Red Bull and Mercedes not the only ones resorting to team orders

2013 Malaysian Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Red Bull and Mercedes attempted to impose team orders on their drivers in Malaysia with varying degrees of success.

But they aren’t the only ones to have done so this year. Team radio excerpts not broadcast on the main television feed reveal more of the orders others teams have issued and the dissent they have faced from some of their drivers.

Here’s what was heard during the first two races including more details on the controversies at Red Bull and Mercedes during yesterday’s Grand Prix.


In Australia at least three teams intervened in the proceedings to impose a running order on their drivers. As early as lap 13 Caterham were orchestrating a position swap between their drivers, telling Charles Pic: “Giedo [van der Garde] will let you past on the main straight. Use DRS.”

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Melbourne, 2013Williams tried to do the same after their drivers’ first pit stops but with less success.

Pastor Maldonado came out of the pits behind Valtteri Bottas on lap 16. Shortly afterwards Bottas’s race engineer Jonathan Eddolls told him “Pastor’s faster than you, don’t hold him up.”

But the change of places never happened. The two FW35s came past the pits for three consecutive laps with Maldonado less than half a second behind his team mate.

A Williams spokesperson told F1 Fanatic the message was given to Bottas “to position the drivers ahead of the pit stops for strategy,” however the teams’ engineers were “comfortable that Valtteri was not able to let Pastor through”. Given they weren’t under immediate threat from cars behind it’s not clear why that was the case.

After being rebuffed by Bottas for several laps Maldonado dropped back and was around five seconds in arrears when Bottas came into the pits. At the very next corner Maldonado spun into retirement.

If Bottas spurned a team instruction in the manner of Vettel, Paul di Resta was grudgingly compliant in the manner of Nico Rosberg.

Di Resta was hauling team mate Adrian Sutil in at a considerable rate in the final stint of the race when Sutil was suffering with graining on his super soft tyres. The team told Di Resta to hold position, though no instructions were heard during the race broadcast.

However after the race Di Resta made his displeasure clear, telling his team it was “unfair on the last lap to stop me pushing”.

Another change of running order between team mates attracted speculation over whether team orders had been involved. Felipe Massa lost a position to Fernando Alonso when he had he advantage of making his second pit stop early.

Though the team did not indicate whether this was a deliberate tactical move to at Massa’s expense their track record on this subject understandably makes it hard for some people to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Malaysia: Red Bull

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Sepang, 2013Red Bull’s preoccupation with not destroying their tyres is the vital context to understanding the controversy that unfolded during the Malaysian Grand Prix.

“You still have to drive the grands prix these days at eight-tenths,” said Mark Webber after the race. “It’s not like the old day when grand prix drivers are driving flat out and leaning on the tyres like hell because the tyres are wearing out.”

Vettel lost the lead to Webber during the first round of pit stops and by the middle of the race he was on his team mate’s tail. Around lap 26 race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin warned him to drop back: “Try to look after your tyres, you’re too close in the fast corners.”

Meanwhile Webber was being given a lap time target of “high 41s” which he rarely went quicker than, setting a 1’42.5 on lap 27. But Vettel had Hamilton on his tail and was more concerned with overtaking the car in front of him – Webber.

On lap 28 Vettel said: “Mark is too slow, get him out of the way, he’s too slow”. “Understood, look after your tyres,” replied Rocquelin. Shortly afterwards came the confirmation the team would not be imposing any orders just yet: “Sebastian be patient, only half race yet.”

Despite falling 4.2s behind Webber while being stuck behind Hamilton, hard in- and out-laps brought Vettel onto the tail of his team mate. “Careful, Sebastian, careful,” said Rocquelin after his final pit stop. “Sebastian you need to make it to the end with these tyres, 13 laps with these tyres don’t forget.”

This was similar to the situation Vettel faced in Korea last year, when Rocquelin repeatedly warned him about potential tyre damage. Perhaps on that occasion he drew some conclusions about how realistic his team’s warnings about tyre life truly were.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Sepang, 2013The urgency with which Red Bull were telling Vettel to back down from his pursuit of Webber can be gauged by the fact that the messages started to come from Christian Horner instead of Rocquelin.

“This is silly, Seb, come on,” said Horner. By that time that was broadcast Vettel had already passed Webber. Simon Rennie tried to placate his furious driver: “OK Mark, he was told.”

An excerpt from Vettel’s explanation for his pass was also played, though it sounded like it had been edited for broadcast: “I was really scared… main straight all the time he was moving and I had to leave the line.”

Webber didn’t take it lying down and put in some quick laps of his own in an attempt to put Vettel under pressure. “Obviously Seb and I had a push in the middle in our last stint,” he said afterwards.

Vettel responded, and Rocquelin again pleaded with him to back off: “Sebastian you need to get out of the KERS button, get out of the KERS overtake button, the system won’t take it. No KERS overtake button. Use KERS normally.” Later he added: “Sebastian be careful of front tyre wear, front tyre wear is high, both front and rear high wear.”

Rocquelin’s final words hinted at the recriminations that would follow: “Good job Sebastian, you looked like you wanted it badly enough. Still, there’ll be some explaining to do.”

Malaysia: Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sepang, 2013The dust had only just settled on Vettel’s sensational pass when another dispute over team orders arose at Mercedes.

Rosberg had passed Lewis Hamilton immediately after their final pit stops, but Hamilton hit back, re-passing his team mate on the next lap.

Mercedes had been telling Hamilton to save fuel for most of the race and now their warnings grew more serious: “OK Lewis so that was on target, on target. That is the minimum we expect from you,” he was told early in the final stint.

Behind him Rosberg was getting impatient: “I can go so much faster, just let me go past,” he said. As at Red Bull the team principal was on hand to lay down the law: “Negative Nico” said Ross Brawn.

“Nico, Lewis’s pace is what we’re asking him to do, he can go a lot faster as well so please be in control as well,” he added. “Then let’s go try and get the Red Bulls,” replied Rosberg, “they might have tyre problems”. “Understood but hold position please Nico,” was the reply.

As Hamilton’s lap times rose an increasingly impatient Rosberg complained again: “Tell him to speed up a bit this is too slow.” It was to no avail: “Nico please drop back, leave a gap,” said Brawn, “We have to look after the cars. There’s a massive gap behind and there’s nothing to gain in front. I want to bring these cars home, please.”

After telling Rosberg Hamilton “can go a lot faster”, Brawn pressed the radio button for Hamilton and told him to slow down some more: “OK Lewis we need maximum fuel saving for this last part of the race, please.”

When the chequered flag came down neither driver was happy with what had unfolded: “Fantastic job this weekend guys,” said Hamilton before adding it “definitely didn’t feel right for me”.

After complimenting Rosberg on a “good drive” Brawn added: “We’ll discuss the last stint later.” Rosberg’s parting shot was simply: “Remember this one”.

Team orders in 2013

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sepang, 2013Is 2013 going to be a season in which we see much more in the way of team orders? Webber believes it will, and he singles out the current generation of tyres as the cause:

“At the moment we’re driving at eight and a half tenths, eight tenths, conserving our pace and some more situations like this will probably happen in the future because there’s a lot of ambiguity in who’s (on the) pace and who’s quick.”

“I’m a big sports fan and the fans of any sport will want it to be a perfect world always,” he added. “We want it to be pure, we want it to be as we see ?����ǣ football, boxing, cycling, whatever. We want it to be real.”

“But there is an element of naivety… for me watching some sport as well and in the case of some Formula One fans watching this situation. It’s impossible for everybody to understand everything and that’s the same for me watching a football match or a Champions League match.

“Sometimes there are things you don’t understand because sometimes there is naivety.”

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Image © Williams/LAT, Red Bull/Getty, Mercedes/Hoch Zwei

195 comments on “Red Bull and Mercedes not the only ones resorting to team orders”

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  1. agenda’s,agenda’s everywere

  2. MB (@muralibhats)
    26th March 2013, 1:14

    Reduce the points for the constructors for the race by half if they issue a team order. I think that will be a trade off for them and they may not blindly use it.

  3. I’m assuming the same people applauding vettel for racing and ignoring team orders are aware that vettel was requesting team orders halfway through the race by complaint like a little girl webber was too slow and holding him up despite webber then responding with fastest lap and pulling away from him

    1. WEB didn’t go pink during his third stint, in fact, his quickest lap, and the only one in which he managed to meet the “high 47” target, was still slower than VET went a couple of laps prior, before he got stuck in WEB’s diffuser.

    2. I didn’t think he sounded like a little girl at all, I thought he sounded completely contemptuous of Webber, and probably dislike that more than him actually going for the win in the end.

  4. RBR should not try to give team orders to Webber from now on… Mark must try and win for himself, Seb did the right thing by ignoring those orders nor Mark should push hard for himself.

  5. The Red Bull and Mercedes team orders cannot be compared in any way.

    According to Ross Brawn, neither of the Mercs had enough fuel to dice it out to the end. As a team principal, at that point he had to make a clear decision – either enforce a truce and pick up 3rd and 4th for the team, or score no points at all. Easy choice.

    Red Bull didn’t want a repeat of Turkey 2010 (when their drivers collided on a straight in rather odd circumstances) and apparently decided to let the drivers race until the last round of pit stops, after which they would just manage tyre wear and bring home the points. (Comments from Horner when interviewed on BBC highlights programme.)

    To all those reading comments about Webber “not expecting to be overtaken” when Vettel was clearly pushing him, please consider the mind games involved – even if your team mate has been clearly instructed to turn down the engine, save the tyres and so on, he will want to show his displeasure by jockeying around in an obvious show of speed. Thus Webber may well have been surprised by Vettel’s dive down the inside (so close to the concrete wall!)

    That’s how I saw it anyway.

    It it just me, or is Webber starting to sound like the father of a tearaway teenager?

    For amusement: After the race McLaren tweeted “feel free to pop in and say ‘Hi’ any time @lewishamilton.” – very dry.

    1. I don’t think the Mercedes teamorders were as simple as that. We can’t know for sure but during the race Ross never told Nico that he needed to save fuel, only that they needed to “save the cars”, and Nico didn’t seem to be aware he needed to save fuel. As was said in the article, Ross told Nico that Hamilton could go faster just to tell Lewis the second after that he could not go faster. Its seems as if he fooled Nico into believing that lewis could go faster, but what he actually meant was that Lewis could Drive faster (but then not finish).
      What they said after the race can’t be trusted as they then go into “publicity mode”.

      It seems to me that they had the same agreement as Redbull that they race until the last pitstop and then cruise to the finish. What Nico was asking for was an exeption to that not only to get past lewis (which would do nothing for the team) but to race and take positions from the redbulls (which would benefit the team, and lewis was unable to do due to fuelsaving).

      The redbulls where already 1 – 2 and could gain nothing further.

  6. vivalacitta94
    26th March 2013, 2:26

    If RBR and Mercedes are going to put their efforts behind the one driver and ignore the other, Ferrari are going to have to do consider doing something similar pretty much immediately and get behind their leading driver in the championship…

    …can’t wait to see Fernando’s reaction..!

  7. From a fan’s perspective – You either race to win or not race at all.
    I don’t care about the other stuff – all I care is the wheel to wheel racing which is the reason for watching F1.

    1. +1 (2 if I could)

    2. You should watch NASCAR then.
      F1 goes a bit deeper than that.

      1. So you mean the occasional racing fan shouldn’t watch F1 unless you go deeper into the politics of F1? Aren’t we supposed to be entertained by what we see on the race track after all that’s why we bought the tickets for yes?

        no wonder it’s called an elitist sport, those who don’t go deeper should be watching…jeez

  8. Just after the race Massa said to Brazilian television that he and his engineer thought it was too early to pit when Alonso did, and given that Massa is usually open about these matters, or at least doesn’t lie when asked about it, I don’t believe that was a team order.

    Unless of course Domelicali went to Rob Smedley and told him to make Massa believe it was to early to pit, but I don’t think Domelicali would find necessary to employ that kind of tactics given Massa’s subservience on previous occasions.

    1. Ferrari was always open with Massa when asking him something, which is good, because he doesn’t have to feel that they are doing something behind his back. He knows he will be told the score straight.

      Problem in Red Bull is that there is A LOT of mistrust.

      Ferrari might use team orders, but they are always straight with their drivers.

      1. I think I agree that if you issue team orders, at least be clear and unambiguous about it to your drivers @brace, and make sure it is an exception, so doesn’t demotivate. Again, if you use them, which I prefer teams not to.

  9. Great Great …. Great .. Article so Far for 2013 Keith. You Put Your view as Prof journalist .. So Evenly balance no party and emotion include in article (although its maybe hard for you as a big fan of this game)

    I just want to read my feeling not my view. honestly its so hard to keep my eyes open in last stint, I’m so confuse because i don’t know which driver goes quickest. Gap Buildup or reduced suddenly and then they play safe. My mind and hand so itchy doing something else

    Then VET cut his gap to WEB, I’m still Okay let see .. ROS got HAM gearbox .. mmm still Boring cause they will play safe in rubber manner

    ROS pass HAM, HAM re-pass again in second straight .. Okay Game ON. I feel so Fresh.. Than VET and WEB fight. VET attack WEB close the door, its so exciting.. smile build on my face, my eyes stuck in LCD TV, my heart beat so hard .. adrenalin rush on my body. Searching lap time, gap, position, radio, every corner of my TV. Great and BULL PASS from VET ..

    But Then MERC turn ON Autopilot then my head say Buuuuuu (still feeling my adrenalin rush and heart beat fast corner)… But still hoping ROS doing something Silly (HORNER says). Then my eyes searching lap time hoping WEB Turn the punch back to VET .. But Then nothing Happen. Finish, I dont know why but I enjoy drama happen from Parc Frme to Podium Haha

    Not Wrong or Right, I Think what VET do make us have something to discuss as a Fan. Right or Wrong its People choice to

  10. I am coming to the conclusion that “Team Orders” are the symptom rather than the “problem”.

    And we have to acknowledge that there are different forms of team orders, first priority is for team championship and some way down the list is the orders given so that the best placed driver wins the championship. Other types of orders are required, such as when the drivers are on different strategies. So team orders have to be allowed to cover all eventualities, they cannot be banned.

    In this particular case the requirement for maximum team points was the priority and comparison to other events in the past probably do not apply. Therefore the only conclusion is that Vettel is guilty and should be punished accordingly by the team.

    Unfortunately the obvious penalty of suspending him for a race or two is superceded by the need for the team to harvest as many points a possible.

    As team orders have to be considered as part of F1 then maybe the model used to distribute prize money needs to be changed.
    As an example in the Tour de France (that’s a cycling race) prize money is awarded for team performance and individuals performance in sprints, hill climbs, stage wins and a few other things. All the Prize money is paid to the team and is used and distributed by the team as per contracts.
    Would a similar model in F1 work and would it produce more competition between drivers, if the “standard contract” said the driver gets X% of his prize money?

    1. So first Spark for VET move for 2014 maybe?

  11. MB (@muralibhats)
    26th March 2013, 4:55

    Why is Red Bull or Mercedes so scared to let the team mates battle it out? Do they doubt on their drivers capabilities? At the highest form of sport, such measures do seem silly.

  12. Let’s say Vettel followed team orders and Mark won. Would everyone watching F1 be happy or dissapointed by the 15 or so lap procession? Its like the equivalent of match fixing or tanking. Would Mark have felt the same way as Hamilton — that the win didn’t feel right because they weren’t allowed to race? Seems like the only race happening these days are in the pits rather than on the race track.

  13. If Mark knew Vettel would race to the end he would have simply pitted first and denied Vettel the chance to try the undercut. Mark was pulling away by the last pit stop, which Vettel knew was when the race between them would be over.

  14. Some people really know how to make mountains out of molehills…grow up, guys!!!

  15. I think Mark Webber really nailed it with that quote at the end: we as fans want to see fair racing between teammates, but it’s just not feasible. With the amount of money that goes into Formula 1, teams more than often want to fix the results to be as beneficial to them as possible.

    Maybe comparing this to soccer, another sport where the amount of money is ridiculously high: there have been allegations of teams fixing the result before the match has started. For instance, the way Ajax was eliminated in the previous Champions League season was controversial to say the least: Lyon needed to score a lot of goals to go through to the next round, and sure enough they won 7-1 from Dinamo Zagreb. I can also remember a match with Real Madrid where at the end players with a yellow card deliberately got another yellow card, so they woudn’t be suspended for the next match.

    Returning to the actual discussion: I don’t like it when a team doesn’t let their two drivers race for position. But you cannot simply ban team orders, as the exact meaning of a ‘team order’ is in a grey area. Sometimes their two drivers are on completely different strategies, so this team order could be described as commensalism. But other occasion like Mercedes and Red Bull in Malaysia are clearly detrimental for one driver. And how is the FIA ever going to ensure that no team is using team orders – does a pre-race agreement count as a team order? A driver ‘accidentally’ running wide to let his teammate through? Bringing in one driver before the other? Faking a gearbox issue to let your teammate win the season finale?

    In my opinion, it’s up to the teams to decide whether they have team orders or not, and we as fans just have to deal with that. It would be great if teams would allow their two drivers to race fairly, like Red Bull claimed they were doing a few years ago, but in today’s Formula 1 we can almost assume this isn’t going to happen. I thought it was at least fair of Red Bull and Mercedes to not give either driver a ‘number one’ status but let the result of the race depend on the position they were holding at some point during the race.

    That being said, I think the worst thing a driver can do is ignore team orders: at the end of the day, Red Bull pays Sebastian Vettel more in a day than a common European household makes in a year. And then to disobey an order from your boss is just unacceptable, as it is incredibly disrespectful.

    1. How conveniently has Mark wisened up! Look at his quotes after the British Grand Prix 2011. It was perfectly feasible for him at the time to ignore team orders and attack Seb (whose KERS failed) because ‘he’s a real racer’. Personally I have lost all the respect I had for Webber because it is clear to me now that he is not an honest-to-god guy but rather clever PR manipulator who enjoys painting himself as an underdog. I’ve seen enough from Webber (including Brazil 2012) to realize that he, in fact, doesn’t give a damn about ‘the team’ and only remembers the word when it suits him.

      Now Horner faces a very difficult situation, but most of it is of his own doing. If he had put his foot down and reprimanded Webber for his blatant disregard of team orders earlier, maybe this wouldn’t happen the way it did. It is hardly possible to convince one driver to follow orders, when the other one was stuffing them on multiple occasions (and was being publicly proud of that to boot) and got away every time.

  16. @keithcollantine – could you have missed the radio message instructing Chilton to stay at least half a lap behind Bianchi?

  17. At the end of the day, some people still value sportsmanship and gentlemanly behaviour in motorsport, some prefer the ruthless, tough-as-nails, out-and-out racer, and most people like Webber over Vettel.

    Personally, I can take both, as long as the drivers have the balls to say “I did what I thought was right”. In this age of manufactured press statements and interviews, I suppose that’s an unrealistic expectation. But if Vettel had said, “I’ve won the championship by 4pts and 3pts in the last three years and I don’t want to give away 7 today” that might’ve been unsporting, but justifiable. To say he didn’t do it deliberately, to pretend he didn’t know he was supposed to hold station was insulting to the viewer’s intelligence. Atleast when Webber went against team orders at Silverstone 2011 he had the courage to admit he needed every point he could get and that’s why he went for it. In 2011 Seb was leading by a huge margin, and in actual fact it would’ve made more sense for Red Bull to get Webber ahead, thus increasing their chances of having a 1-2 in the driver’s championship.

    Also I suspect people are taking Webber’s side because we’ve seen Red Bull take Vettel’s side too often in the past. Some people might say Red Bull was right, and Seb’s three world titles prove it, but Mark’s a popular bloke, and if the fans feel he was unfairly treated by the team over the past few years, of course they’re going to root for him. In the fans’ eyes he becomes the poor man fighting the evil empire single-handedly and Vettel becomes the tyrant who misuses his power. Right or wrong, that’s how people are going to see it. Vettel’s characteristic condescension on the radio ‘he’s too slow, get him out of the way’ only made that worse.

    1. exactly right! Vettel is such a sore loser, I struggle to remember driver who goes from child like tantrums, calling fellow drivers cucumbers, so ungracious in defeat when he dosent end up at the top step of the podium to petting his car and reminding everyone who is the number one driver in the world with his index finger when he wins. Maybe he will mature one day and show some likeable sportsmanship but atm I enjoy seeing his sulking when he loses

  18. Thanks very much for the article @keithcollantine, its a bit sad to see how common team orders are. And I think we should support drivers not to heed them often enough to make teams think twice about using them.

    I have been thinking a lot about where the difference is between DiResta complying but complaining, Bottas ignoring them, Rosberg protesting them but complying and Vettel deciding he will take his chances thank you. I think Bottas clearly did the right thing, because I did not get the impression Maldonado was all that much quicker. On the other hand VdGarde also did the right thing, because Pic seemed to be able to get much further in the race than his teammate. DiResta holding station in the last 2 laps – I guess its a bit disappointing but I do have some sympathy for the team not wanting them to fight with Sutil struggling to keep it on the track, that could have ended badly.

    Is Vettel a hero for ignoring them and taking a win as the competitive animal he is? Is he a villain for disregarding his team principal and showing no respect? And is Rosberg a douchebag for heeding instructions to stay behind? I think they were in very different situations, because Vettel had a lot of evidence to suggest that a. the team were holding them back more than needed and b. he had ignored them before (as had his teammate) without much repercussion. As shown by the comments from Horner (would a boss say “this is silly Seb” and stating there would be no use in calling him to give it back). I am pretty sure that had Rosberg ignored Ross there, his boss would not have gone over his driver ignoring him that easily.

    I would say that in both cases it had to be done (its not always nice), Vettel ignoring TO made it harder for the team to apply them when its just being overly carefull. Rosberg making this public has already gotten Mercedes to think about themselves (Niki Lauda on live TV mentioning he did not like them), so both helped in keeping teams honest – as in not overuse them – and that should be applauded.

    1. Very well said @bascb, I completely agree – and another great article from @keithcollantine to separate facts from emotion, providing an objective view of how team orders work (or don’t) in current day F1.

      I don’t care much for the way Vettel excused his decicion, but it certainly provided one of the best bits of racing of the race, as did the Merc. back and forth, instead of a boring last 15min.

  19. Any guesses to what Webber was hinting when he said he thought about a lot of things in the last laps (when Seb already did his thing), needing some time off surfing and to see if that would be enough medicine for him, and then a quick wink to the Sky interviewer?

    My guess is he is really thinking hard about what to do with his career at this point. He could well be in his last year even without this latest tussle with Seb, and it would be highly unlikely for him to get a seat at another top team. His choices are:
    1) to just accept Seb’s apology and continue on with business as usual, and help Red Bull with another WCC (you need both drivers for this as Seb can’t win the WCC for Red Bull by himself)
    2) try to win the WDC for himself, team orders be damned
    3) quit now and retire as a “screw you” to Red Bull for losing control of Seb, because with Mark vacating his seat, it could probably be quite detrimental to Red Bull’s WCC chances (who would they get to drive in his spot?) and a replacement driver probably can’t give them as much useful info about the car as Mark can since he’s been with them for so long.

    Not many people talking about scenario #3 but I don’t think it is that far-fetched.

    1. It’s not being talked about because it is silly.

      Do you really think RBR would have any issue adequately filling the quickest car on the grid? You can’t think of at least half a dozen out-of-work and 19 1/2 current race drivers who want nothing more than that seat?

      Seriously, WEB had his chance in 2010 and threw it away. (Oh what a fun time that was, with all the ridiculous arguments in favour of another ’96.) He’s the slower driver, it’s been proven over and over again.

      Throwing tantrums might feel satisfying in the short term, but there’s no leverage there. No one will come to WEB and plead for him to return. It’s silly, and I expect WEB to realize that.

    2. @alzarius

      Option 3) appears close in the heat of the moment but in reality is extremely far fetched.

      He’ll continue his drive and there will be tension till the end of the season just like 2010 and RBR will try to manage this somehow.
      For 2014 – it depends on so many variables that it’s too early to tell but everything seems possible.

  20. I’m fine with team orders, as long as there’s a modicum of transparency – and decency – in the issuing and execution of such orders! (unlike what we saw w/ Vettel) As long as cost-savings is seen as important in Formula 1, teams will use orders to manage resources and preserve consumables, like engine kms!

    “I’m a big sports fan and the fans of any sport will want it to be a perfect world always. We want it to be pure, we want it to be as we see – football, boxing, cycling, whatever. We want it to be real.”

    I like Webber because he’s a no-** straight-shooter (unlike Vettel). He admits and accepts his own naivete outside the realm of his professional competency. For example, Mark speaks of wanting to believe that the bike race he sees on the telly is “real,” but team orders have been an integral part of pro cycling (my sport) for decades! Perhaps the most famous instance was the 1996 Paris-Roubaix Classic, when Mapei team swept the podium, with the result dictated from the team car after a conversation captured by the mobile broadcasters!!

    Their conversation over the Mapei team car radio signal was picked up by Italian satellite TV station Italia Uno:

    Lefevere to Bortolami: “You’ve got to convince Andrea to keep cool- if he doesn’t, he’ll be looking for another team!”

    Bortolami to Tafi: “Andrea, don’t forget the deal. Don’t try anything, Johan has to win.”

    Tafi: “I don’t want to win; I just want you to let me take second. But you won’t even let me do that!”

    In the previous year’s race, Bortolami and Tafi, the workhorse stalwarts of the team, had been away with Italian teamate Franco Ballerini, and provided textbook team support as he soloed away to victory. This time they both thought they had earned a chance at individual glory and were less inclined to throw away a rare chance to win the Queen of the Classics.

    Spectators along the race route and all over the world via television were treated to some very animated discussions between the Mapei trio and the team car, with each man taking a turn to drop back to the team car to plead his case with Lefevere, their raised voices easily heard on the televion coverage.

    1. My point in sharing that anecdote is that Formula 1 is hardly unique in the world of sport with respect to the existence of team orders, and as spectators we can still derive great enjoyment from the spectacle, as long as there is as little ambiguity as possible, per Webber’s comments.

      “But there is an element of naivety… for me watching some sport as well and in the case of some Formula One fans watching this situation. It’s impossible for everybody to understand everything and that’s the same for me watching a football match or a Champions League match.”

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