A frustrated Christian Horner believes that all teams on the grid have effectively been given carte blanche to exercise team orders for the remainder of the season, arguing that the sole penalty meted out to Ferrari by the FIA World Motor Sport Council – a $100,000 fine, which is small change in their annual budge – could be the sole penalty any guilty team might face.
The Red Bull team principal argues that a precedent for future punishment has now been set, and is concerned that the meagre fine might be an incentive for other teams to consider the same behaviour in forthcoming races.
“Does that therefore mean that you could do that in the remaining five or six races this year?” he asked.
“As we have seen, based on what happened with Ferrari in Hockenheim, then there was – other than the financial penalty at the event – no effect on their performance.
“So theoretically if any team was in that situation and wished to move their cars around, or needed to, then a precedent has been set,” he added.
He did, however, argue that the issue is not that team orders are effectively allowed with the FIA turning an apparently blind eye to their use, but that the rule banning them needs clearing up.
“I think the key to come out of yesterday was that the regulation needs to be dealt with,” Horner continued. “You either have to get rid of team orders or have them – and very transparently have them – because you cannot be half-pregnant. You have to be one way or the other.
“I don’t think the regulation is particularly well worded and that is what has been the stumbling block – that the regulation needs to be better worded or removed.”
Horner himself faces an interesting dilemma within his own team on the implementation of team orders, with Mark Webber currently heading the title charge for the team with a 28-point buffer over team-mate Sebastian Vettel with just five races to run.
Despite some not-so-subtle hints from Webber that the team needs to consider putting its eggs in his basket, so to speak, Horner has ruled out exclusively backing either driver just yet.
“I think it has to be a combination of either mathematics or practicality in that, obviously, if one driver was 60 points ahead and there were 75 points remaining then obviously it is a no brainer,” he said, when asked at what point he would consider exercising preferential treatment to one driver over another.
“I also think the points system is deceptive at the moment in that there are still 150 points on the board. It is too early at this stage to be saying we should be putting all our efforts and focus behind one driver or the other. We will continue to support both drivers with absolute equality.”
Horner’s point about the championship race – with a maximum 150-point payload still up for grabs – is perfectly valid. As a trivial fact, eleventh-placed Michael Schumacher can still keep his championship hopes alive if he finishes on the podium this weekend.
[Original image via AUTOSPORT]