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Confusing corporate objectives with sport   
14 May 2002 Volume 4 - Issue 13   

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Ferrari have set themselves several objectives, some public and some not so. Their primary objective is to be seen as the dominating team in Formula One and therefore the dominating marque.

To achieve that they are going after the Ferrari fans as well as the Michael Schumacher fans. They do not seem to particularly care how they win but they do care who wins.

There are many more Schumacher fans than Barrichello fans. Making Schumacher more successful has the most marketing impact and is therefore more desirable.

Schumacher has beaten many records already but still misses two: most world championships (Fangio) and most pole positions (Senna). Apart from winning the most constructors championships Ferrari also want Michael to break these two records.

Of the two, most world championships is the most important. Most poles, from Ferrari's point of view, are nice to have. Pole positions are also a lot harder to manipulate.

To be able to use the marketing pitch that Michael Schumacher achieved most of his championship titles driving a Ferrari (or maybe just conveniently forget that he also did well for Benetton), makes the next two championships very important for Ferrari. That will put him up there as the most successful Formula One driver ever and everyone, in the years to come, will associate his success with Ferrari. If Ferrari also win the most constructor's championships the marketing pitch is even stronger.

Barrichello winning with Michael in second would certainly not have made any difference to the constructor's points scored - so that objective would have been achieved regardless of order.

The four points difference between winning and coming second may later in the season prove to be crucial to securing the championship for Michael - equalling the great Fangio. Then it would be too late to apply team orders.

Ferrari should be admired for being totally objective, very professional and extremely focused on achieving their objectives. They will go far, and ten years from now they will probably still sell cars on the back of their wonderful record - and by then all but a few will remember that they did everything in their power to influence the outcome in their favour and did not particularly care about the cost or sportsmanship.

I wonder if Michael will remember Sunday's four points if he wins this year's championship by three or less points? Will he feel good about a championship that was handed to him when he knows he may not deserve it? Or will he conveniently forget it while the world honours him as the best (or at least equal best)?

It may be the constructor's right, bestowed by a clause in his contract, to tell a driver to give way, but does that mean that the contrived victory is real? Is this the sort of thing that makes world champions? A performance for Michael to be proud of?

If Barrichello misses the championship by three points this year, do you think he will blame it on the many car failures he had early in the season? I don't think so.

The fans that want to believe that they are seeing the best of the world compete must be disappointed as well. These races are now rigged dynamically. This is not a sport to bet on either.

Apparently, just before Barrichello allowed Schumacher past, a note was passed by to the pit wall in the Ferrari team, suggesting that this was a spur of the moment decision. Not likely.

If the team is objective and ruthless enough to make the decision both drivers would have been told before the race started. I am sure that both drivers knew from the start of the race that it was on the cards that Barrichello will be asked to give way - for all we know they may have known this from the start of the season.

Until Michael has enough points to be sure of this year's driver's championship or unless the rules are changed, Barrichello will not win a single race if Michael Schumacher is in second place.

Jockeys that rig horse races are banned and despised. Formula one drivers that rig races share the podium.

Now that I have that off my chest let us look at where the real problem lies:

Notwithstanding anything that I have said above there are no rules against team orders. This was established in the enquiry that resulted from Coulthard handing the Australian race to Hakkinen in almost identical circumstances. At the time the McLaren drivers had a pact between them, this time it was team orders.

If I can remember correctly the pact between Coulthard and Hakkinen was that, to avoid possible collisions between them, the first driver to get through the first corner of the race will be allowed to finish in first unchallenged. That was not team orders as far as I can remember but they got away with it.

The rules state that any team is allowed team orders to enable them to follow a strategy of either winning the race, the drivers championship or the constructors championship.

We are used to seeing top drivers, that may be able to win an individual race, slow down to preserve the points that they are currently on to improve their chances of winning the championship. That really is no different from ensuring that the driver with the best chance of winning the championship is the driver that scores the most points in the team.

That is all that Ferrari did.

It was the way they did it. I believe that there are two things that they could have done much better:

Barrichello should have let Schumacher through long before the end of the race. The way it was orchestrated, the impression was created that Barrichello would be allowed to win the race until the very last second. I can see little point in deceiving the fans to that extent.

The decision was not left to the last minute. I cannot believe that Ferrari only realised on the last lap that Schumacher would get four more championship points if he won.

The performance of both drivers on the podium and during the press conference is also unacceptable for the same reason. If they knew what the game plan was in advance, why the performance at the end?

Although Barrichello drove an outstanding race I was most impressed with Villeneuve. He drove that car as if he stole it and was it not for the penalty and the last lap engine blow he would have finished in the points.

BAR also seemed much better during the race. We may see Villeneuve in the points soon.

The Panis lockup was spectacular and certainly left a lot of rubber on the road but I am starting to wonder if we are not seeing an abnormal number of transmission/engine lockups this season?

Whatever happened to Heidfeld's car was amazing. He may well have snatched at the brakes and that may have caused the problem, but he was way over on the other end of the track, nowhere near any other car, before it all went wrong. That little hump in the grass on the apex of the corner lanced him into the unsuspecting Sato, missing Montoya by a hair. A freak accident if I ever saw one.

I was also surprised to see a Jordan finish in front of a McLaren.

Williams are not in touch with Ferrari and the rest are light-years behind. Races may become boring in the front and very exciting between the Renaults, McLarens and Toyotas.

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