The FIA remains convinced that Ferrari did use illegal team orders at the German Grand Prix, but it decided not to push the team further at its disciplinary hearing on Wednesday because of inconsistencies in the way the rules have been applied in the past.
Motor racing's governing body issued the full hearing notes from the meeting of its World Motor Sport Council that met in Paris on Wednesday to examine the events at Hockenheim, where it explained why the Italian team had not faced further sanctions. The report of the meeting suggests that the WMSC felt the team orders situation was so ambiguous in F1 that it would have been wrong to punish Ferrari more – even though it was sure the team had imposed an illegal order on Felipe Massa.
"It is undeniable that the race result would have been different had the contentious instruction not been issued to Felipe Massa," said the FIA. However, it stated that: "there were many examples of what could have been said to be team orders in Formula 1 in recent years, and therefore there has been inconsistency in its application. Also its application to indirect team orders via messages where drivers raise no complaints is uncertain and difficult to detect and police.
"The Judging Body of the WMSC accepted that this may well have influenced Ferrari's approach, and Ferrari also had a legitimate concern to avoid collisions between teammates in close on-track racing."
Ferrari's case was also strengthened by Williams and Sauber writing to the FIA to show their support – and point out the risks that come from teammates colliding when fighting for position.
The sanctions that the WMSC were asked to consider were a $100,000 fine, a five-second penalty for Alonso, which would have relegated him to second, and the withdrawal of drivers' and teams' points from Hockenheim, suspended for 2010 and given back if no similar event occurred during the remainder of the season.
The FIA document also explained Ferrari's defense – that there had never been an "order." Ferrari made sure to note the distinction between an order and the supply of information or a request for what a team would like a driver to do.
"In the view of Ferrari, Felipe Massa was not ordered to allow Fernando Alonso to pass; rather he was given relevant information, based on which he decided, for the benefit of the team, to allow Fernando Alonso to pass," said the statement. "The relevant information was that Fernando Alonso was faster than him, and that Sebastian Vettel was closing the gap on both of them.
"Felipe Massa realized that the best interests of the team and the drivers' safety were going to be served by allowing Fernando Alonso to pass, and acted accordingly. In the view of Ferrari, there is a clear distinction between 'team orders' on the one hand, and 'team strategy and tactics' on the other hand. The disputed communication should be considered as 'team strategy and tactics.'"
The report also revealed that a few laps before the radio communication where Rob Smedley informed Massa that Alonso was faster than him, both drivers had been ordered to turn their engines down – before the Spaniard was allowed to turn his up again.
"Alonso increased his engine speed without Massa's being informed," revealed the FIA document. "Alonso was therefore benefiting from a definite performance advantage over Massa in the moments preceding the contentious overtaking."