F1 – German GP Hockenheim : Team Order, Where are the Dividing Lines?

We’ve talked a lot about team orders, from the day of the infamous in 2003 when Michael Schumacher was allowed to win at A1 Ring and until now the repeat of the same feat with Alonso at Hockhenheimring in Germany. Many of us criticized the manipulated race. But what many of us are not aware is the fact that these things happen quite consistently off the radar. Being one example when Hamilton was allowed to overtake Heikki Kovailainen in Hungary back in 2009. Have we investigated whether that particular incident was actually a mutual consent from the drivers? Are we really against team orders? Or are we really against team orders only when it suited our point of view?

McLaren was 20+ seconds behind Ferrari and Red Bull. They have fallen over in the development race. Now the order is Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Renault, Mercedes.

The team order is part of rules stipulated in F1. But what does that mean, can you play or not play team orders? Why is it only controversial when it involves winning? What about other position, particularly those in the points? The question arises since I believe the spirit of the regulation was scripted by the FIA to protect the rights of the drivers to finish where they should. Any drivers in the same team must try to outdo his teammate fairly and squarely without using the team to interfere with the results.

Nico Rosberg is lucky he didn’t have to face the no. 2 driver stigma due to his faster pace compared to his teammate. However all the signs pointing to him to be no 2 in the beginning of the season was almost as clear as daylight when Michael asked for number 3 plate and was given even though Rosberg was using it.

It was this move by Vettel pushing Alonso close to the wall that allowed Massa to get the lead which later he will have to relinquish.

To the neutral fans and the fans of Massa in particular, this rule is sacrosanct, it will guarantee the spirit of racing and all of its glory will be upheld. For them, there is one thing in common, it’s not about how you win, it’s about the manner of how you win that will get you to be imprinted in the hearts and mind of the racing community. The legend of the people who abide by winning and losing graciously will always be remembered.

How about the team then? They paid the drivers millions of dollars every year and with sponsors pushing breathing down their neck clamoring for success, what about their rights to decide their own path? In football you will be chastised if you play anti-football, there are some groups, particularly the team, the players, the directors, maybe some of its fans understood what they need to do in order to win the ultimate glory. Inter Milan showed that this season, it was one of the most ultra-defensive tactics they employed most of the time in Champions League, for them it doesn’t matter, at the end of the day the job is done.

Vettel will be glad that the tides of media wave had turn to Ferrari.

But there is a rule against team order; this is where the problem lies. This is where Ferrari and Alonso made the blunder one after another in the press conference. They have to hide the fact that it was team orders. Even how blatant it is, they must hide or else they will face penalty. In Michael’s case back in 2003, there is no rule against team orders, so Ferrari wasn’t pretending at all. They arrogantly admit, Barrichello was ordered to stand down for Michael Schumacher.

The key of legitimacy was Massa however, he clearly signals his intention to win the race in the press conference and on the track. At one point, Rob Smedley had to radio him and said “Fernando is faster than you, can you confirm the message”, this is a “secret code” of team instruction. After Alonso past Massa, Rob again radio in Massa and said something like “sorry lad”. By this we already know what happened. Ferrari by trying to sweep it under the carpet was insulting the intelligence of all the people who were there to spectate the event.

Is there any positive from the drama? Certainly for Red Bull. Sebastien Vettel, Mark Webber and Red Bull in particular will breathe a sigh relief as the media focus will be on the Ferrari duo come the next round. As long as they are clever, they will use this to full effect and start building better packages. We saw that they were outclassed all weekends by Ferrari. The strong comeback was not a fluke, Sebastian Vettel hardly have a look at the rear wing of the Red Ferrari.

The involvement of Alonso in yet another scandal showed how controversial he is as a figure. Undoubtedly he is the same creature as Michael was back then. The stuff that will made him a champion. But will he be liked across the board and will be remembered as a legend? Time will tell. At this moment he can only gather sympathizers from his camp and nowhere else. Whatever it is, the common traits of this type of champion is that they don’t care what the public think of them. At the end of the day, it’s the silverware that matters most.

Editorial : Mu’az Zakaria
Images : Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes

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