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Posts Tagged: Fairness

Getting The Points, But Not The Point

Monday 26th July 2010

The result of the German Grand Prix this weekend was that Fernando Alonso finished 4.2 seconds ahead of his team mate, Felipe Massa, to win the race. However, to the vast majority of F1 fans, Massa was the real victor.

Alonso outqualified Massa on Saturday, but they both started behind the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel, who qualified on pole position for his home race. At the start the two Ferraris got off the line better than Vettel, who immediately moved to the right-hand side of the track in an attempt to block Alonso. This left Massa to take the lead of the race, and ultimately Alonso got past Vettel to go second. The Ferraris were running 1st and 2nd, a great achievement given that they’ve been off the pace in recent races. It was also good to see Massa leading a race again, a year to the day after his near-fatal accident in qualifying for last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

During much of the race, the two Ferraris were not far away from each other, and it was fairly clear that Alonso was the quicker of the pair. Indeed, he made an attempt to overtake relatively early on, but Massa did a really good job of defending his position to keep the lead and then maintain it throughout the pitstop phase.

While he was being held up by his team mate, some of the radio messages that were broadcast sort of hinted towards Alonso’s frustration. He said that it was “ridiculous”. And then, on lap 48, Massa’s race engineer told him over the radio: “Fernando is faster than you“.

If you don’t follow motorsport, the significance of that phrase is probably lost on you. Because it has a very clear, distinct meaning: let him overtake you. Sure thing, a short time later, Massa miraculously slowed down coming out of a hairpin, allowing his team-mate past.

It was a team order. Ferrari wanted Alonso to win the race, so they told Massa to slow down.

The reasoning is clear. Alonso has a real chance of winning the championship this year, and Massa doesn’t. Therefore they want Alonso to score every point that he can, and doing this enables him to score 7 more points than if he had finished 2nd. Those points could be the difference between winning and losing a title. It’s a very good way to run a team if you want to maximise your chances of winning titles.

However, team orders are banned in F1. They have been since 2002, when Ferrari asked Rubens Barrichello to let Michael Schumacher through to win the Austrian Grand Prix. Accordingly, Ferrari have been issued a $100,000 fine after today’s race (which is essentially a non-punishment). But we’ve seen team orders used plenty of times, even after they were supposedly banned.

In some ways, team orders are a part of motorsport. It’s a team game, and the driver’s responsibility is to the team first, themselves second. There have been countless examples of this sort of thing over the years (indeed, in the early years of the sport, second and third drivers were sometimes required to give up their car part way through a race, if their team mate needed it). Almost every team does it, and I’m sure it’ll continue even after today.

I think the difference is timing. Mostly, team orders are used towards the end of the championship, when one driver is way ahead of the other and is in with a chance of winning the title. In that case, although it’s still slightly awkward, I think it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. The difference here though is that we’ve only just passed the halfway point of the season. Massa is way behind Alonso in the championship and so has no realistic chance of winning it, so logically this move makes sense. But even so, at this stage of the season it’s an incredibly bad thing to do.

There are two reasons why I say this. Firstly, it’s ridiculously un-sporting. Obviously the points are important for Alonso, but when we’re at this stage of the season it just feels really unfair to start using team orders. If Alonso was quicker than Massa, he should’ve made the pass on-track, and I was certainly looking forward to seeing that battle. Instead, Ferrari cheated Massa (and Alonso) of the opportunity to win the race (as opposed to having it gifted to them), and we were cheated out of the spectacle of seeing them do that.

Secondly, I think that Ferrari should’ve considered the damage this has done. Yes, 7 points are useful. But are they worth a demotivated Massa? I would say not.

This isn’t the first time that the issue of driver parity has reared it’s ugly head this season, as Red Bull have been accused of favouring Vettel over Webber a couple of times. In this case, it’s been because of things the managment have said, or by putting upgraded parts on Vettel’s car and not on Webber’s. But I reckon most of these are through mismanagement rather than anything more sinister. And anyway, it’s a very different scenario to ordering one of the drivers to let the other win a race.

It’s been a great season so far, and much of that has been down to intra-team battles. The Red Bull battle that I’ve just mentioned is one example, as is the contest between Hamilton and Button (the last 2 World Champions) at McLaren. I’m sure that the second half of the season will be just as enthralling, especially if Ferrari are able to join the title fight.

But whoever wins this year, it needs to be fair. Maybe Ferrari and Alonso simply want to win at all costs, and that’s their prerogative. Indeed, Alonso was happy with his “win” at Hockenheim, just as he still counts his (disgusting) result at Singapore 2008 as a fair win. But great champions do not need to throw their toys out of their carbon-fibre pram in order to get results; instead they just concentrate on winning in the proper manner.

A couple of years ago, Sir Jackie Stewart (World Champion in 1969, 1971 and 1973) released his autobiography. He entitled it “Winning is Not Enough”. It’s a shame if drivers and teams of the calibre of Alonso and Ferrari don’t share that sentiment.

Posted In: Motorsport Tagged: | 3 Comments

Balance

Friday 21st May 2010

I read through the coalition agreement the other day, and on the whole it actually seems rather good. Of course it remains to be seen how well the coalition works, but as I’ve said before I’m quite optimistic. Especially when Nick Clegg makes speeches like this

But when I read the document, there was one line in particular that I was unsure about. The promise that “we will extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants”. I did a sort of double-take when I read it (if that makes sense), because to put it frankly, there are almost definitely more important issues surrounding rape than whether or not the defendant is anonymous. Like the fact that a hideously low amount of rape victims even bother to report the crime, or the appalling way they are treated if they do report it. If it were me, that would be my priority to be honest.

Irrespective of that though, is this a good idea? The arguments in favour of anonymity are clear; rape (quite rightly) carries a certain amount of stigma, and I can imagine that even if someone is found not guilty of raping someone, it’s still a weight around their neck. There’s no smoke without fire, after all… This is a simple argument, but to my mind it’s an incredibly persuasive one. After all the fundamental idea is that someone is “innocent until proven guilty”.

I can sort of understand the counterarguments though. In some cases – such as John Worboys – the naming of the person who has been accused has spurred other victims into reporting their cases, and this obviously increases the likelihood of the defendant being found guilty. I’m not sure how common this is though, and even if it is common I’m not sure if it’s a valid reason not to have anonymity. Because to my mind the underlying problem is still that most victims don’t report the crime, and this doesn’t really solve that issue all that effectively.

I read on the BBC that Labour introduced anonymity for rape defendants in 1976, and the subsequant Conservative government reversed this in 1988. I don’t know what the rationale was for the Tories doing that, and it’d also be pretty interesting to find out what – if any – effect it had.

Not surprisingly, shouty feminists have pointed out that this is a very bad thing.  They say that it’s misogynistic, that it reinforces the idea that when a woman reports a rape, she’s obviously lying. To put it simply, I think that’s a complete load of bullshit. I think that all this aims to do is to address the effects of the accusation on those people who are innocent, and I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. Clearly there are valid arguments for and against, but I think the negative reaction is overblown. Yes, anonymity may have a negative effect in some proportion of cases, but isn’t it important to balance the rights of both sides?

No doubt someone will come along later and say “oh you would say that you’re a man” and put this down to “male privilege”. And to anyone tempted to say that, then just No. This is just trying to look at both sides of the argument in a balanced way, rather than simply jump to a conclusion. It’s very easy to over-react to things we disapprove of (and make no mistake, I think the way rape is dealt with in this country is atrocious), but I think it’s important to try to retain some sense of perspective.

Posted In: Politics Tagged: | 2 Comments