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.

For

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.

Against

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. George (@george) said on 26th April 2012, 18:24

    I think your ‘Against’ section pretty much covers my view, Keith. It’s far too early in the season to be deciding who should be number one in a team. As it was Grosjean let him go pretty easily so it was a bit of a non-issue.

  2. Ciaran (@ciaran) said on 26th April 2012, 18:24

    I voted yes. People are correct in saying it didn’t necessarily cost Kimi victory, but the team should make every effort to ensure that one of their drivers takes the top spot. F1 is both a driver and a team sport, and in this case I feel that the advantage should have been handed to Raikkonen, as Grosjean wouldn’t have been disadvantaged by the order – he would be overtaken anyways.

  3. OOliver said on 26th April 2012, 18:30

    You don’t see the team principal of Lotus coming on air to say, “we allow our drivers to race”, they showed that on track. This is a welcome change from the Briatore years, where a ‘button’ would have been pressed and car two self distructs.
    The proper thing was what they did, gave Grosjean some laps to respond before playing the strategy card. Even they didn’t expect to be so close to the lead after only just a handful of laps.

  4. I think it depends on the team’s priorities.

    If getting the best possible performance from each car and driver was the aim, then telling Grosjean to allow the faster Kimi (on a different strategy) past quickly would have made sense as neither would have wasted time and Kimi would have had a crack at overtaking Vettel earlier. If, however, team pride in no team orders was the priority, then the drivers had to work with that, even if it slowed them both down to some extent, Kimi being blocked for a while and Grosjean having to defend. (Having said that it probably was necessary at some stage to have the two drivers take on each other just to get the experience and to be evaluated on that point by the team.)

  5. adiai (@adiai) said on 26th April 2012, 18:47

    If its a team sport, there is nothing wrong with using team orders, they should not have been made illegal from 2003 to 2010….team orders have been around since the beginning of automobile racing…

  6. F1Yankee (@f1yankee) said on 26th April 2012, 18:59

    there’s nothing wrong with issuing orders to players in order to achieve the maximum result possible. in what other team sport are instructions not allowed?

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 26th April 2012, 23:43

      I expect it has something to do with how the much of the fanbase, being the casual viewer, interprets the sport. I would hazard a guess that they see F1 as an individual sport so why should these guys at a desk pit-side decide the outcome? @f1yankee

      • DASMAN (@dasman) said on 27th April 2012, 13:35

        Honestly, I think even the casual viewer is smart enough to realize its a team sport. Its pretty obvious.

        I’ll throw in a cricket analogy seeing as we’re referring to other team sports. a batsman is on 96 not out, yet his team want to declare the innings as they are running out of time to pursue a win. Do they let the batsman scratch another 4 runs from somewhere and cost them a potential victory? Or do they play as a team and call him in? As hard as it may be, it always has to be the latter.

  7. I think they should do as Red Bull do and let their drivers race; anyway I don’t think Räikkonen would’ve overtaken Vettel, he just would have driven faster earlier and maintained the gap.

  8. Fixy (@fixy) said on 26th April 2012, 19:47

    No, certainly. Kimi passed Grosjean quite fastly and easily, as the French didn’t oppose.

  9. -billadama- (@billadama-2) said on 26th April 2012, 20:07

    if they start to use team order again the races would be a lot more boring, without team order we can see who of the tow drivers of the team’s are much good.
    just a scenery what will happen at McLaren with tow champions who would be number one?

  10. Seyr (@seyr) said on 26th April 2012, 20:22

    I believe Lotus should have informed RG to let KR through. Kimi was significantly faster than Romain at that point, and it was obvious he would have gotten past eventually anyways. Lotus should have let Kimi have an easy shot at the victory. In my opinion when your cars are running 2-3 with a strong chance of getting a win, team orders are absolutely justifiable. It’s probably the most justifiable team orders scenario there is, far removed from a 1-2 swap. And Lotus probably surprised even themselves with their performance on Sunday, so who knows when they’ll get a chance for another race win? I don’t think Grosjean would have been psychologically impacted.

  11. sozavele (@formula-1) said on 26th April 2012, 22:12

    I personally feel No, however if they had of done which I respect could have changed the race outcome, would have been good.
    My reasoning to voting no is that I feel that when team orders are used for a victory, the overall victory is tarnished and not won on merit, hence why I said no, I would rather see two drivers grapple it out so then one can challenge the leader than the team say inadvertably, he’s faster than you so let him through.
    But if they had of done they could have challeneged Vettel as we could have then seen some more batteling but to conclude I am sticking with my point above that if team orders are used for a victory the victory is tarnished as if I won a race with team orders I would not feel like I won a race, so no a victory is not a victory when team orders are involved as it is not done on merit.

  12. Lothario said on 26th April 2012, 22:44

    Anything to beat Vettel :)

  13. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 26th April 2012, 23:39

    I didn’t expect this poll to be so tight, I’m surprised. Or not. Given the fact that it’s everyone’s favourite Finn.

    I say no, team orders would have been unnecessary. I’m sure it didn’t cross their mind at the time, but Lotus are in a position where they are a top team with one pretty much inexperienced driver and another who took a 2 year break. They perhaps need to establish their drivers on track in a more ‘organic’ fashion, particularly so early in the season. With 16 races to go, you don’t want handbags in the garage.

  14. xeroxpt (@) said on 27th April 2012, 0:18

    I only voted yes because i’m pretty sure they wont get another chance, Enstone usually starts strong even though they are praising their economical condition, i think that as long as it is hot Red Bull will win every race again, the car was very easy to drive in Bahrain.

  15. Dave (@davea86) said on 27th April 2012, 5:28

    I think they should have told Grosjean to let him through. The team’s job is to get the most points possible. It wouldn’t have held up Grosjean enough to change his finishing position and worst case for Raikkonen is that he finishes 2nd, which he did anyway so nothing to lose.

    Now they’ve set a precedent so if Grosjean has a chance at a win and Raikkonen doesn’t, they can’t tell Raikkonen to move over otherwise they’re favouring one driver over the other and they’d cop as much criticism as they would if they’d used team orders in Bahrain.

    The fairest way to do it while still getting the most points for the team is to always let the fastest driver through unless they are on exactly the same strategy and directly racing each other.

    I also don’t think there’s any point in banning team orders again because it’s impossible to police. Teams can, and most likely have, done it in a much more subtle way in the past than Ferrari’s ham fisted attempt in Germany 2010. Instead of having constant arguments and accusations of possible cheating when it’s impossible to prove either way, just keep it legal.

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