Talk about team orders continued on Friday in Italy, with the matter still stirring controversy and causing doubts about what can be expected in the next races.
Frank Williams gave his views on the team orders row on Friday at Monza, and AUTOSPORT was there.
Q. You wrote a letter to the World Motor Sport Council regarding Ferrari. What was the reason for that?
Frank Williams: Because we supported, not necessarily Ferrari's particular move, but the principle of team orders being permitted. We wrote the letter because we were sincere; we're no friends of Ferrari but we just thought that the restriction on team orders is not necessary.
Q. Do you believe that there should be any restrictions on team orders, or should it be totally open?
FW: It's all up for discussion. One provisional thought is that maybe they should just be applicable in the second half of the season. We've got to remember that drivers think of themselves - great - but then we want world championships. There are two in every year - there's the teams' as well - and you've got to have two very high performing cars wherever possible. It's most rare that you have two drivers of equal performance in the same team and we paid a heavy price for it with Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet. That cost us.
Q. Have you explained your position to Rubens Barrichello as he might be surprised that his team boss backs team orders with his history?
FW: I haven't spoken to him but I'm sure that he knows that.
Q. When you say possibly allow team orders in the second half of the season, do you really think it makes any difference whether you do it in the first race or the second-to-last race?
FW: If you wanted to appease some of the more puritan fans, there should be no team orders under any circumstances whatsoever. Putting another layer on the discussion, if you win a world championship, you can open the door because the money is going to flow in and you can easily stay in business. If you don't win a championship, you win some races, you negotiate hard and you stay in business. But if you don't have any good results at all it's difficult to survive. But when you win a world championship, it's much easier for the following year or two. To win a championship is in the team's interest, because Ferrari doesn't have to worry about money but most other teams do.
Q. How do you balance the racing argument on team orders with the PR considerations?
FW: It's very important, but I think that it can be put across and explained properly. If your number two driver was a young man like Nico Hulkenberg and your number one was Lewis Hamilton, and he is in the way of Lewis with the championship at stake, what do you do? Do you say, win the race young man for yourself? That's the other side of the coin. The teams and sponsors pay for the cars and they want results. If they get fed up they go.
Q. If the argument is so persuasive, is it not surprising that only Williams and Sauber wrote in defence of Ferrari?
FW: It's a free society. I don't know what everyone else thinks, but that's our opinion and clearly on the basis of what you say there must be 10 teams that think we are talking rubbish and team orders won't be permitted. It felt strange to support Ferrari, but the reason is that we think they should have been allowed to and our voice should be heard.
Q. Did you discuss it with Stefano Domenicali about it?
FW: I didn't, but Adam Parr did.
Q. Was your opinion canvassed by the FIA?
FW: I don't know. I didn't get a call from Jean Todt.
Q. There seems to be a move afoot to retain the regulation but in a different format whereby team orders would be allowed as long as they didn't jeopardise another team. One of the examples that is thrown up is Jerez 1997 where allegedly Williams and McLaren colluded.
FW: It was something very different. There was something quite extraordinarily different to that.
Q. What would you have said if you were called up at the time?
FW: We were. We had a hearing, a conversation with Max Mosley at the FIA and we said what the truth was. The reason that we slowed up Jacques Villeneuve even though he was in the lead was that we were convinced that after such an impact the car would be damaged in some way. At the end of the race, we checked over the car and didn't find anything wrong, but when we took the car apart in the factory the battery carrier collapsed onto the floor. The battery was swinging for the last 17 laps on two battery cables. That shows how important it is to look after your drivers and cars.
Q. If the team order regulation was taken out of the regulations, do you think that the fans would notice?
FW: Some of the more astute followers would, but it doesn't happen very often anyway.
Q. Jenson Button said that if team orders became the norm, it would hasten his departure from the sport. Do you understand that?
FW: Yes. It's our opinion and we are not going to preach about it. That's what we think and we've had lots of equal number ones. At some point in time, McLaren might be faced with the situation if it was Lewis 41 and Jenson 39 with two races to go then they didn't finish the second-last race and Fernando Alonso is now six points in the lead. You've got two chances of beating Alonso with drivers like that and the team has got to have the very best drivers at all times that can create the problem that we are discussing.