Formula One bosses have made a false move on team orders

Posted on December 10, 2010

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The ban on team orders in Formula One is to be lifted with immediate effect, the FiA have announced following a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council.

The moment Alonso was gifted victory in Germany. Credit: BBC

The news, clearly, follows the scandal over Ferrari’s bungled switch of their drivers at this year’s German Grand Prix.

And it also follows the failure of the sport’s governing body to impose any meaningful penalty for such a blatant breach of sporting regulation 39.1.

In terms of clarity, it does improve the situation. It’s not acceptable for a team like Ferrari to be able to break the rules and then escape with a £100,000 fine – pocket money to the Italian giants.

And it is also an acknowledgement that team’s can and do manage their drivers on the track, albeit in less explicit ways.

But I think many fans, especially those who do not follow the sport in detail, will find today’s headlines deeply frustrating because it just shouts the message that Formula One is a fix.

The news is leading the sport bulletins on TV tonight and it is one of the few Formula One stories which will make it into the mainstream before the spring. This is a real problem.

A middle ground could have been sought: It would have been straightforward to write the rule such that team orders were allowed when one driver is mathematically out of the Championship race.

What, now, would be to stop Red Bull making the decision after Singapore 2010 Mark Webber was their only shot? The Australian was 11 points clear of the field and 21 ahead of Sebastian Vettel, his young team mate who was crowned champion in Abu Dhabi.

At the time such a decision could have looked pragmatic, wise even. But Fernando Alonso could today be world champion and Red Bull again be left waiting for glory.

Moreover, we would all have been robbed of the titanic struggle at the end of this season.

Rules remain to prevent team’s bringing the sport into disrepute. The stewards at Grand Prix and the FiA must enforce these rules strongly if we see a debacle such as that in Germany again.

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Posted in: Formula One, News