MARCH 23, 1998

The FIA and team orders

IN the finest tradition of nonsensical decision-making the FIA World Council has decided to crack down on team orders in Grand Prix racing. The Council said that it was informing stewards (most of whom sit on the World Council anyway) that they should severely penalize teams if there was "any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition".

This effectively means that the FIA stewards will be allowed to decide if team orders were given and may penalize teams as a result. There are no guidelines to restrict such arbitrary decision-making. What will definitely happen is that any teams using team orders will now do so in a much more disguised fashion, telling drivers to pretend to have technical problems, make deliberate mistakes or bring cars into the pits for no reason if they wish to change the order of the cars. It will be virtually impossible for stewards to ascertain when team orders have been applied and when fate has played a hand.

This fudging of the regulations - and the similar vagueness of the tire regulations - mean that the FIA is exposing itself to the charge that the rules can be brought into play if the World Championship needs to be manipulated to bring about an exciting end-of-season showdown. And that cannot be good for the reputation of Grand Prix racing.