News and views on motorsports

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.

1 comment:

patrick said...

Spot on. And I wouldn't object to Ferrari employing team orders at this stage in the championship either. But as you say, there's a difference between asking a driver who can't win the championship to help his team mate who can, and simply running a team whereby when the only two title contenders drive the same car anyway, they're not allowed to race each other - or where in order to guarantee winning every race with no championship at stake, drivers are not allowed to race each other (think Ferrari 2004)