In the wake of the FIA’s decision not to impose further penalties on Ferrari for their violation of the team orders bank, and their announcement that the ban would come under review at the end of this season, a number of drivers have begun to offer their opinions on the future direction of this regulation.
At today’s press conference at Monza, McLaren’s Jenson Button said regarding the FIA’s ruling, “Obviously it was not down to us, so our opinion [as drivers] doesn’t matter in this situation, the decision was down to FIA who is the governing body. But the important thing is we get a clarification of the rules, so we are all working with the same regulations. That is the key.”
At the same press event, Ferrari pilot Fernando Alonso, who was involved in the incident at Hockenheim that provoked the penalty, was anxious to put the issue behind him. Said Alonso, “I think we talked already too much in the August break about the Germany incident – as my colleagues said, I am happy that the FIA will try to go into the rules and try to clarify if there is any sort of something that is not completely clear in the rules. We can then be all more clear – there is no special feeling.”
Meanwhile, Lotus driver Jarno Trulli was a bit more voluble in expressing an opinion on the subject, saying, “In my opinion, this is a sport where the team counts as much as in football. It’s true that we have two drivers on track rather than 11 players, but at the end of the day, it’s made by strategy and it’s made by a big amount of data that we collect. And the strategy plays a very important role.
“Playing team strategy is something which is part of this business and part of this sport. In my opinion, I don’t think the federation should impede the teams playing with team orders. It’s true that it is a sport, but it’s turned into a business, and there are teams that are spending a lot of money to develop a car, to make the drivers win, and to promote their sponsors.
“It’s true it’s sad for the supporters to see what happened at Hockenheim. But this is part of the business, and you can see it in every sport anyway – probably in a different way, not so obvious as it was at Hockenheim, but it’s still happening. Many teams have done it before, even when we had these rules. They should let drivers fight and should let the teams decide who is going to win, or who they’re going to support – this is my own personal opinion.”
Trulli’s opinion seems to echo that of many paddock observers. It seems to be generally recognized that the team orders ban has always been something of a charade. Teams have generally found a way to circumvent the rule, although generally they have been more subtle about it than Ferrari was at Hockenheim this year. It would seem that Ferrari erred, not by breaking the rule, but by doing it so blatantly.
Finally, Renault’s Robert Kubica, while seeming to be indifferent about whether the current rule were kept or junked, did concede that the sport might be better without it. Said Kubica, “About getting rid of the team order rule, I think both ways is okay. We had the rule and many, many occasions in the past there were team orders, and no one noticed – or let’s say it was not so obvious as in Hockenheim. I think without the rule it would just be easier, you would not have to hide it so much. There are many ways to swap positions between team-mates, even if the rule is kept.”