The drivers who defied team orders

F1 history

Carlos Reutemann, Alan Jones, Jacarepagua, 1989In three weeks’ time Ferrari face a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council to examine whether they broke the rules by imposing team orders during the German Grand Prix.

The rule banning team orders was introduced in 2002. We’d seen team orders used many times before then – but not always successfully.

Here are three drivers who refused to let their team mates pass – or overtook them when they weren’t supposed to. Food for thought for Felipe Massa?

Carlos Reutemann

1981 Brazilian Grand Prix

Round: 2 of 15
Points before race: Jones – 9 (first), Reutemann – 6 (second)

The scenario at the 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix was simple. The two Williams cars led from the first lap, Carlos Reutemann ahead of Alan Jones.

According to Reutemann’s contract, should the pair find themselves in the lead of the race, Reutemann was supposed to let Jones win. The pair had swapped positions the previous year, in which Jones had won the world championship.

These being the days before pit-to-car radio, Reutemann was shown a pit board reading “Jones-Reut” – the 1981 equivalent of a cryptic radio message telling him his team mate was faster.

Neil Oatley was manning the pit board and was told several times by Frank Williams to display the order instructing his drivers to change places.

But Reutemann, approaching his 39th birthday and with his home Grand Prix coming up, decided he had other plans. He’d lost a win to Jones at Long Beach a few weeks earlier and wanted to keep this one for himself.

Peter Windsor, who was working for Williams at the time, shed more light on the situation last year in Maurice Hamilton’s book “Williams”:

In 1979 Carlos had a long talk with Gilles Villeneuve before Monza. He told Gilles [to] never play around with the world championship. ‘If you have a chance to win, take it. You’re not going to have many opportunities. Why would you want to give this race to Jody? Don’t even think about it.’

But that’s what Gilles did. And then he was killed in 1982. It upset Carlos a lot that Gilles gave the 1979 championship to Jody and then lost his life.

At that point, in 1981, Gilles was still in the shit and I think Carlos thought, ‘Well, I’m never going to let that happen to me. If I have a chance of winning the world championship, I’m going to take it.’ He knew 1981 was his big chance.
Peter Windsor

Reutemann narrowly lost the world championship to Nelson Piquet in the final round of the world championship. The events of the Brazilian Grand Prix turned him and Jones into bitter rivals.

Didier Pironi

1982 San Marino Grand Prix

Round: 4 of 16
Points before race: Pironi 1 (12th), Villeneuve 0

Surely the most notorious example of team orders gone wrong, because of its tragic consequences.

Ferrari team mates Villeneuve and Didier Pironi held first and second positions in the closing stages of the San Marino Grand Prix.

But on the fast Imola circuit with several long, flat-out sections, fuel consumption was a serious concern for the turbo-powered Ferraris. Both cars had been topped-up on the grid and, once their main rivals had retired, the Ferrari drivers were signalled to “slow”.

Believing that to be a signal to hold position, Villeneuve duly backed off – only for Pironi to storm past him. Villeneuve responded, matched Pironi’s lap times, and took the lead back.

Again he slowed, reducing the pace by around three seconds per laps – and again Pironi blasted by. The exasperated Villeneuve took the place back on the penultimate lap – only for Pironi to pass him for good on the final lap.

Villeneuve was seething – and his mood was not improved when the team initially refused to back up his story. It wasn’t until two days later that Ferrari issued a press release confirming Villeneuve’s version of events.

It was too late to prevent the mood between the drivers turning toxic. Villeneuve vowed never to speak to Pironi again.

During qualifying for the next race at Zolder Villeneuve, trying to better Pironi’s time, hit a slower car and crashed to his death.

Rene Arnoux

1982 French Grand Prix

Round: 11 of 16
Points before race: Prost 19 (fifth), Arnoux 4 (16th)

Ferrari’s disastrous experience with team orders did not stop rivals Renault from trying to impose them too. But, in a repeat of what happened with Reutemann the year before, Rene Arnoux was having none of it.

Arnoux had been with the Renault since 1979 but found his place in the team threatened by Alain Prost who joined them in 1981.

By late 1982 he’d been without race win for over two years and when presented with the opportunity to end his losing streak in his home race, he decided to take it.

Leading by over 20 seconds, Arnoux repeatedly ignored instructions from his team to pull over. Afterwards accusations flew in all directions: senior figures in the team claimed Arnoux had volunteered to give up victory to Prost, which Arnoux denied, while Prost believed they had equal status.

There was little surprise when Arnoux left the team at the end of the year.

In an amusing coda to the story, Prost pulled in at a petrol station later that evening, where the attendant mistook him for Arnoux and congratulated him on beating “that little prick” Prost.

Over to you

There are very likely more stories of ignored team orders that never came to light.

And by no means all team instructions come during a race – Lewis Hamilton famously ignored a request to let Fernando Alonso by during qualifying at Hungary in 2007, which had all kinds of ramifications.

What do you think of drivers who disregard team instructions like these? Whether you think they are entirely correct in protecting their own interests or selfishly putting themselves before their team is probably rooted in your philosophy of F1 racing. Share your point of view in the comments.

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171 comments on The drivers who defied team orders

  1. Ronman (@ronman) said on 19th August 2010, 11:34

    If A driver is well back in the title race, and his teammate is fighting for the title and needs every point he gets, then yeah a subtle change of arms is ok, but i wouldn’t mind if he took the victory for himself.

    Austria 2002 was unnecessary i think, But Shumi did help Irvine when the ulster-man had a chance, and even in Austria 02, Shumi acknowledged that Bar was the actual winner. Alonso’s attitude after he passe Massa was just disgusting, and prove that he is willing to step on anyone to get his way… i think Ferrari should get a stick for it.

    as for ignoring a team order i would never mind it as long as it doesn’t disadvantage the team’s chances for a double whammy like causing a crash and wasting valuable points.

    • Maciek said on 19th August 2010, 13:26

      The only reason Schumacher acknowledged anything at the A1 Ring was that there was instant backlash from the booing crowd in the stands.

      How exactly was Alonso’s attitude ‘disgusting’?

      • David-A (@david-a) said on 19th August 2010, 21:20

        Although he said “after passing Massa”, there was all the radio whingeing and the refusal to acknowledge anything after the race.

        Which is worse than clearly recognising that your teammate deserved to win, boo-boys or no boo-boys.

    • dragon_2712 (@dragon_2712) said on 20th August 2010, 0:52

      um…Schumi COULD acknowledge that Rubens was the moral victor, back then. If Alonso did the same, then most likely instead of the fine they would have been stripped of the 1-2.

  2. Tango said on 19th August 2010, 12:50

    Concerning the “Jenson was told to slow down” comments, I’d like to say : wether Jenson was ignoring team orders or not, wether Lewis was accepting them or not, I’d like to remember the positives :

    1 – We got 2 laps of great wheel to wheel racing, with a superb final pass
    2- If Jenson letting Lewis pass back was Team Order, then it was great show none the less
    3- I actually believe this piece of racing might have given the tone for the Jenson-Lewis relationship and might explain why it hasn’t exploded yet :
    ” – Look, that’s what I’m ready to do to win
    – Look, that’s what I’m ready to do to stop you from doing it.”
    And that included only : race you properly.

  3. Stathis said on 19th August 2010, 15:37

    As far as team orders go. I dont agree with them Id like to see a driver race for his win.

    Saying that though, team orders will unfortunately always be there, teams will always find a way around the rules.

    As far as team orders go with Alonso. I think it has all worked against him.In 2007, it was team orders (with Ferrari) that cost him a 3rd world title. Massa letting Raikkonnen through was the kill factor for Alonso.

    And this years saga with Massa letting Alonso through I believe will work against him too. Even though he won that race. I can see Alonso being in a position to win the title later this year only to have the FIA crucify Ferrari and any chance of Alonso winning a title will be thwarted.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 20th August 2010, 23:02

      “As far as team orders go with Alonso. I think it has all worked against him.In 2007, it was team orders (with Ferrari) that cost him a 3rd world title. Massa letting Raikkonnen through was the kill factor for Alonso.”

      Incorrect. Hamilton would have won the title on countback over Alonso.

  4. calumf1 said on 19th August 2010, 17:05

    I hate people who say BUT IF’s AND BUT’S example:
    “IF THIS didnt happen in HERE then hamilton wouldnt be champion?”
    This is racing this is motorsport AND THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS…

    If we look at it from a different perspective but same context we could simply say “IF hamilton didnt suffer THIS or THAT then he would have had a 15 point lead anyway”

    You get me? :P

  5. Stathis said on 19th August 2010, 17:16

    Calum. Totally understand. You are right.

    But…This topic is about team orders. And im merely trying to point out its ramifications.

    And also, im trying to make a point that based on what happened in that year, the championship was decided by something that nobody wants. Team orders. Take away team orders, and the result would have gone Alonso’s way.

    And talking about team orders. The following year when Glock moved over and let Hamilton through to take the title. To me, that move was very very very sus. I dont care what anyone says, i wouldnt rule out foul play there. Maybe a deal was made on the spot between ron dennis and toyota at the time ? I know im opening up a can of worms here. But…it reeks of foul play to me. I dont care how wet the track was. I could be wrong. But … hmmm. All I can say is that i feel for Massa and his 20 seconds of glory turning into massive disappointment.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 19th August 2010, 17:42

      “The following year when Glock moved over and let Hamilton through to take the title. To me, that move was very very very sus.”

      Nice to know people are always up for a laugh.

    • Patrickl said on 20th August 2010, 22:08

      “I know im opening up a can of worms here.”

      No you are not. On this site there are mostly knowledgeable fans. They just roll their eyes at such stupid remarks.

  6. Damon said on 19th August 2010, 19:39

    Why are people so obsessed with Hamilton? I’ll tell you why, he’s the BEST driver on the grid!!! Full stop!!

  7. Stathis said on 20th August 2010, 0:59

    Best driver on the grid ? Hamilton ?? If you think someone who disobeys a red light in the pit lane and ends up ruining his race as well as 2 other drivers gives him the best drivers award then good luck to you Damon lol.

    • Patrickl said on 20th August 2010, 22:12

      So who’s the best then?

      The guy who doesn’t know how to start in Spain? Doesn’t understand that he cannot overtake over the grass in Silverstone and needs help from his team to overtake his team mate?

      Or maybe the guy who tries to overtake his team mate by suddenly steering into him? The same guy who is sleeping in his car when there is a restart of the race pending.

      Just name your driver and it will be easy to drum up a list of stupidities. Won’t even have to back that far.

  8. jess said on 20th August 2010, 2:53

    You know every time I think I am going to stop watching F1 I come here and see why I stay. Man the drama is just too good to not see.

  9. Reutemann is right, too bad Villeneuve didn’t listen though.

    I probably would have told my team no, I live and die for the championship, absolute no one/nothing comes in between.

  10. Stathis said on 20th August 2010, 22:25

    Patrick. It certainly isn’t Hamilton. Not whilst Alonso is on top of his game anyway.

    Those poor escuses for driver incompetencies which you use to degrade Alonso are pale in comparison to Hamiltons mock ups.

    You would come up short in this argument. As its Hamiltons stupidities that cost him a title in 2007 as Alonso’s team mate. And in 2008.

    At the end of the day. Both are evenly matched. I just happen to favor Alonso. And I believe Alonso has driven better than Hamilton since they stopped being team mates.

    To put in in another perspective. If it want for ‘team orders’. Alonso would now ne a 3 time world champion. Hamilton would be zip !

  11. David Watkins said on 20th August 2010, 23:15

    Hamilton was in his rookie season in 2007. He had no right to even be in the hunt for a title with so little experience. Yet he put himself in the position for you to make ill-informed, moronic comments about him.

    Let’s see. Alonso 2008 v Hamilton 2008, Lewis wins title with some stellar performances and a few cock ups. Alonso is moderately competitive, his team fixed him a win in Singapore and he took an impressive win in Fuji

    In 2009 Hamilton, pound for pound, was the best driver on the grid and Alonso lost interest well before the end

  12. Stathis said on 20th August 2010, 23:33

    2007 Hamilton was excellent. Very few mistakes. He has the ability to lift his game when required. Something he had to do to match Alonso.

    2008 he won the title ultimately because of a very suspicous move by Glock. The mistakes he made that year were so pathetic he didn’t deserve to win the title. If Alonso was in a Mclaren that year he would have won the tile with races to spare.

    In 2009 once again Alonso had a much slower car. How can you say Hamilton was pound for pound the best driver on the grid ? its incomparible. The cars were miles apart in their performance.

    In 2010 I believe Hamilton is having his best year. If he were to be given the best driver on the grid it would be this year, maybe. Not any other.

    In my opinion Hamilton and Alonso are the best drivers on the grid. I prefer Alonso because he has a much more mature driving style, makes fewer mistakes and I like his down to earth no nonsense attitude. People critisize his driving because they dont want him to win. and find pathetic escuses such as radio comments or overtaking manouvres which at the end of the day are just another minor racing incidents.

    He has never run up the backside of another driver that I can recall. And if he has feel free to point it out. Im sure it wouldnt have been as ridiculously stupid as some other drivers have done. Like when Hamilton rear ended Raikki and Kubica in pit lane or….when he actually rear ended Alonso on track ?

    Alonsos driving style is far more complete than Hamiltons. and EVERY year you choose to compare them in the results speak for them selves if you were to go back and analyse every race in detail.

  13. What goes around comes around. Arnoux left Renault at the end of 1982 and never regained his form. Interestingly, Prost would lose favor with Renault too, but unlike the case with Arnoux, the rest is history.

  14. Damon said on 23rd August 2010, 9:43

    Alonso has been destroying massa, but I don’t think Massas been the same since the accident. As for lewis blowing the title in 07 that’s the biggest load of rubbish I heard all year. He made a mistake after the straight and lost a few places but he would have easily recovered and won the title if it wasn’t for the car running in idle for half of a lap

  15. demos12 said on 23rd August 2010, 11:55

    newsflash!
    Max Mosley thinks that ferrari should be stripped of their points from the german gp :)
    he also thinks that the teams want team orders to go, but acknowledges that the FIA has a duty first and foremost to the fans, and for that reason the rule should stay
    http://en.espnf1.com/ferrari/motorsport/story/26271.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

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