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Bernie Ecclestone and DC Talk Sense About Team Orders

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone

After all the brouhaha over Ferrari’s team orders at Hockenheim, which saw a virtually unanimous condemnation of the Scuderia’s ordering Felipe Massa to make way for Fernando Alonso, thus allowing the Spaniard to win the race, we now see in the F1 community a backlash in reaction to the backlash.

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has come out in favor of the repeal of the ban on team orders, essentially rubishing the regulation that tries to put a cloak of false dignity over something that would seem to be woven into the very fabric of Formula 1 racing.

Ecclestone recently told The Metro,”I must confess I would agree with anyone who thinks that [the ban should be lifted]. I believe what people do when they are inside the team, and how they run their team, is up to them…As far as I’m concerned a team is a team, and they should run it whichever way they want to run it.”

Ecclestone, who sits on the FIA World Motor Sport Council, indicated that the rule should be formally reviewed, with an eye to its reversal.  “It’s something that needs to be discussed.” he said.

Former McLaren and Red Bull driver, David Coultard, voiced his agreement in his column in  The Daily Telegraph.  “Team orders happen in F1,” he said. “They always have and they always will. Just because Ferrari were ham-fisted in breaking the rules, does it make their transgression any worse? I cannot believe some of the hypocrisy we’ve heard in the past couple of days.  The only way to stop team orders would be to race with one car. As long as there are two (and some teams want three — how difficult would it be then to control team orders?) the rule is unenforceable. Team principals should be allowed to do the best they can for their team, for their employees, for their owners. That is what they always used to do. At some point during the past 60 years we seem to have lost sight of that fact. The public furore is based on a fundamental misunderstanding, which is that Formula One is about the individual.”

The current ban on team orders was introduced in 2002, as an effort to thwart Ferrari, which was the supremely dominant team at the time.  Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello was ordered to move over for Michael Schumacher, and he did so in the most obvious way, as a way of signaling to the fans that he was being forced to cede his win to the favored  driver of the team — much as Felipe Massa did at Hockenheim last weekend.

It was also as a result of Ferrari’s dominance during that period that the points system was altered to give winning drivers less of an edge of the rest of the field.  The points system change was later called into disrepute, and this year was revised, with great success.  Surely it’s time to put an end to the folly of the team orders ban as well.  The very notion of team orders being banned is an oxymoron.

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