The general consensus seems to be that Ferrari made a hash of it by dispensing team orders that weren’t, to listen to Maranello tell the take, really team orders at all. In a post race press conference, however, team boss Stefano Domenicali’s attempted to explain the Scuderia’s point of view.
When asked why Alonso’s pass of Massa at Hockenheim wasn’t the result of team orders, he said, “I don’t know if I have to explain to you what are team orders. What I can say from my side is that if you are referring to the situation we have in mind, we gave an information to Felipe about what was the situation. Because we have already seen in the past that certain situations could not give the best result to the team. That was the information we wanted to give and we leave the drivers to understand and take notice of it in order to make sure the team, in terms of the global results, gets the best.”
Meanwhile, Ferrari CEO Luca di Montezemolo put it rather more succinctly and elegantly, saying, “I simply reaffirm what I have always maintained, which is that our drivers are very well aware, and it is something they have to stick to, that if one races for Ferrari, then the interests of the team come before those of the individual.”
Not surprisingly, their opinions were echoed by former Ferrari icon Michael Schumacher, who weighed in with a supporting opinion, telling the BBC, “I have been criticised in the past for exactly that and I understand 100% and I would have done exactly the same if I were in their situation. At the end of the day what we’re here for is fighting for a championship and there’s only one that can win the championship. By the end of the year if you think you’ve lost the championship for exactly that point you will ask yourself, not only yourself, all the fans and the journalists and so on, why didn’t you do so?”
But these were minority opinions, if we can believe the press coverage on the subject. For example, Nick Fry, CEO of Mercedes, Schumacher’s current team, told Autosport, “Personally I think the show is the most important thing. I heard David Coulthard talk about the history and the fact there always were team orders, but I think times have changed,” he said. “I think you have got to start with basic philosophy, and the basic philosophy since I’ve been at this team is that we treat both drivers equally.”
I suppose you could count Fry’s remarks as somewhat equivocal. While he seems to think that team orders aren’t particularly a good thing, he doesn’t exactly rule them out. Perhaps he’s heding his bets, thinking that the day might come when Schumi asks the team to tell Nico to move over. Of course, given Schumi’s performance thus far this year, that doesn’t seem to be an imminent possibility.
Meanwhile, Red Bull team boss Chris Horner was less politic on the subject. “It’s a great shame for Formula 1 that the race was manipulated to give one driver a victory over the other,” Horner said. “We came in for a lot of criticism in Istanbul for allowing our drivers to race but I think that it’s the fair and sporting thing to do. The only losers today are Formula 1. Ferrari are a big enough team that they shouldn’t need to do that and Fernando is a good enough driver not to particularly at this point in the season when there are still hundreds of points available.”
Of course, former Ferrari driver and three-time world champ Niki Lauda, who is never short of an opinion, and whose opinions generally make everyone else’s seem tame, told The Daily Mail, “I’ve never heard a driver talk such bull****. [Alonso] has no character. This was the most stupid thing I have ever seen from Ferrari. Why did they do it? They did not need to because the Championship is alive for another eight races. Why could Massa not have a chance to win, a year since he had the accident that could have cost his life?”
Don’t sugar-coat it Niki, tell us what you really think.
Finally, McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh, with typical reserve, refused to make his views public, saying, “I don’t want to get drawn into it. I have my own private views on it. They were quicker than us today. They got a 1-2, but perhaps in a different order from that which people may have thought was right.”
Well, it’s not too difficult to read between the lines, is it. Moreover, he put Ferrari on notice that they had a private tongue lashing in store for them from one Mr. Martin Whitmarsh. “I will give my private views to Ferrari,” Whitmarsh said, “but I don’t want to go on record and express those views.”
There you have it.