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I missed this story from Azerbaijan when CH. 4’s Eddie Jordan grilled Force India’s Bob Fernley on team collusion during the Canadian Grand Prix. According to Jordan, Mercedes sent a text message to Force India asking them to make a tactically timed pit stop that would have benefitted the Silver Arrows during the previous race.

Now, some may suggest that this is just wacky Eddie doing his thing and cite numerous predictions that never materialized from the former team owner and that’s perfectly fine but it did make me wonder how much, if any, of that is going on now that we have two dominant engine providers in F1 in the form of Mercedes and Ferrari.

There has always been the notion that a Ferrari-equipped team such as Sauber would make life easier for a Ferrari behind them and so on but what do you think about inter-team collusion between strategists? It’s surely something that’s been happening for some time at varying levels. Perhaps legends of the sport could talk of days when the Cosworth powered teams were fighting against other teams powered by different engines or how Ferrari-equipped teams have worked with the Scuderia in the past.

For Jordan, he used Honda engines as well as others and he didn’t say anything about his experience with F1 such as he knows it happens because he did it at Jordan or knew other teams who did it while he was an owner. I’m curious if he feels it is happening now more than ever or if he believes it didn’t really happen during his time in the sport?

As a fan, it would be easy to make a blanket statement with a bold font that said something like, “you’d have to be daft to not think this isn’t happening and that Mercedes and their customer teams aren’t working together strategically to beat the rivals of Merc.” And perhaps you’d be right in saying such. You could insert Ferrari in that sentence too, I’m not picking on Merc, it’s just the team Eddie said was texting Force India in the video.

It’s also interesting that Bob said they don’t respond to any of those things. Did he mean the teams doesn’t respond to any of those allegations, such as the question Eddie asked him, or did he mean they don’t respond to any of the texts they may get from other teams regarding strategy during a race? My hunch is the former but I may be wrong. 

Collusion

If you believe I am saying it doesn’t or hasn’t happened, you’d be wrong, that’s not what I am saying but if it is prolific and pervasive in the sport today, I think this would begin to breach the FIA regulation regarding tarnishing the sport and bringing it into disrepute to be honest. There is a fine line and many detractors of Ferrari might bang on and on about their relationship with Sauber but Could Merc, Renault and Ferrari all be playing the long game and working between customer teams to weave grander strategies than what they themselves can deliver on track? Using their customer relationships to influence strategy at other teams that compliment their own strategies and places their rivals at a disadvantage in the race?

If that’s the case, how do you feel about that? Sure, Eddie could be completely wrong and just stirring the pot for reasons unknown but if he’s not, does this concern you or do you feel it’s all part of F1? I’m not trying to promote a bogus, click-bait or made-up story, Eddie made the allegation and I’m just curious as I found this an interesting discussion point. How much influence should/does a manufacturer have over its customer teams and their inner workings? 

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Alianora La Canta

    I can’t imagine Force India not commenting on a press story it wasn’t happy about. I also can’t imagine they’d not respond to a message sent by Mercedes (if only to tell them to mind their boundaries and not talk about this sort of stuff).

    So I’m not sure what’s happening here.

    • I’m in no way saying Eddie’s right but Bob did seem off guard and I’m just curious what fans would think if this was happening.

      • It’s not like the engine manufacturers force all their customers to vote their way in any meetings about engine regulations or anything…

        • I do recall those days as well. :) I have to think that Max and Jean and Bernie knew that would be the case heading into those meetings but I wonder how commonly known it is and/or accepted if this is happening behind the scenes during races? That’s “if”. Not suggesting it is although Eddie clearly is. I have no anonymous sources that have shared that info with me. :)

  • Matthew Snyder

    I’m reminded of the last race of 1997, when Williams and McLaren colluded to produce the outcome of the European GP at Jerez. I wonder how keen DC would’ve been to let Mika past if he knew what was being discussed on the pit wall.

    And then to start off the very next season, he got boned again!

  • mini696

    At least we know McLaren isn’t doing that, there isn’t anyone behind them.

  • Achim

    I do agree, that if that really happened, it would tarnish the sport. Team orders within a team are fine, because, well, it is a team sport. But between teams it is indeed collusion. It seems for a while now, that the engine manufacturers have too much power over the sport in general and with engine manufacturers having their own team as well you create dependencies. I think the FIA should police that somehow, but I must admit I have no idea how to do that. That is why after disallowing team orders for a while they gave up on it, because in the end they could not police it.

  • Shocks&Awe

    Aren’t inter-team agreements the norm in NASCAR and IndyCar? Personally I don’t see anything wrong with it. It just adds another dimension to the entertaining intrigue of the F1 circus. There’s a whole other set of incentives and counter-incentives that come into play.

    As we know drivers often don’t honor team orders, so why would teams always honor inter-team agreements or the drivers and/or mechanics or whomever.

    I’m all for it, as long as we get to see behind the curtain every once in a while.