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

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix

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.

Australia

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

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

  1. Filip Nilsson (@mrsleepy3) said on 26th March 2013, 0:13

    It’s weird but if it were the opposite( webber overtaking vettel) under team orders then everybody except the vettel fans would see him as a hero who stood up for himself.

    • Adam Kibbey (@kibblesworth) said on 26th March 2013, 0:26

      You might be right, it certainly seems to be the case that Mark has more fans than Seb does. Mark was certainly celebrated for his disregard of team orders in 2010 (Turkey), although the circumstances were a lot different in that race than they were in Malaysia.

      But I think people don’t like Seb’s on-track behaviour in general. He seems to behave in quite a petulant manner, as if he is entitled to be leading a race or in front of his team-mate. The disrespect he demonstrated towards Mark in Malaysia was astonishing. First he calls for team orders to allow him to overtake Mark has he thinks he is too slow (even though Mark was faster than Seb that lap) and then he completely ignores team orders when they are applied against him. I think that’s the aspect about Seb which people don’t like.

      • Drezone said on 26th March 2013, 1:52

        Agree with the last part however turkey 2010 wasn’t webber ignoring team orders it was the same situation

        Webber told to turn engine down and vettel told to push

        Only difference in Malaysia he was applauded for racing when in turkey he spoilt both their races which is whet I think the team were worried about

        • Adam Kibbey (@kibblesworth) said on 26th March 2013, 2:03

          Really? I seem to remember that in Turkey 2010, the team order, or at least the team ‘suggestion’ (as the orders was illegal back then) was for Mark to turn his engine down and let Seb pass by, which Mark refused to do; hence the crash.

          I think the reason Mark was favoured then (even though he disobeyed team orders) was because spectators quite rightly don’t like one driver stepping aside to let another driver through there being some sort of a race involved.

  2. DaveW (@dmw) said on 26th March 2013, 0:24

    Great story. I’m left feeling that the mateiral difference between the RBR and the Mercedes situation was that Hamilton, fuel be hanged, kept fighting Rosberg back unitl Ross had had enough. Webber by contrast gave up too soon. As in many conflicts in business, life, and law, its not who has the “right” or the moral footing, but who has thing of value in hand, when the music stops. Possession is 9/10ths of the law, the saying goes.

  3. wigster (@wigster) said on 26th March 2013, 0:24

    I don’t think the main reason for team orders in the races so far this year is worries about tyre wear, certainly when we’re talking about orders relating to passing or not passing team mates. I think it may be part of the reason, fuel usage possibly plays a part on occasion too, but I think the main reason we’ve seen team orders implemented so far this season is simply team tactics.

    Sometimes teams want their no.1 driver to finish in front, and sometimes when the two cars are next to each other on the track, the team doesn’t care which driver finishes in front, so doesn’t want to risk losing places, and money (in the shape of spare parts and prize money), just to let them fight it out. This was probably the case for Force India in Melbourne and, arguably, also the case for Red Bull and Mercedes in Malaysia.

  4. Drezone said on 26th March 2013, 0:46

    Nobody likes team orders and for different reasons red bull and Mercedes both showed this

    Mercedes for not allowing drivers to race and red bull for abiding by the legal rules but one driver deciding to take matters in his own hands and disrespect his team mate and team

    What people have to remember is even if it is made illegal teams are still smart enough to make it happen anyway very sneakily and deceivingly anyway

  5. Buran (@buran) said on 26th March 2013, 0:49

    There should be a race edit with all this radio drama and narrated as read in this great article. Maybe like does great Super Bowl documentaries. Great stuff Keith.

  6. woogle said on 26th March 2013, 1:10

    agenda’s,agenda’s everywere

  7. MB (@muralibhats) said on 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.

  8. Drezone said on 26th March 2013, 1:50

    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
    Hmmmmmm

    • Proesterchen (@proesterchen) said on 26th March 2013, 2:27

      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.

    • 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.

  9. Dev (@dev) said on 26th March 2013, 2:04

    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.

  10. TribalTalker (@tribaltalker) said on 26th March 2013, 2:08

    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.

    • Kelsier (@kelsier) said on 26th March 2013, 2:44

      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.

  11. vivalacitta94 said on 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..!

  12. bulabog said on 26th March 2013, 2:44

    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.

  13. PaulK (@paulk) said on 26th March 2013, 3:04

    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.

    • Brace (@brace) said on 26th March 2013, 4:56

      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.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 26th March 2013, 10:20

        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.

  14. imamsukoco (@imamsukoco) said on 26th March 2013, 3:28

    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

  15. W-K (@w-k) said on 26th March 2013, 4:14

    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?

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