if Michael were to be taken out the way he has taken out others (or attempted to) in the past. Perhaps we need just a little bit more of that good old "natural justice." That would be nice but even better would be for Fernando to win in style as did Mika Hakkinen in 1998.

Monday, October 09, 2006


From's Japanese Grand Prix race report:

"One day perhaps some worthy sociologist will write a dissertation to explain what happened in the Media Centre at Suzuka when Michael Schumacher's Ferrari blew its engine during the Japanese Grand Prix of 2006. There was a roar of approval. A loud roar. The F1 Media - the representatives of the fans (in theory at least) - did not want Michael to win this one. Why did they react as they reacted? Here was a great champion coming to the end of his era and the chroniclers of F1 history were cheering his demise.

Yes, Michael has always been a controversial soul but this seemed to be more than that. This was about natural justice - the phrase even came up in the press conference. It was about overturning the advantage that Michael had gained from the mass damper decision and the penalty against Fernando Alonso at Monza. Alonso talked about God. The non-believers talked about Fate. The ever-efficient Jean Todt talked about failure."

God, fate, the universe, whatever you want to call it, but I have a feeling the divine powers must have been pretty sick of the FIA and Ferrari and decided to give Fernando Alonso a helping hand. It could not have come at a better time. Now its all up to the Spaniard and Renault to collect. Whats most ironic, is that the Ferrari team are the ones blessed by the pontiff but I shall say no more on this....

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

On Team Orders II

In the wake of the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend, there seems to have been some discontent especially among the tifosi. The source of that discontent being Renault's own team orders during the race.

I've never been against team orders. I think thats just part and parcel of racing for the longest time. But I'm very much against unsporting behaviour and therein lies the difference between Ferrari and Renault (and pretty much everyone else). Other teams at least give both their drivers an equal shot at the championship. Team orders come into play only when one of the drivers no longer has any chance of winning the title. At which point, that driver, not unreasonably, will be asked to lend a hand to his teammate.

At Ferrari, all drivers at any time during the championship will be asked to subsume themselves to Michael Schumacher. The most blatant occurrence of that happened at the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, when Rubens Barrichello, despite being quicker than Michael all weekend was asked to move over by the Ferrari management. At that point of the season, Michael had already built up such a lead in the championship that such actions were simply uncalled for.

The F2002 was such a vastly superior car that the rest of the field had simply no chance. Why not then, let the Ferrari drivers sort themselves out? As for the FIA, I think they were very much concerned that Ferrari's action had "brought the sport into disrepute." But in this case, they had a point. It was completely unsporting and the fans in Austria let it be known by jeering the Ferrari team during the podium ceremonies.

Its hard to regulate against team orders because for one, teams will find a way round it. But the criteria to be applied, and this is by no means easy, is whether such team orders consistutes unsporting behaviour. In many cases its very hard to tell. The criteria for judging unsporting behaviour is itself undefined. One cannot simply apply the "disrepute" criteria that the FIA loves so much. Disrepute in whose eyes?

However, its easy to see that in the case of the Scuderia, anyone else except Michael has simply no chance at their own ambitions. I find that aspect very repulsive though I suspect that that is Michael's requirements and not necessarily that of Ferrari.