Helping a Driver with Team Orders is Plain Wrong.

Some things never change. Ferrari’s ‘apparent’ use of team orders during Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix was hardly a shock. The ‘win at all costs’ DNA runs deep within the Italian team. Since that day in Austria, nearly 20 years ago, Ferrari have sought domination by throwing support behind a ‘Number 1’ driver.

Two into One

The complexity of Formula 1 is truly unique in the sporting world. The driver/team relationship is not something you can find in many other places. The paradox that this relationship creates in something you have to appreciate whenever you tune in to watch a Grand Prix. The drivers are under contract, they race for their teams. But racing drivers, like any other sporting professional, are there to win above all else. Within a team, there are two drivers aiming for a single step at the top of a podium. This situation has long necessitated the need for team orders.

Team orders have been in Formula 1 since the very early days. Stirling Moss and John Surtees both profited thanks to obliging team mates. They have been as profitable to teams as they have been scandalous in the eyes of the public.

Team orders?

Kimi was all set to become a winner again. That’s what disappointed me most, as a huge Raikkonen fan. What annoyed me further was the fact it was Vettel who reaped the rewards. The fact that Seb would have had the pace to pass Kimi on track at any other circuit anyway, just ruined my day completely. Even if there were no team orders, I’m blaming Ferrari anyway.

The Monaco streets have long been subject to doubt about their suitability to host a Grand Prix. This year was no different. Overtaking was virtually impossible without race ending contact. And so it proved that Vettel would be unable to pass his team mate without some kind of intervention during the pit stops. When Raikkonen pitted first after struggling with traffic and burning up his tyres, the German was able to annihilate his team mate with 2 laps that placed him firmly ahead.

The ‘over-cut’ as it’s known, was highlighted as the only opportunity to overtake during pre-race discussion. If Ferrari had genuinely wanted Kimi to win, it was a horrific strategic error. It was so bad that I don’t think even Ferrari could have made such a howler. Based on that evidence, you have to assume that there was intent to serve Vettel.

Win your own battles

It is unfortunate that Ferrari felt it was necessary to make such a move. The clue is in the name. Team orders should be implemented for the good of the team. The kind of orders given by Jordan at Spa ’98 to ensure both cars finished to maximise the points haul for the team. A driver should have to win his own battles on the track. Should a team decide they do not wish their drivers to risk a strong result, they call off the fight. There should be no preference to one driver over another, at any stage.

When a team begins to make those kinds of decisions, it signifies to me weak leadership. It shows us a management who have submitted to a driver’s demands. Clearly, Sebastian Vettel feels he is more worthy than Kimi Raikkonen, and has voiced that opinion to his team. Mercedes have set the prime example in recent years, both drivers allowed to race. That’s the way it should be. I don’t care that Vettel has more points than Raikkonen, if he is truly worthy, he will continue to score more points until the season is over.

It has been said many times, that team orders have always been, and will continue to be a part of Formula 1. That doesn’t make them right.

(Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)

(Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)

Simon Ostler

I am currently training to become a Journalist. I write best when my subject is something I enjoy. I have spent time working with CAR Magazine and Parkers.

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  1. June 29, 2017

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