Red Bull Racing's team principal Christian Horner claims that Formula 1's title contenders now have an effective carte blanche to use team orders over the remainder of the season – if they are willing to stomach a $100,000 fine – in the wake of the FIA verdict on Ferrari's German Grand Prix actions.
Horner thinks the FIA's decision to not hand Ferrari further sanctions for what it did at Hockenheim – even though the governing body said it is sure they were illegal team orders – means a precedent has now been set.
"The penalty for what happened at Hockenheim was $100,000," said Horner. "Does that therefore mean that you could do that in the remaining five or six races this year? As we have seen, based on what happened with Ferrari in Hockenheim, there was – other than the financial penalty at the event – no effect on their performance. So, theoretically, if any team was in that situation and wished to move their cars around, or needed to, then a precedent has been set."
Horner believes that the main issue that has come out of the Ferrari matter is not that team orders are now effectively allowed, but that the rule banning them needs clearing up.
"I think the key to come out of yesterday was that the regulation needs to be dealt with," he said. "You either have to get rid of team orders or have them – and very transparently have them – because you cannot be half pregnant. You have to be one way or the other.
"I don't think the regulation is particularly well worded and that is what has been the stumbling block, that the regulation needs to be better worded or removed."
Horner has first-hand evidence of the dangers that can come from allowing teammates to race each other hard rather than impose team orders, following the collision between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in Turkey this year. But despite the 28-point gap between Webber and Vettel in the title chase, and his view that team orders can now be used, Horner has ruled out throwing all his weight behind one driver just yet.
When asked at which point he would start supporting one of his drivers, Horner said: "I think it has to be a combination of either mathematics or practicality in that, obviously, if one driver was 60 points ahead and there were 75 points remaining then obviously it is a no-brainer.
"I also think the points system is deceptive at the moment in that there are still 150 points on the board. It is too early at this stage to be saying we should be putting all our efforts and focus behind one driver or the other. We will continue to support both drivers with absolute equality."