Massa defends decision to disobey team orders

2014 Malaysian Grand Prix

Felipe Massa, Williams, Sepang International Circuit, 2014Felipe Massa defended his decision to ignore orders from Williams to let his team mate overtake him in the closing stages of the race.

Massa was leading Valtteri Bottas in the closing stages when Williams repeatedly told him to let his team mate past.

Among the messages given to Massa were “Valtteri’s got better tyres we need to let him go” and “Felipe you’re slower than Valtteri, let him past”. Meanwhile Bottas was being told “You’re faster than Felipe, overtake him.”

However Massa refused to give up the position and finished the race ahead of his team mate.

“I think I did the best I could with my race,” he told reporters afterwards. “I was fighting to the end and my target was to score as many points for the team and me. We’re only in the second race.”

The pair were following Jenson Button and Williams wanted to release Bottas so he could go after the McLaren.

“Valtteri couldn’t pass me so it was going to be difficult to pass Jenson as well,” said Massa. “I don’t think that would’ve changed.”

Bottas disagreed, saying “I think there was a really good chance for me to get Jenson”, but did not comment on Massa’s refusal to let him by.

Williams eventually told both drivers to cool their engines and instructed Bottas to hold position, telling him: “We really need to cool the car, no overtake.”

Asked whether it had been unfair of him to disobey the team’s instruction Massa said: “Is it fair to do the best we can?”

“We have two championships, I respect my job, we need to respect each other.”

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155 comments on Massa defends decision to disobey team orders

  1. Massa has followed enough team orders!

  2. matt90 (@matt90) said on 30th March 2014, 12:42

    In other words Massa wants it both ways. He’s happy to hear and even invoke team orders when they are to his benefit only (see him crying about how close Bottas was getting at the start of the race). Poor show, poor sport.

    • kpcart said on 30th March 2014, 13:13

      its not poor show or poor sport, its world champion mentality, to maximise your opportunity, by doing what he did, he finished ahead of Bottas! well done to him, Ayrton Senna would be proud.

      • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 30th March 2014, 14:26

        Senna, Schumacher, Vettel… all drivers who would have done exactly the same.

      • matt90 (@matt90) said on 30th March 2014, 15:42

        And all of those drivers have shown poor sportsmanship. Just because the greats have done it doesn’t make it sportsmanlike. Schumacher and Senna committed disgraceful acts, and they remain disgraceful in spite of how many races or championships they won. I understand drivers wanting to get on the radio and stop their team mate from attacking them. But that doesn’t mean accepting that they openly defy team orders when they come back at them.

        kpcart, please tell me how that isn’t poor sportsmanship?

        • matt90 (@matt90) said on 30th March 2014, 15:43

          The first paragraph was mainly a response to pete.

        • kpcart said on 30th March 2014, 17:10

          A person like matt90 will find any reason to hate. Massa has done good sportsman moments in his career and bad now- maybe? The interpretation is often down to which driver you support, but most important is the result in the money ruled sport.

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 31st March 2014, 1:04

            I won’t find any reason, but I did find this valid reason. Pretending I find any excuse to hate Massa is a cop-out and shows you don’t have a valid argument- which you acknowledge by saying this may be a bad sportsman moment. Which means we’re actually saying the same thing anyway!

        • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 30th March 2014, 17:56

          @matt90 – Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s good sportsmanship. What I am saying is that all of the best drivers we’ve had would have done the same. All of them.

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 31st March 2014, 1:05

            Sadly a lot of the recent ones would have. But there are plenty of greats going back to the ’70s and before who seemed to display far more integrity. So not all.

  3. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 30th March 2014, 12:43

    I was glad to see him reject team orders for a few reasons:

    1) His past. The dude has been told to “move over” for just about his entire career.
    2) I know they thought that Bottas could have potentially caught Button, but I feel it’s too early in the season to be telling drivers to get out of the way, it wasn’t a case of “Valtteri is in contention of the WDC and Massa isn’t, so Felipe should move over”. It’s just too early in the season.
    3)I get that they wanted to try and maximise the teams’ points haul, but I highly doubt Valtteri could have caught Button even if Felipe had given him the position. Massa’s tyres were only 2 laps older than Bottas’s, and Button was faster than them regardless.

    • karter22 (@karter22) said on 31st March 2014, 6:06

      1) His past. The dude has been told to “move over” for just about his entire career.
      2) I know they thought that Bottas could have potentially caught Button, but I feel it’s too early in the season to be telling drivers to get out of the way, it wasn’t a case of “Valtteri is in contention of the WDC and Massa isn’t, so Felipe should move over”. It’s just too early in the season.
      3)I get that they wanted to try and maximise the teams’ points haul, but I highly doubt Valtteri could have caught Button even if Felipe had given him the position. Massa’s tyres were only 2 laps older than Bottas’s, and Button was faster than them regardless.

      1.- That´s because he is number 2 driver material, not number 1.
      2.- I guess we wil never know because he didn´t get past! Oh and is it to early in the season to bark at your team to stop Bottas from ramming his nose up Massa´s gearbox??
      3.- Button put Massa to sleep quick when Massa got close enough, but I have a feeling that Valteri might´ve been able to get the job done. He is a loose canon as we saw in Melbourne. Massa… well he just doesn´t grow a pair often enough.

  4. Toro Stevo (@toro-stevo) said on 30th March 2014, 12:58

    No doubt people will link this incident to the Multi 21 a year ago, given the differences in how people are interpreting it (i.e. Vettel the villian for ignoring, Massa the hero for ignoring). Despite the obvious difference in that one was being asked not to overtake, and one was being asked to let himself be overtaken.

    The answer that should be applied to this one and which was not applied (to my knowledge) to the Multi incident. It depends purely on what the team arrangement was before the race, and what the drivers agreed to. If both drivers have promised to obey direction, then they really ought to, as the other driver may have made tactical race decisions based on this agreement. If the team hasn’t cleared orders unambiguosly with the drivers, or the driver hasn’t agreed to take orders, then the driver has every right to ignore the order. It’s not clear what arrangements were in place either year, and given these are internal decisions we will never know. For most people, they will end up naturally siding with the driver they prefer.

    In general, for the sake of racing it’s much better that drivers do ignore team orders, and make sure the team and other driver knows that before the race.

  5. Alex said on 30th March 2014, 13:03

    Andrew Murdoch: “Felipe, Valtteri is faster than you, let him go!”

    Felipe Massa: “ENOUGH!”

  6. kpcart said on 30th March 2014, 13:08

    I bet massa made sure his contract has no clauses to obey team orders so early in the season. good on him, I wished rosberg did the same last year at malaysia

  7. BasCB (@bascb) said on 30th March 2014, 13:08

    Honestly, I think its good that Massa did not heed this order and instead just tried to go as fast as he could. In his place, I am not that sure Bottas himself would have reacted any differently, just remember the time he was told to let Maldonado go by in his 2nd race for the team last year, he also ignored it.

    By the way, hearing Bottas on the radio reacting when the team told him earlier that he should leave Massa a bit of room, and they would both go past soon was one of the nice moments (The one where he told them to “tell massa to get on with it”)

  8. Alex said on 30th March 2014, 13:13

    Seems like elder statesman syndrome from Massa. Always have had very little time for him whining, now this… fool

  9. I think there was a real chance for Bottas to overtake Button. Considering Massa did profit from team orders at the start of the race, the balance doesn’t seem right at the end of the race.

    It looks like Massa considers himself #1 driver in the team and was in need to prove so by not following the team orders. But this you do by being faster than your team mate and I’d bet that Bottas will be in front by the end of the seasson.

    Poor job from the pits on how Massa was instructed, though. If there are certain words that Massa wouldn’t like to hear is “x is faster than you”.

    Jenson thanks Felipe…

  10. davey said on 30th March 2014, 13:46

    last year vettel was vilified for disobeying team orders, now massa is been praised for doing the same.

    just shows how much anti-vettel hate there is amongst f1 fans just because he happens to have been very successful the past few years & of course you can’t let anyone have too much success because thats seen as bad thesedays. utter nonsence!

  11. ElBasque (@elbasque) said on 30th March 2014, 13:51

    Did you see Claire Williams trying to explain that Massa hearing an order from the team and ignoring it doesn’t translate into “ignoring team orders”?

    Also i’ve noticed a ~500% increase in camera shots into the Williams garage since Claire took over more duties mid-last year. It reminds me of the Sochi Olympics and the shots of young female supporters between EVERY gap in action.

    • kpcart said on 30th March 2014, 17:22

      I have not seen 500%increase infact i did not notice her once this race. I will watch the replay of the race, i am 500% sure you are wrong. I saw more of saubers team principal.

  12. Abba said on 30th March 2014, 14:05

    If it were much earlier in the race or the gap between them and Button was consistantly getting bigger, then you can give such an order.
    If Bottas couldnt pass Massa on his own, why would you think he can pass Button any easier?
    Very bad move Williams and it may come back to haunt you.
    You have already achieved the maximum points for the day, then for the slim possibility of adding two more points, maximum, you decide to destroy the teams cohesiveness, 2 races into the most promising year in a long time?
    The Pit wall team were very stupid, in my opinion, and should be cautioned for their utterances. I suggest, if the need were ever to arise again, it should be one person with enough common sense to issue such orders to the drivers.
    In my opinion Massa did the right thing and should be given an apology quickly and you may have a more healthy competition tomorrow between the drivers.
    This is a big management issue in my opinion

    • Arki (@arki19) said on 30th March 2014, 15:19

      That has to have been one of the worst examples of ‘man management’ I have ever heard. Well done Williams; any team harmony and moral was broken done in that one moment.
      Maybe, and that’s a maybe, Bottas could have challenged Button and won one more Constructors Championship point but what they have definitely achieved is a lot of bad feelings and a breakdown in whatever positive ambience they have been striving so hard to promote since the end of last season.
      True, we only heard the radio conversation that was deemed by FOM to be worthy enough, but I think we heard enough.

      • McKenzie (@mckenzie) said on 30th March 2014, 16:01

        Maybe, and that’s a maybe, Bottas could have challenged Button and won one more Constructors Championship point but what they have definitely achieved is a lot of bad feelings and a breakdown in whatever positive ambience they have been striving so hard to promote since the end of last season.

        That’s it in a nutshell @arki19. Regardless of all the ifs, buts and maybes, Williams botched their driver management right at the start of the season. Sweep all the hypothetical gains to one side – and they were based upon dubious assumptions – they key issue is team cohesion/spirit. Telling one of your drivers to get out of the way on the basis of a highly questionable gain, isn’t very wise imho. Massa was badgered repeatedly which makes it look even worse.

        If Bottas was going to sweep Button out of the way, he’d have been able to pass Massa without team orders. The fact that Massa could hold Bottas up suggests Button would not have been easy to pass either. Being slightly faster than another driver is one thing. Passing him without a helping hand is something else.

        None of my comments have anything to do with favouring one driver over another. I’m just looking at the matter from the likely impact on team spirit/cohesion.

  13. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 30th March 2014, 14:10

    I see what you did there, Pat.

    • McKenzie (@mckenzie) said on 30th March 2014, 15:15

      This is a big management issue in my opinion

      Management blunder. The gains that might have accrued by allowing Bottas to attack Button were highly uncertain. Massa was going fast enough to hold Bottas at bay, so it is highly questionable whether Bottas could have achieved what Massa could not. And allowing Bottas to attack could well have resulted in an incident with Button, because the fight would probably have been very hard fought (Massa is an experienced driver and he was in an identical car). Some people might say the team call was about racing, but F1 is also about maximising constructor’s points.

      Team orders are fine if there is a clear benefit from them being applied. In this case the benefit was highly speculative. Conversely, the impact on team-driver relations was fairly obvious. High cost (damage to driver relations/team spirit) versus highly questionable gains (assuming Bottas could have passed Button). So I agree; it was not good management. Even the way the message was put to Massa, and the way it was put repeatedly, displayed a lack of awareness as to the long-term impact on team relations. Yes, the spat may come back to haunt Williams.

  14. Michael Brown said on 30th March 2014, 14:10

    My thoughts:

    Disobeying the team order was not the right thing to do. Bottas had better tires and therefore a better chance to attack Button. What does Massa do? Hold Bottas up so he ruins his tires.

    Although, if the “Bottas is faster than you” message was really sent to Massa first, then his engineer should take some blame for poorly choosing his words. Without justifying why Bottas was faster than Massa, Massa got arrogant and disobeyed the team order.

  15. SennaNmbr1 (@sennanmbr1) said on 30th March 2014, 14:13

    Massa contradicts himself. “Doing the best we can” was surely to let Bottas overtake.

    However, he was ahead of him for most of if not all of the race, so he deserved to finish ahead. And quite frankly, Bottas was hardly all over him.

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