By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With three months to go until the start of the new racing season, Formula 1 bosses lifted the ban on team orders at a meeting last Friday, December 10th. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenciali welcomed the change, claiming; “Finally, we have said goodbye to this pointless hypocrisy … For us, F1 has always been a team sport. It should be treated as such.”
A “team order” constitutes one driver being ordered to cede position to another, something Ferrari did at the German Grand Prix this year, leading to huge controversy.
But while this part of the rule has been abolished, article 151.c has been left in place, referring to bringing the sport into disrepute. This article refers to “any fraudulent conduct or any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition, or to the interests of motorsport generally.”
Brazilian driver Felipe Massa landed himself in hot water earlier this year following Ferrari’s coded request for him to allow team-mate Fernando Alonso to overtake him and take the lead in Germany.
Ferrari were fined US$100,000 for the breach of conduct, even as Massa tried to shift the blame onto his own shoulders, insisting the move had been his decision and that other teams had previously done this without sanction. Ferrari wanted Alonso to win the race to maximise his chances of taking the driver’s championship. However, decisions during the final Grand Prix of the season in Abu Dhabi left Alonso in seventh place and Red Bull’s Sebstian Vettel took the driver’s title to end the 2010 season.
Domenciali is confident that come the first race in March, Ferrari will be better equipped to surmount last season’s pitfalls. “We will make adjustments, but they will only be revealed at the right moment,” he said.
Massa will also be hoping for a more triumphant year. Overshadowed for much of the season thanks to the arrival of Alonso at Ferrari, Ferrari have given him a new contract until 2012 in the hope that he can get back to his form of 2008, when he came so close to snatching the driver’s title.
It is impossible to tell whether the traumatic moment in Hungary in 2009 still haunts him, but he has not come close to recapturing his blistering form since. Massa’s skull was damaged by a spring that flew off Rubens Barichello’s car, knocking him unconscious. As well as cracking his skull, he had severe damage to one eye.
When he came back for the 2010 season, he struggled since the third race of the calendar. When the racing gets underway again in March of 2011, the São Paulo born driver will need to be more consistent over a season rather than showing just occasional flashes of brilliance.