If Ralf Schumacher wants to win the F1 world championship this year, he will have to do so without the help of team orders and accept that his Williams-BMW bosses will have no qualms about criticising his driving in the media. Is this fair?

If Ralf Schumacher wants to win the F1 world championship this year, he will have to do so without the help of team orders and accept that his Williams-BMW bosses will have no qualms about criticising his driving in the media. Is this fair?


Team boss Sir Frank Williams and Williams-BMW technical director Patrick Head this week said that there would be no team orders within the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, even though it runs the risk of its drivers taking points off each other with the championship fight being so close between Williams-BMW, Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes.


Ralf has scored two wins and a second place in the last three races and is now only 11 points behind his brother Michael, the championship leader. But WilliamsF1’s management have always employed a policy of no team orders and have been blamed for losing the 1986 drivers' title by allowing Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet to battle with each other while Alain Prost, in a relatively-underpowered McLaren TAG, clinched the title.


“We do remember 1986 but our contracts do not allow us to give preference to one driver over the other,” said Head, “and we have never attempted to negotiate such deals. The only position where the situation could arise is when one driver can win the championship and the other can't. But we are a long way off that.


“We have a different philosophy to Ferrari. The championship and motor racing is more important than a single company. Ferrari does not hold that view. Our philosophy is similar to McLaren's and that allowed past championships - when McLaren and Williams have been dominant - to be interesting as opposed to being dull, like last year.”


Therefore, Ralf does not only have the task of beating his team-mate Juan-Pablo Montoya, the McLaren-Mercedes pair of David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen, brother Michael and Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello to win the championship… The German will also be an easy target for the critical media corps should he fail in his task to wrestle the championship crown from the Scuderia.


That became clear when Sir Frank revealed that the team had deliberately used the press to spur on its driver: “He must have read the comments that were written, carefully drip fed by the team, that he was a bit too inconsistent at the beginning of the year.


“But at the end of the day, the driver sorts himself out and he has done a grand job. If he gets very consistent and applies himself to the business of winning he will be a regular winner,” he added.


As for the remainder of the season, Head said: “There are no foregone conclusions and I believe that it will be a hard-fought battle all the way to the end of the year.


“Ralf is enjoying driving the car more now the balance is better and he is working hard but then so is Juan (Montoya). We have a challenge ahead of us so it should be fun and I'm sure it will be a scrap right to the end.”


It is Williams-BMW’s right to not interfere in its drivers’ race tactics and/or manipulate the outcome of a grand prix (an action that the FIA has forbidden). But given the tight competition between all three of the front-running teams, and the fact that team orders may come too late if one of the Williams-BMW drivers drop out of the title race toward the latter end of the season, are the odds not stacked against Ralf winning the title?


Consider that current championship leader Michael Schumacher – still the driver to beat in 2003 – has the entire Ferrari team organised to maximise his chances of winning the crown again. His team boss, Jean Todt, is also unlikely to chide the five-time champion in the media if he makes a mistake or fails to perform up to standard.