F1: Team Orders, Crazier Than Ever

The Malaysian Grand Prix produced yet another crazy race last Sunday, only this time the chaos was all around in-team politics. It demonstrated that teams need to understand the whole race picture before demanding that one of their drivers obediently follows the other around.

It certainly shouldn't be used as a ruse to ban team orders.

In summary, Sebastian Vettel passed team mate Mark Webber in the closing stages of the race ignoring Red Bull's instructions not to. Further back Nico Rosberg was denied the opportunity to pass Lewis Hamilton when he complied with Mercedes instructions to hold station.

Both decisions have been villified. Vettel's for being unsportsmanlike, Mercedes for favouring Hamilton.

The nature of F1 means that drivers have to run a race based on the ability to make best use of tyres that have been designed to wear badly.

Both Vettel and Rosberg had managed their machinery early in the race to ensure they had fast cars towards the end of it.

Neither was expecting to be behind their teammate at that stage. Vettel was expecting to be battling for the win with Alonso, Rosberg with Raikonnen for a podium.

By compromising the early part of their races Webber and Hamilton had gained track position over their teammates. But they both had slow cars for the final part of the race. Webber had the slower hard tyre, whilst Hamilton was crawling along as he was short of fuel.

In these circumstances asking either Vettel or Rosberg to tail their teammate was demonstrably wrong.

That does not mean that team orders should be banned forthwith. Rather that teams need to understand the big picture and not punish the member of their team who has managed their whole race better.


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