The I In Ferrari

7430Jpg
LONDON - In the final laps of the Austrian Grand Prix Ferrari's sporting director Jean Todt could be seen repeatedly barking orders into his radio microphone.

Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn kept pushing the talk button on his radio as well. Both men were telling Rubens Barrichello to move over and let his Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher slip into second place behind the leading McLaren Mercedes of David Coulthard.

Barrichello finally, grudgingly, did let Schumacher pass, but he waited until 100 yards before the finish line to do so.

Nobody, least of all Barrichello, should have been surprised at the command.

"Do you really think that people in F-1 are only thinking about sport?" Todt fumed after being criticized for ordering Barrichello to move over in Austria. "You don't think that there are some commercial interests. Major motor manufacturers are involved to win, not to work for the drivers, for me, for the engineers. We are trying to deliver wins. I feel very comfortable about the decision that has been taken."

Brawn also justified the decision.

"Michael is the best driver in the world," Brawn said. "Of course we are going to give him every advantage we can."

Team orders have been an intrinsic part of Formula One for practically as long as Grand Prix racing has been in existence, and nobody has played the game better than Ferrari in the past or present. And, most importantly, it is in Barrichello's contract that he HAS to move over for Schumacher when told to do so.

Back in 1956, when the rules permitted teammates to take over each other's cars, Peter Collins obediently came into the pits to hand over his Ferrari to teammate Juan-Manuel Fangio. The latter's car had broken, but he went on to finish second in Collins’ car and earn enough points to beat Stirling Moss for the championship. In the 1958 Moroccan Grand Prix Phil Hill slowed to let Ferrari teammate Mike Hawthorn finish second. Hawthorn took the title over Moss. Similar tactics between Ferrari's John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini in the 1964 season finale allowed Surtees to become World Champion.

In 1979, although he was quicker on more than one occasion, Gilles Villeneuve would trail Ferrari teammate Jody Scheckter around. They finished in the same order in the World Championship. The same thing had happened the year before with Team Lotus when Mario Andretti won the title over Ronnie Peterson. In these cases the driver's contracts bound them to finish second, and they were true to their word.

Ever since Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari in 1996 he has clearly been the number one driver not only by his pure speed but because he gets preferential treatment from priority use of the spare car to testing to being the first to use the latest car modifications that come down the pipeline. Any driver who joins Ferrari knows this, and this is why guys like Jacques Villeneuve would never agree to be Schumacher's teammate.

"I would never sign a contract like Barrichello's," Villeneuve vehemently told RacingOne.com.

After the race in Austria Barrichello said he was more upset at losing the victory, which he looked assured of for much of the race before Coulthard beat him on pit stop strategy, than being told to move over for Schumacher. Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo said that, if Barrichello had been winning, he would not have been told to give way. Still, Barrichello was clearly disgruntled after the race and remained so until the debriefing with the team.

"After the race we talked and we had different opinions," Barrichello said. "Everyone is entitled to have their own opinion. That does not mean I do not get on well with Jean (Todt) and Ross (Brawn)."

Schumacher simply said this is the way Ferrari operates.

"Everyone has their own opinion on what happened," Schumacher explained. "I think Jean Todt explained it very well, drawing a comparison with the recent elections in Italy: some see it one way, others another. It was our philosophy which led to this decision, while McLaren operates in a different way. We do what we think is best, not what suits others. Could I have overtaken Coulthard if Rubens had let me by? For sure I was a little bit quicker but in order to overtake him, I would have had to be much quicker than him. All in all, I reckon that unless Coulthard had made a mistake, I would not have got past."

The McLaren Mercedes team, meanwhile, has a completely different philosophy to Ferrari. McLaren boss Ron Dennis has always insisted on giving his two drivers an equal chance at winning races until one is all but mathematically eliminated from the title chase. True, Coulthard had 38 points, four less than Schumacher after six races, while Hakkinen had only 4. But in 1999, when Hakkinen was challenging Schumacher for the title, Coulthard was permitted to win over Hakkinen as late at the Belgian Grand Prix in September. Still, Coulthard played a supporting role as both of Hakkinen's 1998 and 1999 championship-winning seasons wound down.

Dennis insists that his close relationship with Hakkinen does not affect how he operates the McLaren team in respect to Coulthard. Dennis has had a special relationship with Hakkinen ever since the latter's near fatal accident in the 1994 Australian Grand Prix.

"It is true that I have a different relationship with Mika than I do with David," Dennis said, "but then you have to understand where it comes from. It comes from walking into an Adelaide hospital (and being told) 'I don't know if he is going to live.' At one point he was on the critical list and we didn't know if he was going to make it. You are not human if that does not affect you.

"But that doesn't mean anything when I have to make a decision about the outcome of a Grand Prix. I don't give a damn which of my drivers wins. I really don't and that's the point."

Ironically, Coulthard has twice been ordered to move over and let Hakkinen win. The first occasion was the season finale in 1997 when Hakkinen won his first career Grand Prix, and the second occasion was in the season opener in 1998 when McLaren mistakenly called Hakkinen into the pits. As Hakkinen had been leading at the time, Coulthard was told to let him win.

So far Hakkinen has not been asked to return the favor to Coulthard. In Canada last year Barrichello dutifully kept station behind the winning, but stricken, Ferrari of Schumacher. So far Schumacher hasn't returned the favor either.

They play to different strategies, but both McLaren and Ferrari prove year-in and year-out that team orders are an inherent part of Formula One.

Race Center

Grand Prix of Brazil

@ Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sunday, November 24, 2013

Recent Photos

  • © 2014 MRN. All Rights Reserved

    FacebookTwitterDiggDeliciousLinkedInGoogle BookmarksYahoo BookmarksLive (MSN)

    ISC Track Sites