The FIA has moved with surprising speed by fining Ferrari $100,000 for the team orders controversy at the German Grand Prix, and announcing that it has escalated its concerns to the World Motor Sports Council (WMSC) to determine if further sanctions should be meted out.
Felipe Massa relinquished the lead to his Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso on the 48th lap of the race, shortly after being
instructed informed that he was “slower” than the Spaniard.
The coded term “your team-mate is faster than you” has been a rarely-used – although frequently accepted – phrase to disguise team orders in the wake of them being banned after the farcical 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, where Rubens Barrichello was threatened with dismissal unless he ceded victory to Ferrari team-mate Michael Schumacher.
While such coded instructions have regularly been used since team orders were banned, none has been done to affect the outcome of a race victory, until overnight.
Ferrari has ludicrously suggested that it issued no team order, but merely provided Massa with information about his pace, but the stewards panel – which included former Indy 500 winner and F1 driver Danny Sullivan on its roster this weekend – have taken a dim view of this conduct.
Following discussions with team boss Stefano Domenicali, team manager Massimo Rivola, Massa’s engineer Rob Smedley and both Ferrari drivers to hear their versions of the afternoon’s events – and remember that the drivers aren’t allowed to mislead the stewards! – the stewards determined that Ferrari had breached the rules.
The FIA cited a breach of Article 39.1, which prohibits team orders, and Article 151c, which relates to bringing the sport into disrepute, arguing that Ferrari had failed both hurdles.
Ferrari has in turn confirmed that it won’t appeal against the fine, and remains confident that the FIA and the WMSC will act appropriately if the matter is investigated further.
Said Domenicali: “As for the Stewards’ decision, given after the race, in the interests of the sport, we have decided not to go through a procedure of appealing against it, confident that the World Council will know how to evaluate the overall facts correctly.”