Should Lotus have used team orders in Bahrain?

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Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Bahrain, 2012Lotus had their best finish of the year so far in Bahrain, claiming second and third place.

But could they have used team orders to help Kimi Raikkonen take victory? And would they have been right to do so?

In the second stint of the race, Raikkonen was running in third place on new tyres while team mate Romain Grosjean, second, was on used rubber.

Grosjean was doing similar lap times to leader Sebastian Vettel, while Raikkonen was catching the pair of them at around four tenths of a second per lap.

By lap 21, Raikkonen was within a second of his team mate, with Vettel a further 5.4 seconds up the road.


Raikkonen lost around two seconds trying to pass his team mate. Had Lotus radioed Grosjean on lap 20 with a clear instruction to move over for his team mate, Raikkonen might have saved that time and caught Vettel sooner, giving him a greater opportunity to overtake.

Lotus would not have been breaking the rules by doing this. The ban on team orders, which was introduced in 2003, was lifted at the end of 2010.

One team which did use team orders during the race was Force India, who instructed Nico Hulkenberg to let Paul di Resta past.


Team orders may no longer be illegal, but that doesn’t mean teams have to use them, nor that they’re always desirable. Giving second-rate treatment to one driver is not the way to get the best out of them.

Raikkonen was able to pass Grosjean of his own accord after a few laps. It’s by no means certain Raikkonen would have passed Vettel had he caught him sooner. In the third stint he only caught the Red Bull at around two to three tenths of a second per lap, and after a single attempt at a move at turn one he slipped back again.

Force India used team orders because their drivers were on significantly different strategies, unlike the two Lotuses.

I say

Lotus had every inducement to use team orders in Bahrain, so it’s interesting that they chose not to. It’s a reminder that not all teams treat their drivers the same way.

Raikkonen lost more time earlier in the race falling behind Felipe Massa. That, plus the difficulty he had passing Vettel when he caught him, means we can say quite confidently that not using team orders did not cost Lotus a certain win here.

It’s not hard to imagine how other teams would have handled the situation differently. Had the two cars been Ferraris, with Fernando Alonso catching Felipe Massa, we surely would have seen an early call for Massa to make way – after all, Ferrari had no compunction about doing so when team orders were illegal.

While Lotus would have been within their rights to use team orders on Sunday, they should be applauded for not doing so and leaving their drivers to sort it out for themselves.

I would prefer to see the FIA bring back and enforce the team orders ban to ensure all teams do likewise in future.

You say

Should Lotus have used team orders on Sunday? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Should Lotus have used team orders in Bahrain?

  • Yes (43%)
  • No (48%)
  • No opinion (9%)

Total Voters: 420

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Update: It seems there was a message from Lotus to Grosjean telling him to move over for Raikkonen. Details in the comments.

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126 comments on Should Lotus have used team orders in Bahrain?

  1. AJ (@aj13) said on 26th April 2012, 13:06

    I voted yes because team orders are not restricted, and you should do the best for the team in this case, not favour or disadvantage another. Another 7 points would mean a lot to Lotus.

    However, I think team orders should be banned and this ban should be rigorously enforced by the FIA. But then the FIA can’t enforce the rules it has re:…… NO NO here I go again.

  2. ECWDanSelby (@ecwdanselby) said on 26th April 2012, 13:08

    Also, if it were Romain P1 and Kimi P2, i’d say it’d be very wrong to swap the order.

    But if you got one driver on the quicker tyre being slightly held up by your guy infront of him on the slower tyre, and you’re in P2 and P3, that’s entirely different.

  3. Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 26th April 2012, 13:27

    I think yes. Though with the other circumstances it’s likely it wouldn’t have made too much difference, the team should do everything possible to maximise any chance one of their drivers has of winning.

  4. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 26th April 2012, 13:31

    They’ve should’ve told Grosjean that his tyres were older than Kimi’s.
    And let him decide.
    So, I voted No opinion.

    • James (@jamesf1) said on 26th April 2012, 21:45

      Exactly what I was thinking. As many have pointed out in this thread, it is a team sport. So, that being the case, it should have been down to the key members of this team to read the situation. Although I guess you try telling that to an F1 driver…!

  5. Girts (@girts) said on 26th April 2012, 13:32

    No. I would have enjoyed seeing Raikkonen win the race instead of Vettel but team orders would have been unfair towards Grosjean. As mentioned in the article, both drivers were not on significantly different strategies.

    I would prefer to see the FIA bring back and enforce the team orders ban to ensure all teams do likewise in future.


  6. John H (@john-h) said on 26th April 2012, 13:36

    I think no. It’s up to Grojean to decide whether to race or let him through. If I had the data on the team wall, I would have suggested to Romain that it might help the chance of a race win to let RAI through, but ultimately leave it up to him to decide.

  7. It wasn’t the two seconds Kimi lost behind Romain that cost Lotus the win. It was the Lotus team being too cautious on pitting Kimi for his third stop. If they had pitted him a lap or two earlier, then he probably would have got Sebastian on the undercut when the Red Bull made it’s third stop.

  8. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 26th April 2012, 13:42

    From the team principal’s perspective, I would’ve used it to give ourselves a better shot at victory. Would it have changed the result? I doubt it. Vettel is not a super overtaker, but he’s a magnificent defender, and I think no matter what happened, he had Kimi covered.

  9. Flying Lobster 27 said on 26th April 2012, 13:42

    I think a full team order ban, like the one we had, is too much. Late in the season, at the last 2-3 rounds in which the title race is finally poised and we know who really is in the running, I’d have no trouble seeing teams putting the man who still has a chance forward. I have also little trouble with orders for lower positions, because drivers are on different strategies or to make a team-mate’s charge back up the field easier (eg the alleged order to Kovalainen when he was at McLaren).
    But beyond that, each driver must make his own points, even against his team-mate, until the final candidates are known. For example, it was not clear at Hockenheim 2010 that Alonso would be a title contender 5-6 races later, as he was 50 points – two full races! – behind the leader at the time. Add to that the possibility of a fairytale return to P1 for Massa a year to the day after his accident; that order really was misplaced on the day, although in the long term it nearly did allow Alonso to become champion.
    I think the two orders that are most harmful to the sport and should not be allowed and should be punished severely are:
    a) asking a driver to delibaretely crash, which is acceptable under no circumstances,
    b) asking a driver to give away the lead or a podium position, unless late in the year as explained.
    The “hold position” order isn’t as bad as b) in my opinion, as in case b) the team really is robbing a driver of his lead, but if the gap is substantial enough, holding positions makes sense.

    • Asanator (@asanator) said on 26th April 2012, 13:50

      A team could use team orders under the previous ban if one of their drivers was fighting for the championship.

      With the 2010 Ferrari situation, yes Alonso was behind in the championship, but no-where near as far behind as Massa who was effectively already out of that years Championship, and although it was early in the season, it did give Alonso the chance to be World Champ at the last race, so for me it was justified, if a little clumsy.

  10. Asanator (@asanator) said on 26th April 2012, 13:43

    I voted no opinion.

    Ordinarily I would have voted one way or the other, but I don’t think Lotus believed they were in with a shout for victory. They were more interested in consolidating their points position and not making the same mistakes that they made in China as evidenced by their reactionary final stop.

  11. rdpunk (@) said on 26th April 2012, 13:49

    If they did use team orders, could you really think that Kimi could of overtook Vettel and kept the lead? I think that Kimi would of got close, but Red Bull would of just got the under cut and pitted before Kimi. If as someone above stated, was going to decide a title then obviously let him pass, but letting him pass just to swap podium places around doesn’t seem fair. It would of ruined the race for both of them, Kimi did well from 11th I think it was and Grosjean had a very quick, solid race and to be demoted to 3rd via a team order would of damaged him that’s for sure.

  12. Jenkins (@jenkins) said on 26th April 2012, 14:10

    Yes they should have used team orders. A simple “Kimi is on a different strategy to you don’t defend the position” or something along those lines would have been fine. It wouldn’t have had a negative impact, both Lotus would still be on the podium just Kimi had a a better chance to fight for the top step for the team. And Grosjean would have even saved tyres himself by not defending against Kimi.
    I can’t remember how strongly GRO was defending but that is how I feel about that situation.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 26th April 2012, 19:35

      “It wouldn’t have had a negative impact”

      I would agree if KR and RG were on such different strategies that this would have been a no-brainer, practically not needing a team order such was it’s obviousness. But I don’t get that impression, or else they would have done the order.

      Otherwise, I think a team order in only race 4 of the season would have hit RG pretty hard psychologically, and I think there would have been a lot of F1 fans negatively impacted at seeing the racing taken out of F1 so early in the season.

  13. sparkus88 (@sparkus88) said on 26th April 2012, 14:19

    I’m not a fan of team orders when its just to benefit switch drivers places but when it benefits the team as a whole then I can understand and accept it. For example if the had let kimi past and he won the the race thats extra points for the team but if the lotus cars were 1-2 and they order grosjean to let kimi past that would be wrong.

  14. louise.1987 (@louise-1987) said on 26th April 2012, 14:34

    No. why should Grosjean move for him that takes the fun out of the racing for us. its not like he lost the race because of it. ok he could of caught up with Sebastian Vettel sooner but i think he could he have tried a few more time on both! I dont like team orders think they should ban them again! x

  15. me262 said on 26th April 2012, 14:39

    in F1 Manager 1996 i would have left Kimi behind Grosjean. He would have pushed Grosjean to do good lap times as if he was on fresh rubber too ;)

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