Why Schumi won’t cheat

In response to Adrian’s comment:

It’s really difficult to achieve this kind of thing in F1. But in essence it has happened from time to time without people appealing the outcome (or rather without those appeals winning).

Four times in the last 20 years the world championship has been decided by one driver driving his rival off of the road, thus securing the championship. Each time it was to maintain the points advantage that they had going into the race.

In 1989 Prost made a deliberately dodgy move across on Senna to keep position, the situation was reversed the next year when as Senna put it he “aimed for Prost”. Both of these situations were allowed to stand.

In 1994 Michael took out Damon Hill to secure the championship and this too was allowed to stand (it has been stated recently that Williams [Damon and Senna’s team] didn’t drag it to the court because they were still reeling from Senna’s death earlier in the year).

But in 1997 when Michael tried the trick for the final time he messed it up. He didn’t successfully knock Villeneuve off the track, but did manage to take himself off. Which meant that Jaques won the championship and the marshals afterwards accused Schumacher of such dangerous driving in the incident that they stripped him of all of his points from the year.

Some have said that the climate had changed by the time Michael tried his final attempt. And that in fact the climate of Formula 1 had changed after Senna’s death and that drivers should have been so cavalier after that. And that Michael had only really got away with it because Williams didn’t appeal because they were in such disarray.

But actually the real reason seems to be that you should only do something that reckless if it’s going to work. Bernie will do anything in his power not to have the world champion decided in an anonymous court somewhere. He wants it decided on the track dirty or not. And he would put enormous pressure on the teams not to sue in this situation. And in 1994 he had an extra stick to beat Frank Williams with. He was able to say something along the lines of “well the sport is already loosing credibility and viewers because of Senna’s death, we better not confuse the public any further – drop the case”.

But in 1997 Michael messed it up and didn’t make it stick. So at the end of the race before the Marshals did anything the world championship was decided for Villeneuve. So the Marshals had free reign to punish him, and in many ways his punishment was that harsh because he was being punished for 1994 as well. (Technically for those keeping score of the stats, they stripped him of his seasons points but not his wins. This is why Michaels wins and points tally don’t add up – crazy huh?).

So what of this occasion? Well in all of the previous situations the driver just had to stop his rival from finishing because going into the race they were in the lead in the championship. And as we’ve seen even that is hard enough sometimes. But this time Michael also needs to win the race.

So he’d have to delegate. The difficulty of this is massive. To begin with drivers don’t like following team orders at the best of times. Also the risk for Massa would be all of his points being taken away, a risk to his life (something that if you’re winning for somebody else would probably seem more important to you all of a sudden) and with no real upside for him. But maybe you could convince him, for the good of the team, to do it.

But the team wouldn’t want him to. Why? Because of the constructors championship. Ferrari really want to win this because even if Michael wins he’s about to swan off with the number 1 (I did write an article about this on my other site for some reason: Being Number 1) and so they need to win the constructors. At the moment they are 9 points behind Renault. So lets do a bit of maths here…

Say it goes:
1 – Michael – 10 points
2 – Massa – 8 points
3 – Alonso – 6 points
4 – Fisi – 5 points

Which means net Ferrari make up: 7 points. Leaving them just 2 down. It’s still not enough to win the constructors, which is a key point anyway. But imagine Massa takes out Alonso to help Michael win? In that case they would be 7 points behind Renault. Obviously neither of these is a winning strategy but. To win naturally they only need 1 additional driver ahead of the Renault pack (or possibly more likely Alonso will be in third but two drivers between him and Fisi). Whereas if Massa takes out Fisi then they’ll have to round up someone else to take out Fisi.

I’m not saying it’s impossible but it’s just much harder, this would all change if Fisi or Alonso just stopped somewhere unrelated to Ferrari.

So no, I don’t think Michael will cheat this time. The risk is too great. But if a Ferrari engineer happened to be walking past an open Renault engine and throw in a few washers in then that might happen.

About Alex Andronov

Alex Andronov is a writer who lives in the UK. He is currently working on 7 novels, 5 film scripts, 2 plays, 2 TV series, 1 history of the United States, 1 travelogue and trying to find some focus.
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