Too early for team orders, says Boullier

2013 Malaysian Grand PrixPosted on Author Keith Collantine

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Sepang, 2013Lotus team principal Eric Boullier says drivers should obey team orders when they are given but added it’s too early in the season to be using them.

Boullier added he had experience of drivers disobeying team orders, as happened with Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia: “Yes, it happens because of the adrenaline and excitement of winning a race, but I think in Formula 1 it should not happen,” he said.

“Firstly, we should not have team orders so early in the season; not while the championship is at such an early stage. When it happens you need to fix it and fix it quickly.

“Yes, one of our drivers [is] famous for doing pretty much what we wants, but when you have 600 people behind you, there is a certain respect you must have for the team.”

In Bahrain last year Romain Grosjean was told not to hold Kimi Raikkonen up when his team mate was catching him during the race.

According to Boullier teams face two choices when deciding how to issue orders too their drivers: “You might favour one driver, clearly stating ‘driver number one’ and ‘driver number two’ if your target is chasing the drivers’ championship title.”

“Alternatively you have both drivers equal, as this is the way you want to go racing, meaning the team holds a lot of importance. The team gives both drivers the same cars, the same conditions, the same performance, but there is a commitment from the team to the drivers.”

“In that case I can understand team orders, because you are working for the team, not for the drivers; they are working for you. Sometimes it seems that emotion takes over, but don’t forget that the drivers are paid to work for you, as they are for the company.

“I don’t see any people in the world who could disobey their company and not be sanctioned, or at least give clarification as to why they?ve disobeyed.”

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36 comments on “Too early for team orders, says Boullier”

  1. It’s never too early for team orders,every point scored now will count big time in the end.Championship was lost by 3 points last time around.

    1. Ergo Vettel did the right thing. Bad decision from Red Bull to keep their safest shot at the WC from scoring maximum points. The order should never have come. That’s the issue.

      1. Agree.

  2. Bouillier is not making any sense.

    When it happens you need to fix it and fix it quickly.

    Just what does that mean, following “Firstly, we should not have team orders so early in the season; not while the championship is at such an early stage.”?

    Also, he’s being a double hypocrite here since Kimi is clearly the number one in the team, and using team order in race 4 of the season is not that different from using them in race 2.

    1. As I understand it : he is not being hypocritical, he is just saying that team orders are important, but only if team logic dictates it. He however says that driver’s championship logic only applies when the race is mathematically over for one of the driver. Playing on meaning and situations, but it has its logic. And it’s fully in line with what they do during the race.

      I have more reservations on not giving them both the same car. Now that IS favoring one driver illogically.

      1. they did that to Kimi last year by favoring romain on getting the upgrade package first from valencia to hockenheim period. And make kimi waste his precious FREE PRACTICE sessions to test the ULTIMATE failure PASSIVE DRS.

        Kimi never whines about it, and get the job done as always.

        1. As said on the other article, I do not find the opposite situation any less a shame.

          I’d like to note however that on the face of it, Kimi still had the latest part, they were just not as effective as they hoped they would be.

    2. @adrianmorse
      Bahrain last year was a completely different thing, since Räikkönen had a chance to claim the victory and it’s safe to say he would’ve overtook Grosjean eventually anyway. I think that the only time that Lotus used team orders that actually harmed Grosjean was Singapore and at the time Kimi still had chances to claim the championship and Romain didn’t.

      In Malaysia Lotus had a chance to use team orders in order to favor Räikkönen, as Kimi was behind Grosjean at the final stages of the race, but they didn’t.

      Of course it favors Räikkönen, if he has new parts and Grosjean doesn’t. But what do you expect Lotus to do, if they only had resources to produce one set of parts to Malaysia? If you have one set of parts, you have to give them to one driver and the decision is a no-brainer if the options are Räikkönen (2012: 207 points, 2013: 1st place) and Grosjean (2012: 96 points, 2013: 10th place).

      1. @hotbottoms, I understand your reasoning with regard to Bahrain last year, and I also agree that it makes sense to give Kimi the new parts first. However, that doesn’t mean I have to agree with Boullier’s statements.

        When he says “Firstly, we should not have team orders so early in the season; not while the championship is at such an early stage” then this is at odds with issuing team orders in race 4 of the season. Unless by “team orders” in the previous sentence, one would exclusively mean “a team order that favours the number one driver over the number two driver”. But under that meaning, we haven’t seen any team orders this season yet – not from Red Bull as the team order was in Webber’s favour, and not from Mercedes if we accept Brawn’s explanation of the situation.

        Re-reading his comments, I see now what he trying to say. Nevertheless, I often find Boullier’s comments mildly annoying. He implies that at Lotus both drivers get equal treatment, but if it had been Grosjean closing on Raikkonen in Bahrain last year (where Kimi had the benefit of fresher tyres), would the team have really asked Kimi to let Grosjean through? I am not sure they would have.

    3. What happened in Bahrain 2012 was not team-order but more like team strategy, you dont want to hold faster car as Kimi had the opportunity to attack Vettel for the win. Shanghai 2012 clearly showed that Grosjean was not even try to cover Kimi from attackers, clearly different with Ferrari when their 2nd driver function is to ruining opponents race.

  3. Actually, when you put it in Boullier’s perspective, team orders don’t seem bad at all (but you have to accept that F1 is a business, not a sport). Namely, even at the beginning of the year, if one of your drivers can let the other one past as easily as possible when one is clearly faster than the second, overall team performance dictates that the team orders the driver ahead to do so. Pure logic really. This line of thought has a caveat : it should work for both drivers, be situation based (who is faster during said portion of the race) and potentiall reciprocal even during a single race if speed of drivers alternate during the race.

    Descartes is not dead. Boullier pursues a proud French tradition of rationalising irrational subjects (but obviously I disagree completely : drivers should race all along, whoever is behind / in front).

  4. “In Bahrain last year Romain Grosjean was told not to hold Kimi Raikkonen up when his team mate was catching him during the race.”

    Not really…..the team let Romain held kimi up for 2-3 laps only then they issue the order. Eric explained that he didn’t want to hurt Romain’s feeling.

    I don’t see it as team order seriously……..both drivers were running different strategy. Ferrari would’ve move their driver out of the way in order to secure the win. Because it was clear that Romain has 0 chances to chase for victory at that point.

  5. Hmmmmm, these are pretty sensible comments from EB, particularly about it being too early in the season for team orders. But I’m not sure exactly where his Lotus team fit into this scenario.
    The drivers seem to cooperate so far, but to my memory that mainly involves Grosjean having to defer to Raikkonen. This has happened in the race, as the mentioned in the article; and also before the race weekend has even started, with Raikkonen being given the performance enhancing updates to only his car in Melbourne and Malaysia.
    If Grosjean has a couple of big performances, say a couple of podiums, it will be interesting to see how Lotus cope with both drivers scoring big points and wanting the newest parts or most favourable race strategy etc.
    My impression is that if that situation did arise, Grosjean will be expected to fall in line behind Raikkonen, in a parallel to the situation we saw with the Mercedes drivers in Malaysia.

    1. ” mainly involves Grosjean having to defer to Raikkonen”


      Romain received new upgrades package from valencia to hockenheim period. Kimi had to wait until Hungary.

      Kimi wasted his Fp1 and FP2 on testing the DRD device in Hockenheim, Hungary.

      Again Kimi tested new Front and Rear Wing package in Singapore which proven to be useless, reverted back to old configuration. (new fw and rw were tweaked for Suzuka gp)

      Why most people didn’t notice??

      Because Kimi never make a BIG FUSS about it.

      1. They couldn’t know at the time that their NEW parts were not going to be good enough. Had they been, Kimi would have been first beneficiary. I don’t see Grosjean making a fuss about it (but I admit I am).

        1. didnt James Allison praised Kimi for his commitment on willing to test out the prototype DRD device eventhough it was not going to be used for those gp??

        2. Team Radio: Kimi we need to up the pace.
          Kimi: So give me the full power!!!

      2. not really. The team knew that the DRD wasn’t ready to be used in Hockenheim and Hungary. Kimi used his FPs time to fine tuning it instead of finding suitable setup for himself.

  6. Here’s how to deal with team orders. Team orders should be invoked rarely, they should be transparent to the public, and they should be obeyed when issued.

    1) Each team should be allowed to utilize team orders a limited number of times per season, lets say six times.

    2) Team orders must be given in a clear and specific format, something like “This is a team order – hold your positions guys.” No “multi21” coded nonsense.

    3) Team orders should be enforced by the FiA – a driver who fails to comply with them would lose his points for the race or ten points, whichever is greater.

  7. One of the annoying things about team orders is that teams want to give them, but – perhaps because team orders are so unpopular with the fans – they don’t want to be seen to give them. So we get the situation where orders are given in private to the drivers prior to the race or in code during it.

    The teams are not covering themselves in glory here.

  8. I kind of agree with Boullier’s views. Team orders may be necessary sometimes as long as they are well thought out.I see his point too that drivers are mostly paid ’employees’and therefore must toe the company line. It also begs the question ‘which is more important, ‘winning’ the constructors championship, ‘winning the WDC or ‘entertaining’ the fans?’. I think most team owners will say ‘winning the constructors championship’!!

  9. It’s all well and good Boullier saying that – but if I were any team principal at the moment I’d keep my mouth shut. Because now, he’s got a promise to live up to…

  10. Then give the same car to both drivers

  11. Let’s all jump on the bandwagon. It’s almost two weeks ago lets focus on the Chinese Grand Prix now.

  12. Boullier just gives one driver all the updates and not the other driver, thus avoiding the problem.

    1. @sato113: which is exactly an indirect team order, issued even before the race. but of course if you have only one set of the new updates, you would build it to the car that belongs to safer hands, and not someone that played destruction derby last year. seems to be more logical than holding back the updates until both drivers can get it, as it needs testing and it might pay out. but what is this if not team orders? “Please look after fuel consumption, look after your tyres, maintain the gap, etc…” or “you won’t even have the chance to maintain the gap, because i don’t give you the updates neccessary for it”. aggressive? deprived? discriminative? or simply logical? maybe all of them, but this simply question the words of Mr. Boullier…

      (and finally a word on Grosjean. i’m absolutley not a fan of him, i beleive that he returned last year pretty much unprepared for the challenge he was about to face, but he was always mature enough not to oppose or publicly criticise direct or indirect team orders. so it doesn’t take a three-times world champion…)

  13. Team orders from the perspective of the driver’s championship and an F1 fan primarily at this stage are far too premature. I personally believe they should only ever be enforced if only one driver remains in contention for the title, which at race 2 is not the case. I can understand why a team would just want to get the cars to the end, but as long as the drivers fight fairly I see no need for team orders.

  14. It’s never too early for team orders, that’s the problem. Especially when there’s a chance that the season is going to be as close as it was in 2010 and 2012 where every point counts. Boullier can be as noble as he likes and let his drivers race, but you can bet that other teams won’t be as high-minded and will use every advantage at their disposal to scramble ahead.

    Team orders need to be banned outright (and actually enforced this time) if we want to see motorsport at its best.

    1. @kibblesworth – that just begs the question though: why would Red Bull use team orders against Vettel?

      Agreed on this though:

      Team orders need to be banned outright (and actually enforced this time) if we want to see motorsport at its best.

      I can see occasions where team orders may be acceptable, so perhaps there should be a clause that you are allowed to enforce them if one driver is mathematically out of title contention but I would support a total ban.

    2. Disagree completely. As much as I agree with Vettel overtaking Webber, faster guy and three times world champion shouldn’t be loosing points to his teammate, it would insane for any F1 team, which is a business, to loose a championship at the last race by being held up by the teammate.

      If we want to see motorsport at it’s best, bring back the car designs of 98 to 2000, and the slick tyres of the 80’s.

    3. @kibblesworth

      Team orders need to be banned outright (and actually enforced this time) if we want to see motorsport at its best.

      That would be impossible, the FIA would need to have people stationed in every team factory, motorhome and garage as well as monitoring every communication between the teams and drivers. There are too many ways for teams to use orders and it is pointless, and in many ways counter productive, to have unenforceable laws or rules.

      Like @vettel1, I have no problem with teams using team orders when one driver is still in with a chance of winning the WDC and the other is not and while I don’t really like it I understand why a team would order their drivers to hold position if they were at no risk of being caught by the cars behind and either at the front or unlikely to catch the cars in front.

  15. On another note though, I strongly detest the use of this point in an attempt to suggest Vettel’s actions were unlawful:

    “the drivers are paid to work for you, as they are for the company.

    “I don’t see any people in the world who could disobey their company and not be sanctioned, or at least give clarification as to why they’ve disobeyed.”

    Being an F1 driver is nothing like an ordinary job: the competition between drivers is the most important aspect of the sport, so if the drivers ignore team instruction the consequences should be nothing like in a normal job: they are united in their partnership, but they have entirely different goals.

    1. Agreed. And with that mentality, it’s like saying obey thy dictators or the axe comes out. At the end, it’s not like Vettel took out Webber… both cars still came 1st and 2nd.

  16. Imo, the WCC became too important for teams because there’s the money. In general I’d favor an approach where money is split equally and not by points because then you’d have a closer field.
    A compromise could be to split 50% of the profits based on points and 50% equally and give a bonus to the team that also wins the WDC.
    Banning team orders will not work you, but reducing the need for them should.

  17. I think people got a little confuse about the difference between team-order and team-strategy, it is non-sense to have slower car holding your teammate pace. Maybe this is a political propaganda from Ferrari so people distracted from discussing contractual team-order.

  18. I completely agree with Boullier.

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