Motor racing: F1's fudge in debate over team orders

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The Independent Online
FORMULA ONE drivers will have to be seen to be winning races in future - although subtle arrangements between team-mates will still be permitted.

That appears to be the upshot of deliberations by the World Motor Sports Council, the policy-making arm of FIA, motor racing's governing body, in the wake of McLaren-Mercedes' 1-2 victory at the Australia Grand Prix earlier this month.

David Coulthard's extravagant gesture in slowing down and allowing through Mika Hakinnen, two laps from the end of the race in Melbourne, caused consternation among the local organisers and observers around the world. The Scot did it on the basis that the Finn beat him to the first bend at the start of the race. He explained that the two drivers had made that deal before the race.

Within the sport, team orders are considered perfectly acceptable and have been since the first wheel turned in anger. The problem this time was Coulthard's blatant concession of the honour, which may have served to make his point but which the FIA hopes now to eradicate.

Delegates decided at the meeting in Paris yesterday to| inform race stewards that "any act prejudicial to the interests of any competition" should be penalised severely.

That seems to hand stewards the dubious and difficult responsibility of deciding when team orders bring the sport into disrepute. It is a classic Formula One verdict.

McLaren will doubtless ensure any internal deal at the Brazilian Grand Prix, on Sunday week, is suitably camouflaged. The team's managing director, Ron Dennis, had cautioned against a "knee-jerk" reaction, stressing that any strategy devised in the interests of the team was an age-old ploy.

McLaren will have another race to show their dominance, with the confirmation that the French Grand Prix will go ahead at Magny-Cours on 28 June after the settling of a dispute over television rights.

A former world champion, Nigel Mansell, could be on the verge of a racing comeback in the British Touring Car Championship. Ford are to announce tomorrow they have "attracted one of the greatest names in motor sport" to drive a Mondeo.

The 44-year-old Mansell was patently not deterred by a touring car accident at Donington in 1993 which put him in hospital. The opening round of the BTCC is at Thruxton on 13 April.