• Editor's comment

An end to policing the unpoliceable

Martin Williamson December 10, 2010
After ordering Rubens Barrichello so surrender victory in Austria, Ferrari tried to stage a dead-heat in Indianapolis © Sutton Images
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The FIA's decision to end its own pathetically inept attempts to control the issuing of team orders should not been seen as a surrender to Ferrari, as some have claimed, as much as an acceptance it was trying to police the unpoliceable.

For more than five decades team orders were an accepted part of the sport and while they provoked a few moans, nobody got too upset. But it was the complete dominance of Ferrari and Michael Schumacher which had those running the sport desperately looking for ways to curb them.

In Austria in 2002 Rubens Barrichello was ordered to allow Schumacher past to take the win - so dominant was Schumacher anyway that it was hardly needed but it angered sponsors and spectators, and so the FIA who saw the last chance of something resembling a competitive drivers' championship disappear.

So team orders were banned as a knee-jerk reaction, only it soon became clear that enforcing the rule was impossible. So a murky world of coded messages and limp-wristed enforcement followed.

In Germany this year Felipe Massa was ordered to allow team-mate Fernando Alonso past for the win, wrecking the clearly disheartened Massa's season and turning opinion against Ferrari and Alonso. The FIA was almost powerless to act and fined Ferrari the derisory sum of $100,000.

By scrapping the rule at least the FIA has admitted what everyone else knew for years. Team orders have always happened and will continue to do so. Anyone who pretended otherwise was a blinkered fool.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo