F1′s unwritten rules: team orders edition

How can Ferrari use Raikkonen to help Massa without getting in trouble?

How can Ferrari use Raikkonen to help Massa without getting in trouble?

Carlos Di Bello asked this question vis Skribit:

Does “Help from Kimi Raikkonen (or Heikki Kovalainen)” mean “Team orders”? Is it legal? Can teams encourage it?

As we all know, team orders are banned. But we also know teams can get away with doing certain things to manipulate the running order of their drivers. What can and can?t they get away with?

The rules

Team orders were banned in Formula 1 after Ferrari?s actions during the 2002 season. The team infamously ordered Rubens Barrichello to surrender what would have been a hard-fought win over Michael Schumacher in Austria.

Ferrari are not the only F1 team to have used team orders, nor are team orders a recent invention. But public criticism of F1 following the A1 Ring farce was so vehement the FIA decided a repeat of such blatant race-fixing would not be in the sports? best interests.

Thus article 39.1 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations states quite explicity:

39.1 Team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited.

Does this mean team orders are banished in F1? No, the teams are just a lot more subtle about it.

Sleight of hand

To spot the occasions where teams have influenced race outcomes in the past 12 months you don?t need to be a cynic – just a realist.

Ferrari shuffled Felipe Massa out of Kimi Raikkonen?s path at Interlagos last year to deliver the drivers? championship to his team mate; Nick Heidfeld presented Robert Kubica with no resistance at Montreal this year, allowing Kubica to score the team?s maiden victory; Heikki Kovalainen refrained from racing Lewis Hamilton at Hockenheim in the closing stages.

A brutally tough interpretation of article 39.1 could brand any of these decisions as interference with a race result.

But, as we discussed a few weeks ago, unwritten rules play just as big a role in how F1 works. In the case of team orders, teams can get away with a lot of things you might expect Article 39.1 to prevent. They would have to be quite blatant to get caught and punished.

Why did the stewards leave McLaren, Ferrari and BMW alone in these examples? Probably because there was no radio communication between team and driver beforehand giving an instruction, as we heard at Austria in 2002 (“Let Michael past for the championship, Rubens, please” – Jean Todt.) Presumably the teams now tell their drivers beforehand what is expected of them in these situations.

At Interlagos last year, Massa was out of the championship running and was surely told by the team before the race that if he could guarantee the championship for Raikkonen by moving aside he must do it. In the event, with a comfortable one-two, Ferrari were able to take the most low-profile way of pulling the old switcheroo – doing it via the pit stops.

Similarly it makes sense for teams not to allow their drivers to hold each other up when the following car is much faster than the leading one ?ǣ as was the case for BMW and McLaren this year in the other examples above.

Suzuka 2006 – Toyota

\'Jarno, let Ralf past!\' \'La la la la I can\'t hear you la la la la la...\'

'Jarno, let Ralf past!' 'La la la la I can't hear you la la la la la...'

If teams are going to manipulate the race outcome it surely makes sense for them not to discuss it on the radio. In an unusual incident in 2006 Toyota did just that.

Jarno Trulli was ordered three times to move over for Ralf Schumacher at Suzuka ?ǣ but refused. The team were not investigated for the incident, but might it have been different if Trulli had let Schumacher past? Or if Toyota had been one of the teams in contention for the championship?

It is surely not something either Ferrari or McLaren would risk this year.

Monaco 2007 – McLaren

The 2007 Monaco Grand Prix is a useful precedent. During the race, McLaren brought second-placed Lewis Hamilton into the pits several laps ahead of his planned pit stop. An unimpressed Hamilton complained this robbed him of the chance to press home a strategic advantage over Fernando Alonso, who was leading.

The FIA investigated the incident but agreed with McLaren?s defence that Hamilton?s pit stop had been brought forward to keep him from being caught out by the ??pit lane closure? rule if the safety car was deployed (which we discussed earlier this week).

More extreme team orders

Letting your team mate past is one thing, but what about more aggressive team orders ?ǣ like delaying your team mate?s rival?

This is something we haven?t seen much of recently. Perhaps that?s because no-one?s had the need and the opportunity. Or perhaps the teams have been quietly told they will be hauled over the coals if they do it.

In 1999 alone we saw David Coulthard holding up Michael Schumacher (Suzuka), Michael Schumacher holding up Mika Hakkinen (Sepang), and Mika Salo holding up Ralf Schumacher (Spa-Francorchamps) for tactical reasons. This year, with the Finnish McLaren and Ferrari drivers likely to be reduced to supporting their team mates? title bids over the final races, their teams might be tempted to try more of the same – if they know they can get away with it.

What team orders should teams be allowed to use ?ǣ all, some or none? Have your say in the comments.

This article was suggested by Carlos Di Bello using Skribit. To suggest an idea for an F1 Fanatic article, use the Skribit box in the middle column on this page. You can also vote for other people’s article ideas.

Advert | Go Ad-free

41 comments on F1′s unwritten rules: team orders edition

  1. Well ask Honda they specialise in that

  2. Oliver said on 3rd October 2008, 13:36

    Keith now u mention that Fontana episode. In Canada, Vettel held Alonso up so badly at the hairpin, that Kimi went past. We later saw Kimi wave to Vettel. The manner in which he made Alonso lose momentum struck me as real odd at the time.

  3. schumi the greatest said on 3rd October 2008, 14:03

    I Havent got a problem with team orders, as a few have mentioned the teams are spending millions on running their team its up to them whiuch driver finishes in front in my opinion, the drivers are employees of the team.

    The Ferrari incident, well i can see peoples point because schumahcer already had a good lead in the championship by that point, but what if it had gone pear shaped from then on in the same people who criticised ferrari for letting shcumacher pass rubens would have said they were stupid for letting rubens win.
    Formula 1 is a sport but its alos a business the amount of money involves places alot of pressure on people to succeed. ferrari were paying scumacher $25million a year to win the world championship, they didnt care whether rubens one the odd race, all they were concerned with was winning. i’d agree they overstepped the mark but its all part of the sport in my opinion.

    if you look at sport in general, people cut corners to succeed, football for example, players winding eachother up to get an advantage, subtle things like that are a big part of sport. I dont thinki anyone who really understands sport can complain about team orders, especially at the highest level when there’s so much money involved.

    i hope it doesnt decide the championship this year but if it did i wouldnt be suprised,.

  4. cetainly schumacher knew it and took full advantage but for those of us who just want to see straight racing then accepting that it goes on is another mile down the road of it being accepted practice. It shouldnt be, it should always be criticised and the driver always tainted by it. And certainly schumacher is that.

  5. Chalky said on 3rd October 2008, 14:16

    One example of team orders that I have seen is in ALMS (Penske LMP2 @ Detroit 2008). If you’re team mate is ahead of you, just bring them in for a lengthy check on the car for safety reasons and then send them back out when the team-mate is ahead of them.
    This helped the championship leading car gain some extra points in the closing stages of the race.
    It’s an option that can be implemented at the track.
    However, I have wondered what influence the team could have over a uncooperative team-mate. Can they electronically cut the engine from the pits? Or maybe stick up a false warning light for the driver? :D

    F1 is a team game, and team orders are expected especially to help one driver clinch the title.
    As Oliver said:

    why spend $400 Million and come last.

    Blatant team orders (Ferrari Austria 02) or team agreements (DC \ Hakkinen Australia 1998) should not happen, hence the new rule? I reckon the Hakkinen \ DC one was worse than Ferrari at Austria 2002, as it was the 1st round of the championship. Who in their right mind works to get in F1 and then gives up the chance to win the opening round and lead the championship?

  6. Simon said on 3rd October 2008, 14:35

    F1 is a team sport, there should absolutely be an affect on one car depending on how his team mate is doing. A finn holding up Massa/Hamilton is absolutely right, not necessarily because it helps their team mate, but because it makes their own team more likely to win the Constructor’s Championship.

    I think teams should be able to do whatever they want to increase their chances of winning as a team, but interfering with positions between their own drivers is not on.

  7. Alex Cooper said on 3rd October 2008, 14:57

    This is just one more hazy rule that needs to be cleared up to my mind.

    No-one minds team orders in the last couple of rounds of a championship but to implement them in early spring is a bit of a joke.
    But where’s the cut-off?

  8. Team Orders are as old as motor racing. But I do hate it when they can affect the winner of a race. I kind of like how they are not so blatent in F1, kinda give you the chance to go well, did they need to do that or was it team orders hmmm. A little mystery is fun from time to time.

  9. Keith – You mentioned Norberto Fontana at Jerez in 1997. Interesting race for a team orders discussion – weren’t McLaren and Williams also suspected of colluding to influence the result?

  10. qazuhb said on 3rd October 2008, 15:56

    Thanks Keith, the background info provided is exhaustive, as ever. Didn’t know until now the role fellow Argentinean Fontana played in the Schumy-Jacques brawl!
    I agree with several posters that, if there are teams then orders must follow! It is interesting to note that, had not the “no orders” rule being in effect, perhaps McLaren could have asked Alonso to imitate Massa and make room for the point Hamilton needed to grasp the WDC at Interlagos last season (probably Fernando wouldn’t have submitted anyway, but we’ll never know).
    Another aspect of the question (for me, at least) is that if orders are banned, can bosses make public statements “suggesting” help is needed and so trying to influence their drivers’ own judgement, à la Montezemolo or Domenicali?
    I agree with Alex Cooper, the rule is so hazy it only manages to muddy things further…
    And if a driver takes another out of the track à la Prost-Senna-Schumacher, I think he could be penalized without the need of the “team orders” rule.

  11. An appropriate time of the season to ask this question Keith, with the last three races coming and only seven points separating the top 2.

    As many have stated, team racing would be chaos without team…..orders, or “strategy” if you like. Anything short of condoning collisions should be allowed, including the universally reviled Schumi gift win by Barrichello in Austria.

    Why should teammates not be regulated by their teams based upon the teams judgment of who has the better chance of winning races or championships?

    If you want to avoid team orders limit each team to one car each and find a more economical way of more teams getting into the sport, ala customer cars.

  12. SoLiD said on 3rd October 2008, 18:47

    I tought there also was a (un)written rule about ‘team orders’ stating that they are allowed when it’s championship deciding (like massa – kimi last year)
    Though Ferrari did it quietly…

    But anyway as long as it’s not as abvious as at the A1 ring it’s ok by me… it’s a team sport aswell!

  13. david-br said on 3rd October 2008, 18:51

    Since so much rides now on qualifying, race fuel loads and pit stop strategy, ‘team orders’ are almost there every race. Last year was decided by Massa in two ways: off the grid at the start where he boxed in Lewis (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJmZGtLiIPk) allowing Raikkonen to pull into second, and via the pits as Keith noted. Okay or unsporting? It really depends on whether you see F1 as a team sport (as the teams evidently do) or an individual sport (as the drivers would probably prefer). I can’t see much wrong with a slower team-mate pulling over to allow the faster driver to pass without incident, but for me the opposite (as at Interlagos) denatures F1 somewhat as a sport. You could argue, I suppose, that it’s up to the other teams to ensure the team in question isn’t in a position to exploit this maneouvre.

    The real issue, though, could well be whether a hyped-up Kimi would be ready to ‘take out’ Lewis Hamilton trying to pass him at some point in the last 3 races by basically giving zero room, even if it means a DNF for himself. I really can’t see Heikki doing the same to Massa, but Raikkonen-Hamilton already has history and you just get the feeling Kimi’s dying to do it…

  14. f1feak said on 3rd October 2008, 19:27

    yeah i wont be surprised if kimi nails ham…remember he showed no mercy when ham tried to pass him at spa..

  15. Wesley said on 3rd October 2008, 23:17

    I don’t have a problem with team orders as long as they are subtle,like Massa did for Kimi last year for the championship-perfectly executed.How could you possibly expect them to do anything else in that situation?However,I do not agree with putting another life in danger with aggressive moves like running another off track or,blatant passes that insults the hell out of us race fans.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.