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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