Team Orders: McLaren cleared

McLarenThe FIA have cleared McLaren of any improper conduct during the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend. After the race, there were question marks over whether McLaren had breached F1’s sporting regulations which ban team orders. Having looked at the evidence, the FIA have announced that McLaren’s actions over the weekend were “entirely legitimate.”

After the race, Ron Dennis admitted that he had told his drivers to ease off to protect the team’s strong position and ensure they didn’t risk retirement. Many saw these comments by Dennis as an admission that Hamilton had essentially been told not to challenge Alonso’s position at the head of the race.

However, the FIA disagree. In a statement just released, the FIA have said, “Having studied the radio traffic between Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and its drivers together with the FIA observer’s report and data from the team, it is clear that McLaren’s actions during the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix were entirely legitimate and no further action is necessary.

“It is clear from FIA measurements taken after qualifying that McLaren fuelled Hamilton for five more laps than Alonso. This allowed Hamilton the option of a one-stop strategy should the safety car come out during his first stint.”

The FIA felt McLaren’s decision to pit Hamilton earlier than expected was justified as it would ensure that the Briton would not get caught behind a safety car.

“With no safety car during Alonso’s first stint, there was a small but finite risk that it would come out during the five laps before Hamilton had to refuel,” the statement continued. “This would have put him behind the field and at a significant disadvantage to any car on a full (as opposed to optional) one-stop strategy.

“For similar reasons, Hamilton was called in early for his second pit stop, thus assuring his second place, with or without a safety car.”

The FIA’s statement also points out that McLaren dominated the front of the field, allowing them to use a more conservative pit strategy than they might otherwise have done, and that it was the sensible option to take.

“Had the car in front of Hamilton not been his team-mate, McLaren might (probably would) have decided to risk the safeyu car and let Hamilton run for as long as hs fuel load allowed in the hope that he would come out of the pits in the lead after one of his pit stops. There is, however, no obligation on them to take this risk in order to overtake their own car. Indeed, it would be foolish to do so.”

In closing, the FIA stated that McLaren were within their rights to ask both drivers to curb their pace to ensure that they both made it to the finish line and did not overstress their cars.

“It is standard procedure for a team to tell its drivers to slow down when they have a substantial lead. This is in order to minimise the risk of technical or other problems. It is also standard practice – and entirely reasonable – to ask the drivers not to put each other at risk.

“McLaren were able to pursue an optimum team stategy because they had a substantial advantage over all other cars. They did nothing which could be described as interfering with the race result.”