Formula One tends to be a big rolling hotbed of controversy, and yesterday’s German Grand Prix was no exception. When Felipe Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley said on his pit radio, “OK, so Fernando is faster. Than. You. (Pause) Can you confirm you understood that message?” shortly before the Brazilian let his teammate Fernando Alonso past to win the race, the issue of team orders (supposedly not allowed in F1) was once again thrown into the spotlight.
Questions about the integrity of Formula One inevitably followed, with some even going as far to say that when a team chooses the result rather than the drivers fighting it out, it ceases to be a sport. I don’t personally subscribe to that argument, much as I disagree with team orders. What really annoyed me about yesterday’s events – far more so than the principle – was Ferrari’s reaction after the race, which was to deny that the order that every single person listening to the radio transmissions knew had happened, actually existed at all. According to Ferrari, Massa had either chosen himself to let Alonso past or made a mistake. Utter bollocks.
It’s one thing to break the rules (and Ferrari would have had a point if they’d said that they’re not the only team that favours one driver over another – take all the problems that Mark Webber has been having this season when it comes to his status at Red Bull), it’s quite another to take the watching public for fools. Their current position is an outright lie. They know it. We know it. The FIA knows it. Ferrari’s treatment of their fans and audience is scandalous, and my respect for the team has nosedived as a result. Fernando Alonso, too, comes out of this with no credit at all. He claims not to have complained about Massa’s position earlier in the race – clearly this is why he screamed, “This is ridiculous!” on the radio when he was faster than his teammate but unable to find a way to overtake.
The paltry $100,000 fine handed out by the FIA (with no appeal from Ferrari, even though they claim they did nothing wrong – hmmm) barely covers the cost of a set of Formula One tyres, and the time taken to refer the incident indicates that it was only done so because of the massive fan reaction.
Further sanctions could follow, however, and I hope that the fallout from yesterday’s race will finally bring about a clearly defined set of rules regarding team orders, and also see Ferrari heavily punished for their awful conduct in repeatedly failing to tell the truth about an incident that everyone watching on television could both see and hear.
Any other result would simply be wrong. Team orders shouldn’t be allowed, but blatantly lying about them is insulting and pathetic.