Was Sauber’s radio message to Perez a team order to help Ferrari?

2012 Malaysian Grand Prix

Sergio Perez, Sauber, Sepang, 2012Sergio Perez drove a superb race in the Malaysian Grand Prix to challenge for victory, ultimately finishing second.

But Sauber’s late instruction to their driver, as he caught Fernando Alonso, telling him to ensure they finished second, aroused suspicion.

Perez was told, “Checo, be careful, we need this position, we need this position,” as he reduced Alonso’s lead from seven seconds to less than one in the closing stages of the race.

On the face of it Sauber may have been prudent to tell Perez not to risk throwing away 18 points for second place.

But the nagging question remains: Why did they wait until he’d caught Alonso before telling him to back off?

If Sauber were happy to settle for second, why did they not instruct him earlier to look after the gap to Lewis Hamilton – who he was comfortably ahead of – and not go chasing after the Ferrari?

It’s doubtful whether Perez paid any heed to the message. He made an error at turn 13 while pushing to pass the Ferrari shortly afterwards and admitted, “the win was possible”.

There are obvious links between the two teams. Sauber are Ferrari engine customers and Perez is a member of Ferrari’s driver development programme. He has been tipped to take Felipe Massa’s place at the team.

Ferrari have allegedly used Sauber to interfere in races in the past. Former Sauber driver Norberto Fontana has said he was told by Ferrari team principal Jean Todt to assist Michael Schumacher during the 1997 European Grand Prix, when Schumacher was racing Jacques Villeneuve for the world championship.

Whatever happened today, it shouldn’t detract from a marvellous performance by both drivers. Nor is it realistic to suggest Perez’s late mistake at turn 13 was him ‘throwing’ the race – when the less risky option of simply backing off was available to him.

Was the radio message another example of Ferrari leaning on Sauber to get a better result in a race?

Or was this Sauber racing conservatively and settling for their first podium finish as an independent team since Heinz-Harald Frentzen finished third at Indianapolis in 2003?

Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Was Perez's radio message a team order to help Ferrari?

  • Yes (27%)
  • No (65%)
  • No opinion (8%)

Total Voters: 671

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174 comments on Was Sauber’s radio message to Perez a team order to help Ferrari?

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  1. Jose said on 26th March 2012, 6:53

    Ferrari pulled out from FOTA over cost dispute, later Sauber following same suit without any reason.

  2. Carrera 6 said on 26th March 2012, 8:08

    Why in the world is everyone so up in arms about the idea of team orders? They are now, by the Sporting Regulations, legal. They have been used in racing of all venues not just F1. There are after all two championships going on there, drivers and constructors and to have the constructors looking out for their interests is perfectly understandable. Let’s not forget that F1 is no longer a gentleman’s sport but a cut throat multi-billion dollar business where team orders, spying and stealing data and intellectual property happen all the time. I say get over it and enjoy the spectacle that F1 had become. By the way I’ve been an F1 fan since the days of Sir Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio, and things are very different today, not better, just a lot different.

    • Trenthamfolk (@trenthamfolk) said on 26th March 2012, 9:40

      “Why in the world is everyone so up in arms about the idea of team orders?”

      Simply because they mean that drivers and teams do not win through merit, but through some other mechanism that is not sport. Team orders discredit F1 as a sport and if a driver can’t win a race without the benefit of team orders, they don’t deserve to be part of F1.

      It may not be cheating (any more) but it is not ‘sporting’ by any stretch of the word.

      • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 26th March 2012, 16:51

        How is it not sporting? It’s a team sport, the team issues instructions that are to its benefit vs other teams. That’s how team sports work.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 26th March 2012, 18:01

          @psynrg As far as rules enforcement goes, I think it would be helpful if we distinguish between two different kinds of team orders:

          ‘Hockenheim 2010-style’ team orders, where one team manipulates the result between its drivers (Ferrari ordering Massa to give up his win for Alonso).

          ‘Jerez 1997-style’ team orders, where two teams collude to influence the result somehow (that one race alone gives yield Ferrari/Sauber and McLaren/Williams as possible examples).

          Now, I happen to think both are wrong and shouldn’t be allowed, but that’s besides the point.

          ‘Hockenheim 2010′-style team orders were legalised at the end of 2010. But at the time ban was lifted there was a lot of talk that ‘Jerez 1997′-style team orders would not be tolerated. The assumption was it would fall under the celebrated article 151(c) on “bringing the sporting into disrepute”.

          But it remains to be seen if the FIA has any more appetite for enforcing it than it did the previous ban on team orders.

          There is a wider significance, too. There is much discussion about reviving customer cars in some form, but that could lead to further opportunities for, and accusations of, collusion between teams.

  3. Trenthamfolk (@trenthamfolk) said on 26th March 2012, 9:32

    Alonso drove a great race, and took full advantage when the race shook down in the end. I take nothing away from him, aside from those gawd-awful sunglasses!

    I think the reason that there was suspicion raised, is because Ferrari have a long and sad history of cheating and and issuing (often illegal) team orders, to the massive discredit of themselves and the sport. Is it any wonder no-one believes the Prancing Ponies to be clear-cut?

  4. Sam Hain said on 26th March 2012, 16:45

    Just because other teams use inter-team politics to throw hookey results doesn’t get away from the fact that it’s CHEATING!! This is why Briatore was banned from F1. I’m hoping it doesn’t become any more evident that Whitmarsh is scuppering Hamilton (there’s circumstantial evidence for this already – if it’s the lead car that gets first pitstop- which they made such a fuss about in Aus – why wasn’t Lewis brought in first in sepang). We know about Red Bull and Webber.Inter-team orders to save losing points is one thing, but if it means fans getting excited that history is going to be made, when a smaller team is probably going to win, but there’s actually no political way it can happen – that’s fundamentally NOT racing. Ferrari should be big enough to say – we got a good result today – there’s no saying Perez would’ve def passed Fernando. If they lost they should be broad shouldered enough to say – yes, and make no mistake Sauber are actually an extremely talented organisation that went with their racing acumen before their business acumen and hail them for it!!! Doesn’t bode well for future upsets like this that F1 is so well known and loved for.

  5. Carrera 6 said on 26th March 2012, 17:05

    Yes, Sergio is a very racy driver, and has done some exceptional things in F1 so far, but lets us not forget the guy he was chasing down kept the invincable Michael Shumacher behind him for a win wqhen Michael was driving for Ferrari and Fernando was driving for Renault. Catching FA is one thing, getting past him is another thing entirely.

    • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 26th March 2012, 17:17

      Agreed, but not with DRS and absurd rules that mean you cannot adequately defend an attack. Never mind speculative team order scenarios. The aforementioned is fact.

      Watching Nige (Mansell) on the Sky F1 Heroes series the other day when he was recalling the outrageous battle he had with Senna at Monaco and how it is without a doubt one the greatest or most memorable moments in F1 history. But also that it probably wouldn’t be allowed today because Senna would have been black flagged for blocking tactics.

  6. Jeff W said on 26th March 2012, 18:25

    Team order? No… but had that engineer kept his mic turned off, this article would be about Perez’ first F1 win along with some rumors that he’ll be in a Ferrari seat next season.

  7. PJA (@pja) said on 27th March 2012, 17:50

    It didn’t occur to me that the radio message was a team order to help Ferrari at the time and I still don’t think it was.

    You just have to look back to the Australian GP when Maldonado crashed out when he was in a position to score more points for Williams than they did for all of last season.

    If Williams had sent a similar message last week no one would have thought twice and there would probably have been some praise for making such a call.

    Sauber would have remembered what happened in Australia and didn’t want to risk it, and you could say Perez running wide later on proved them right.

    I didn’t like hearing the radio message as I was cheering on Perez to close the gap and was hoping we would at least get a decent battle for the race win if not a victory for Perez which would have been more unlikely than Alono’s victory.

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