The Ugly Side of a Sport?

Last weekend in the German Grand Prix of Formula One (F1), Fernando Alonso won with Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa in second place.  That would have been entirely without comment other than to applaud the ability of those two drivers to finish at the top of the pack, had Massa not been given veiled orders to let Alonso past him two laps from the end of the race.

Ferrari have been fined $100,000 for this, but the result stands – meaning Alonso remains a strong candidate for the overall F1 Championship, which is a very competitive 5-way tussle this year.

Nonetheless, purists complain; it wasn’t the best driver that won the race, and Alonso has been given an “unfair” helping hand in his Championship pursuit.  Ferrari have responded predictably defiantly: It has always been this way – not that it’s right or wrong or ethical.  Is it the driver, or is it the team?  Purists would respond it is the driver and bemoan such malign intervention by teams.

Some have responded that more regulation needs to be introduced to stop this – the BBC article on Ferrari’s response lists nine previous incidences of team orders affecting outcomes since 1997 alone.  But of course that won’t work.  Teams will only find more veiled methods to get team orders out to drivers to ensure that the “right” result happens.  Massa was only informed that his teammate Alonso was the “faster” driver, not told to let him past explicitly.

Bigger fines could be introduced – $100,000 in a multi-billion dollar industry is peanuts and won’t stop any of the teams with a shout of the Championship to think twice about such corruption.  But would bigger fines just make the methods of transmitting teams orders even more cryptic and hard to spot?

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