The next grand prix in Germany will mark the halfway point of this year's Formula 1 world championship.
It was at this event last year, albeit in Hockenheim rather than this year's venue the Nurburgring, that
Ferrari swapped the positions
of their drivers, leading to uproar over team orders.
My position has not changed since then in that 'team orders' can come in many guises even before the season starts, and are unpoliceable.
The regulators have in any event
revised the rules
and such commands to drivers are no longer illegal. Only 'fan power' and public opinion can have an influence now.
Red Bull took the moral high ground last year when saying that they would always let their drivers race, citing the collision between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel in
At Silverstone on Sunday, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was the race winner, just as he was in Hockenheim last year, but the '
' call this time came from Red Bull to Webber to hold station.
To be clear, it wasn't about letting somebody through to win the race against the regulations, it was holding station in second and third. Webber, as pure a racer as there is on the track right now, chose to ignore them.
He is moving towards the end of his career and as far as we know still a free agent for next season, and needs to finally get on terms with Vettel.
With a significant pace advantage in the closing stages, he wasn't keen on wasting his chance.
Frankly, I would have been suitably deaf, too, in his position. He summed it up perfectly: "If Alonso had a problem we were fighting for victory."
I don't think his competitive nature will do his credibility any harm within Red Bull or other teams, although he may find a new clause or two creeping into his next contract.
“Alonso is on tremendous form and it will be interesting to see what he can achieve in the next 10 races”
It's easy to argue that it was only over three points, the difference between second and third, but it's about so much more than that.
Let's be clear, three points has been a comfortable winning margin in some recent championships, and with the
resurgence of Ferrari
and so many other unpredictable events to come, who knows how the championship will go?
Red Bull didn't need to see their two cars spinning in unison down the track to let McLaren and Ferrari score yet more points, but for a young team and brand founded on extreme sport, if they wanted the moral high ground this time the call should have been: "Sebastian, Mark is faster than you."
But Vettel is their main man and their future, the driver who must fend off Alonso in a Ferrari and any other pretenders to his throne for some time to come. Hence the wording of the radio call.
It's pathetic that, when a team has a problem, some media and fans call for instant dismissals.
Webber 'not happy' with team orders
We were recently filming a McLaren pit stop challenge on BBC F1 with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button versus David Coulthard and me. It so happens that we were being shown the ropes by the right-front wheel-gun man. I won't name-check him for obvious reasons, but I know him and he was immense, regularly doing 2.2 seconds.
That whole procedure is one of total choreography under extreme pressure on a car approaching at 60mph literally boiling in temperature with brakes measuring several hundred degrees centigrade close to the wheel-nut.
So something went wrong in one of Button's stops at Silverstone, a mistake I frequently made myself in my attempts, and it was misinterpreted by the lollipop man.
These things happen in the heat of the moment. It's not good, and they will be taking plenty of pain, but some people shouldn't sit in an armchair at home or the comfort of the media centre and call for their heads. Or that of the team principal.
Nobody was saying that when Hamilton won in China nor when Button blitzed the entire field in the closing stages of the Canadian Grand Prix a month ago.
It's a bigger picture at McLaren and of course they can't keep turning up with a car which needs to play catch-up all season long.
Their drivers are scouting around for faster cars and a bigger pay cheque, but mostly so they don't have to do so much PR work. I'll keep my head down on that one because we are lucky to have access to them on BBC but at least they seem to enjoy our jet-skiing and such like.
BBC F1 commentary box producer
“Those expecting Ferrari to fall back again from the next race in Germany, where off-throttle blowing will be allowed again, might be surprised”
Ferrari were very quiet on the whole blown diffuser issue in Silverstone, letting others do their bidding for them. They have been threatening to deliver a very solid result for a few races now - remember Monaco - and they had quite an update in Silverstone, which proved very effective.
No wonder Red Bull were concerned, that track layout is absolutely made for them.
Alonso is on tremendous form and it will be interesting to see what he and Ferrari can achieve in the next 10 races.
I thought the DRS overtaking device worked perfectly in Silverstone by allowing faster cars on their way without making overtaking too easy for those on similar pace. I doubt it is a mathematical process to apply to other tracks as there are so many factors coming into play especially the preceeding corners and tyre performance on the day.
In the end, the blown exhaust diffuser issue was too difficult to fully resolve mid-season and the teams have agreed to stick with the Valencia specification with regard to restrictions. Secondary issues revolve around throttle blip for downshifts, Kers energy harvesting under braking, and reliability amongst others.
With so many different team applications it seems they have come to a pragmatic solution given that the issue is already resolved with defined exhaust placement for 2012.
Political argy-bargy between teams with ultimately a practical agreement is good for F1. We get to see the real character of the key players and true relationships emerge from the shadows.