Revelations from the WMSC
The FIA has published the full decision of the World Motor Sport Council regarding Ferrari’s use of team orders at Hockenheim and it makes interesting reading. Not least is the revelation that, contrary to Jean Todt’s claim that there was insufficient evidence to punish Ferrari further, there was agreement that team orders had been used and that Ferrari had manipulated the race result. Despite this, the WMSC opted to hold back on a further punishment as there had been other examples of ‘what could have been said to be team orders’ in recent years which had not been acted upon.
Crucial to Ferrari’s argument was the claim that Fernando Alonso was faster than Felipe Massa and they were concerned about Sebastian Vettel catching him. Doubt had already been expressed about this claim – afterall, Vettel never threatened Massa – and the prosecution felt the same way. While Alonso had initially been all over Massa following the Brazilian’s pitstop, culminating in a failed attempt at a pass, Massa then proceeded to pull out a lead of 3.2 seconds by lap 30, setting the fastest lap on laps 23, 24, 26 and 27. After that the gap decreased gradually until it was down to around a second. Meanwhile, over the ten laps preceding Alonso passing Massa, Vettel had only closed on Alonso by less than 3 tenths of a second.
However, the FIA investigation obtained further information which sheds light on why Alonso closed up on Massa in the laps leading up to the change of positions:
The Reporter considers that Ferrari’s argument relating to the fact that Mr Fernando Alonso was faster than Mr Felipe Massa appears not to hold up. Indeed, a few laps prior to the contentious overtaking, Ferrari’s drivers reduced their engine speed at the request of their respective race engineers. Then Mr Fernando Alonso increased his engine speed without Mr Felipe Massa being informed. Mr Fernando Alonso was therefore benefiting from a definite performance advantage over Mr Felipe Massa in the moments preceding the contentious overtaking.
The prosecution also referred to radio communications between the drivers and the team, some of which weren’t broadcast at the time, most intriguing is the dialogue between Alonso and the team:
On lap 19 Mr Fernando Alonso put pressure on his engineers saying “Guys, I am a lot quicker”, and the engineer said in reply: “Got that, and we are on the case, don’t worry”; and on lap 28 Mr Felipe Massa’s engineer said: “You must keep up the lead, you must keep the gap to him, you know the score, come on”.
Interfering with the Result
It was said by Ferrari that with 18 laps to go at the moment of the overtaking, the race results were uncertain, but the Judging Body of the WMSC noted that from lap 1 to lap 49, Mr. Felipe Massa comfortably led the race. On lap 21, Mr. Fernando Alonso passed Mr. Felipe Massa only to be immediately re-passed, and Mr. Fernando Alonso only eventually passed Mr. Felipe Massa on lap 49 when Mr. Felipe Massa unexpectedly slowed down after receiving the messages. This clearly interfered with the results of the race.
It is important for the FIA to act to protect the sporting integrity of the FIA Formula One World Championship, and to ensure the podium finish has been achieved by genuine on-track racing.
Given all this, it’s interesting, therefore, that the WMSC then decided not to pursue the case further. Indeed, rather than there being a lack of evidence, as Jean Todt claimed, the evidence provided seems to have convinced the WMSC of Ferrari’s guilt. The failure to punish past examples is surely no excuse for failing to act yet again? It’s certainly never stopped the FIA before.
However, perhaps the most intriguing thing about the full decision of the WMSC is that the FIA now seems to have removed it from their website…
…better not tell them about this then.
Credit: Bridgestone Corporation