Top 10 Team Orders Controversies in Formula One
The Japanese Grand Prix yet again saw the issue of team orders rear its ugly head as Felipe Massa received the instruction “multi-function strategy A now, please” which was a message to let teammate Fernando Alonso past.
Massa appeared not to observe the message to concede his fifth place position with Alonso having to fight his own way through.
It is not the first time this season that team orders have raised eyebrows.
Notably in Malaysia, it caused a stir when Sebastian Vettel chose to ignore his team’s “multi-21” order to maintain station behind Mark Webber and again at the recent Korean Grand Prix when Romain Grosjean was unhappy at being ordered to let Kimi Raikkonen overtake.
Team orders have always played a part in F1 over the years but have not always been popular for fans of the sport and drivers on the receiving end.
Here then are 10 of the most memorable and controversial in chronological order.
10. Luigi Fagioli and Juan Manuel Fangio: France 1951
Team orders have been a part of Formula One from the outset, and in the days when shared cars were allowed, Alfa Romeo instructed Luigi Fagioli to swap cars with team leader Juan Manuel Fangio after the Argentine had run into trouble early in the race.
Fagioli obliged and the pair scored a shared victory although the Italian was not happy about having his hand forced in such a manner and he quit the team immediately afterwards.
9. Luigi Musso, Peter Collins and Juan Manuel Fangio: Italy 1956
Fangio was no stranger to team orders in the years that followed and obeyed Mercedes’ request to allow Stirling Moss to win the 1955 British Grand Prix.
A year later during the 1956 Italian Grand Prix, Fangio was eight points clear of teammate Peter Collins going into the final round but when he retired with a broken steering arm, Ferrari asked Luigi Musso to hand his car to Fangio. The Italian refused.
Collins, however, voluntarily stepped aside in the greatest act of sportsmanship in the history of F1, surrendering his own chances of a first title and Fangio finished second to seal a third successive and fourth world title.
8. Carlos Reutemann and Alan Jones: Brazil 1981
After an extremely successful 1980 partnership that saw Alan Jones win the drivers’ title and Williams the constructors’ title with a then-record 120 points, the teammates went into the 1981 season in high spirits.
But relationships soured when Reutemann disobeyed the team’s orders to concede the lead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, ignoring messages from his pit board to do so.
Reutemann arrived in Las Vegas for the final round of the season leading the championship by a point but went on to finish eighth, losing the title by a point to Nelson Piquet.
7. Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi: San Marino 1982
Many fans of the great Gilles Villeneuve blame team orders for contributing to his tragic death.
Villeneuve felt duped when his French Ferrari teammate defied team orders to overtake him during the closing laps and win the San Marino Grand Prix and he vowed never to talk to him again.
Two weeks later a still enraged Villeneuve was killed in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix whilst trying to beat his team-mate’s time.
6. Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna: San Marino 1989
Team orders between bitter rivals Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna were never going to sit easily and so it transpired at the 1989 San Marino Grand Prix.
The race had been restarted following a serious looking accident involving Gerhard Berger at Tamburello, and although Prost got away better, Senna swept past him on the run down to Tosa and that is how they finished.
Following the race, however, Prost said that McLaren had a pre-race agreement that whoever led into the first turn should stay there and Senna had broken this agreement which was ironically his own suggestion.
5. Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard: Australia 1998
McLaren is a team well respected for its philosophy of letting its drivers race for victory and it has often cost them dear.
So it was something of a surprise when, seemingly in control of the race, David Coulthard allowed Mika Hakkinen past towards the end of the Australian Grand Prix.
Afterward it became apparent that the pair had decided on a pre-race agreement that whoever led at the first corner would go on to win the race.
Following the incident, the World Motorsport Council decided that "any future act prejudicial to the interests of competition should be severely punished in accordance with article 151c of International Sporting Code.
4. Damon Hill and Ralf Schumacher: Belgium 1998
When Michael Schumacher drove into the back of David Coulthard in dreadful conditions at Spa-Francorchamps in 1998, the Jordan team found itself in the enviable position of having its cars first and second in a race for the first time.
The problem was that second placed Ralf Schumacher was lapping quicker than leader Damon Hill, putting the team in a tricky situation as to whether to let the pair race and risk an incident or maintain position.
Hill made his case clear over the team radio and fortunately for him both the team and Schumacher behind him bowed to his instruction, although the latter was clearly unhappy at having to do so.
3. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello: Austria 2002
Perhaps the most blatant use of team orders came at the Austrian Grand Prix of 2002.
Rubens Barrichello had driven a superb race and was cruising to a deserved victory when he was ordered to let team leader Michael Schumacher past. The reason was so he could collect the maximum points in his race for the drivers’ championship.
Barrichello obliged and slowed to let Schumacher past on the last lap to the jeers of the crowd that continued throughout the podium ceremony. In response, Schumacher allowed Barrichello up onto the top step of the podium and even gave him the winners’ trophy.
As a result, Barrichello, Schumacher and Ferrari were fined a million U.S. dollars for the failure to observe Article 170 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations concerning the podium ceremony.
In the wake of the incident, the FIA banned the use of team orders to affect the result of a race.
2. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa: Germany 2010
Team orders were still officially outlawed in 2010 but it did not appear to be the case in the minds of Ferrari whose thinly veiled attempt at disguising a team order was totally transparent to everybody watching.
Felipe Massa was leading the race from teammate Fernando Alonso when his race engineer Rob Smedley came over the radio to say “Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm that you understood that message?”
Massa grudgingly obliged and eventually pulled aside to let Alonso past and at the end of the season the FIA lifted their ban on team orders on the basis that it was too difficult to police.
1. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber: Malaysia 2013
“Multi-21 Seb”, scowled Mark Webber to his teammate in the wake of the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix after Vettel deliberately disobeyed a direct team order to maintain position behind the Australian.
The drivers had clashed before, notably in Turkey in 2010 and team boss Christian Horner wanted to avoid another such incident at the start of the season. But Vettel did not see it that way and passed Webber who had already turned his engine down for the remaining laps.
Vettel apologised afterward saying that it had not been fair on Webber but later retracted it saying that he was racing, was faster and won the race.