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Ferrari Formula One drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa stand on the podium at the German Grand Prix in this July 25, 2010 file photo. Alonso's Formula One title hopes could suffer a knockout blow when the sport's governing body decides Ferrari's fate at a Paris hearing on September 8. The Italian team has already been fined $100,000 for manipulating the German Grand Prix in July through the use of banned 'team orders'. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)
Ferrari Formula One drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa stand on the podium at the German Grand Prix in this July 25, 2010 file photo. Alonso's Formula One title hopes could suffer a knockout blow when the sport's governing body decides Ferrari's fate at a Paris hearing on September 8. The Italian team has already been fined $100,000 for manipulating the German Grand Prix in July through the use of banned 'team orders'. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Motorsports

FIA can't enforce its own rulebook Add to ...

There's a school of thought that believes a government should never pass a law that it can't enforce. Maybe the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) might want to consider doing the same with its rulebook.

The FIA's World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) meets Wednesday in Paris to address the issue of team orders in Formula One after Ferrari driver Felipe Massa let teammate Fernando Alonso pass near the end of July's German Grand Prix to take the win.

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With Alonso in the thick of a championship fight and running second in the grand prix to a teammate who's chances of winning the title were already slim, Massa was told that "Fernando is faster than you," which was a thinly disguised message to let his partner past.

In a team sport, this should be completely acceptable. Unfortunately, reality and the FIA don't always mesh too well, which is why team orders are banned in F1.

Let's be honest about it: Teams already determine the finishing order of their drivers when it serves their purpose. And there's little doubt that team orders come into play on just about every race weekend. For example, does anyone really think it was coincidence that McLaren's Jenson Button was told he needed to save fuel in Turkey only seconds after banging wheels with teammate Lewis Hamilton in an attempt to pass for the lead? The team couldn't say "Jenson do not try to pass Lewis," so instead it sent a clandestine, coded message to get the point across.

But it shouldn't be that way. A team should be able to decide where its resources go and which driver is the best horse to back. It's no different than the Pittsburgh Penguins giving superstar Sidney Crosby 40 minutes of ice time in the playoffs because it gives the team its best chance of winning a Stanley Cup.

Simply put, if Ferrari thinks Alonso gives them a better shot at the world championship, that's their choice. After all, it is Ferrari, and not the FIA, who have to answer to the fans and their sponsors who expect a title.

Nevertheless, the FIA forces teams operate in a completely insincere way under a regulation that's supposed to keep them honest. After all, it's likely that many drivers have clauses in their contracts about obeying instructions just in case a situation arises where the team needs them to let a teammate past.

And that's not the only irony here. There's enough in this hearing to make the most grounded person dizzy.

You've got the FIA president Jean Todt who was the boss at Ferrari when a huge controversy involving team orders in 2002 resulted in a ban being put in place. That year, Michael Schumacher in his untouchable Ferrari was already 21 points clear of his closest challenger and a lock to win the world championship when the series arrived at the sixth race in Austria. Even so, Todt ordered Rubens Barrichello to gift a win to his teammate, a completely unnecessary move considering Ferrari's superiority and Schumacher's well-established No. 1 status in the team.

Add that Massa was signed to race at Ferrari by the same Jean Todt who will now lead the charge against him. That deal, which was extended in June to the end of 2012, was negotiated between Todt and his son, Nicolas, who manages Massa. So, the elder Todt may also be taking money out of his son's pocket if the WMSC decides to disqualify Massa, who likely gets a bonus infusion of cash for every point he scores and a percentage of it would go to his manager.

And then there's former FIA president Max Mosley, who Todt replaced last October after being identified as the hand-picked successor. Never one to keep his opinions to himself, Mosley declared last month that both Ferrari drivers should lose the points they earned in Germany.

Now that's seems just a bit rich coming from the man who presided over the WMSC's Spygate hearings a couple of years ago that allowed both McLaren drivers to keep their points but stripped the team of its constructors' tally after it was found in possession of confidential Ferrari technical documents.

Surely a former FIA president and voting member of its senate doesn't really think a team backing its best bet for a title is worse than getting caught spying on a rival outfit.

Let's hope the sport realizes its error and comes to its senses, leaving Ferrari's drivers unpunished and overturning the silly ban on team orders.

Spengler continues to lead

With four races left in the 2010 DTM season, Canadian Bruno Spengler remains at the top of the standings after taking second on Sunday at the Brands Hatch circuit in England. Spengler, who has finished on the podium in six of seven races so far this year, leads teammate and Brands Hatch winner Paul di Resta by nine points. Drivers get 10 points for a win. The next race goes September 19.

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