Team orders are nothing new to Formula One, but each season they throw some sort of controversy into the mix…
Whether it’s Rubens Barrichello letting Michael Schumacher through at the last corner in Austria 2002, Felipe Massa’s famous “Alonso is faster than you” radio call – when team orders we’re banned – or the “Multi-21” incident with Sebastian Vettel ignoring Red Bull’s orders to let Mark Webber win, and instead going on to take victory himself.
In Singapore, it happened again as we saw Max Verstappen refuse to let his team-mate Carlos Sainz through towards the end of the race – his reply was a categorical “NO” over team radio.
Verstappen’s point of view is understandable; Sainz wasn’t close enough to him. And after his fight throughout the field, coming from last up to eighth, it must have felt like a kick in the teeth. But listening to the call multiple times, the team should have delivered it better – eg “You must let your team-mate through”.
If Toro Rosso are planning on using team orders again, I think they need to work on it. However ignoring team orders as a driver isn’t the best thing to do, especially in your first F1 season. And in my opinion, it did put a downside to what was a brilliant race for him and could have resulted in a reprimand or fine from his team.
Some fans dislike team orders being allowed as at times it takes away from the racing. But we have seen them work well in the past, with Red Bull for example. At Monaco, the team told Daniil Kvyat to let Daniel Ricciardo through to have a late charge, but as no further ground was made up they later swapped back.
We have also seen team orders win races – as it did for Jordan at Spa in 1998, as Ralf Schumacher was told he could not try to overtake Damon Hill, confirming a one-two finish.
Although at times team orders do reduce the amount of racing we see, I personally do think they should remain legal. It adds a different aspect to the strategy of a race and has, of course, led to some fierce rivalries too.
♦ Richard Baxter is a member of the NRF1 Podcast crew. Follow Richard on Twitter @bax_kid