Team orders and Formula 1 – Does the ban still make sense ?

Felipe Massa, helped Kimi in Brazil, helped by Kimi in Shanghai

Felipe Massa, helped Kimi in Brazil, helped by Kimi in Shanghai

The way Felipe Massa overtook Kimi Raikkonen yesterday in Shanghai sparked again some debates on the legality of such move. There were however no such voices coming out of the Formula 1 circles and even the person most affected by that move, Lewis Hamilton, accepted what has happened as normal team work.

The team orders used to be normal practice in Formula 1. However the 2002 Austrian GP fiasco, when Rubens Barrichello was ordered to slow down before the start finish line to allow Michael Schumacher to take the win, resulted in ban on team orders.

So officially the team orders are banned, specificaly the team orders that can affect the outcome of the race. But despite the ban they are still around, used and generally accepted and even predicted. Only the last 2 seasons brought several high profile occurences of team orders:

2007 Monaco GP

Fernando Alonso lead the race from the start but later on his then McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton began to catch him. The excited crowd expected some sort of attack from Hamilton. But then a call from pit wall came and Hamilton was asked to back off to prevent some incident in the narrow walled streets of Monaco. Lewis Hamilton opened his mouth a bit too much during the press conference, investigation followed but nothing happened.

Team orders or not ? Yes
Expected ? Perhaps
Did they make sense ? Yes

2007 Brazilian GP

The 2007 season finale featured 3 way battle for the title involving 2 McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Felipe Massa was out of the picture. Most of us will still remember that race. Lewis Hamilton first overcooked it in the opening sequence of corners then suffered some sort of mechanical problems and felt back down the grid. In the meantime Felipe Massa was running away and Kimi Raikkonen followed. However unlikely it looked before the race Kimi Raikkonen was within the reach of drivers title. All that he needed was to overtake Massa. The Ferrari pit crew took care of it. After pit stops Kimi Raikkonen emerged ahead of Felipe Massa who had to give up his home win to let his team mate win the championship. I believe there were very few people who expected Massa going on to win that race in those circumstances.

Team orders or not ? Yes
Expected ? Definitelly
Did they make sense ? Yes

2008 German GP
It was far from being the title deciding race but how handy those points come now … Not exactly the best tactical call of the season relegated Lewis Hamilton way back down the grid following Safety Car appearance at Hockenheim. But once Hamilton emerged from the pitlane he put the foot down and there was no stopping him. When he closed down on at that moment slower Heikki Kovalainen, his team mate simply stepped aside and let Hamilton pass. Lewis Hamilton yesterday compared this incident to what has happened between Massa and Raikkonen in Shanghai.

Team orders or not ? Yes
Expected ? Probably
Did they make sense ? Yes

2008 Chinese GP
We all could see what happened yesterday. It was obvious to everybody following the championship that there was simple no way Kimi would finish ahead of Massa with the way the race was going. I believe that nobody had to tell Kimi on the radio what to do. He simply did what anyone would have done (well perhaps unless it was Hamilton vs Alonso last year or Senna vs Prost some years back :-) ).

Team orders or not ? Yes
Expected ? Definitelly
Did they make sense ? Yes

These are only four selected cases but there sure were many more happening since that 2002 Austrian GP incident. Were these against the spirit of competition ? I do not think so. Were they followed by any outrage from fans or competitors ? No, although they usually resulted in some debates.

All these four cases of “team orders” however made perfect sense. At the end Formula 1 is a team sport and no matter what the rules say, the drivers will always (or on most ocassions) follow what is better for the team. They may not get the “order” but they will always be told in advance what is expected of them …

So does the ban on team orders make any sense ?

Photo: Shell Motorsport

4 Comments Post a Comment
  1. draconteNo Gravatar says:

    do you forgot in 2008 canadian GP kubica-heidfeld all the people praised the great fellowship between the two drivers of BMW, because of this bmw earned his first victory.

    Lauda said that the situations are not comparable. (schumacher-barrichello)
    “For me what has happened is perfectly logical,” said the great Austrian RTL. “There were two cars, one capable of becoming world champion, and one not.” “It is completely logical, and the viewer can understand,” he said.

    the drivers are playing for two thins.
    1- for the drivers championship
    2- for the team championship

    kimi haven’t play for the drivers championship and have a teammate that can win. why not?
    the drivers championship is much important for the constructors than the team championship.

  2. SunburntgringoNo Gravatar says:

    What about Hungary 2007? Lewis Hamilton ignores team orders and is payed back by Alonso.

    When team orders go wrong by stubborn drivers who think they deserve better in their rookie year.

    Just a thought.

2014 Teams and Drivers

Red Bull
Sebastian VETTEL
Fernando ALONSO
Adrian SUTIL
Force India
Sergio PEREZ
Felipe MASSA
Valtteri BOTTAS
Toro Rosso
Daniil KVYAT
Jean Eric VERGNE

2014 F1 Calendar

14-16 March - Australia
28-30 March - Malaysia
4-6 April - Bahrain
18-20 April - China
9-11 May - Spain
22-25 May - Monaco
6-8 June - Canada
20-22 June - Austria
4-6 July - Great Britain
18-20 July - Germany
25-27 July - Hungary
22-24 August - Belgium
5-7 September - Italy
19-21 September - Singapore
3-5 October - Japan
10-12 October - Russia
31 October-2 November - USA
7-9 November - Brazil
21-23 November - Abu Dhabi


2010 Mercedes GP F1 Merchandise
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