AUGUST 20, 2010
Lauda predicts big hit for Ferrari
Three times world champion Niki Lauda thinks that Ferrari will be heavily punished when the World Motor Sport Council considers the German Grand Prix team orders debacle on September 8, two days ahead of the Italian GP meeting at Monza.
Ferrari has already been fined $100,000 for contravening the F1 rules on team orders and for bringing the sport into disrepute but Lauda, who won two of his titles with Ferrari in 1975 and '77, can see much tougher sanctions ahead.
He told the official F1 website: "You have two models of how to race in F1: if you approach it politically then you are in the Ferrari mould, or, you try to give both your drivers equal opportunities and the fans an exciting sport, as Red Bull are doing in letting their drivers compete with each other. That's what makes the sport a crowd puller because they see the best guys in the best cars racing each other with a 'may the best man win' philosophy, not mocking the fans with a collusive result."
Opinion is split as to whether the FIA is likely to take any action that will impact on the drivers themselves. When McLaren was famously fined $100m for its part in the 'spygate' affair, obviously the potential was there for the McLaren drivers to have gained as well as the team, but the points haul of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso was left unaffected as the team carried the can. On that occasion, penalising the drivers would have damaged the FIA's own championship, although much of the paddock believed that logically they should have been penalised.
In the German GP affair, some might argue that the governing body could take action to reverse the result, taking points from Alonso and awarding them to Massa, but this is a difficult one as there is no way of accurately predicting what the outcome would have been if the team order had not been issued and Alonso had been forced into trying to pass on the circuit. Some take the view that there may have been an incident, as with the Red Bull drivers in Turkey, and so the better punishment would be to take away points from both drivers for the avoidance of any doubt and to get the message across that team orders won't be tolerated.
A more widespread view, however, is that policing the team orders rule properly is impractical, as there are any number of ways in which a team can advantage one driver over another, so therefore it is better that the rule is scrapped. Even if that view has credence, however, the rule was in force at Hockenheim and still is, which is the fact under which the WMSC will rule.
The irony, of course, is that the current team orders rule is in place in direct response to the actions of current FIA president Jean Todt in Auystria in 2002 in his then role of Ferrari team principal. Todt, however, is unlikely to have any problem with that if Ferrari 'takes a pasting' as Lauda predicts, because, as he can point out, he broke no rule whereas, at Hockenheim, Ferrari did, however blatant the double standard.