No-one really likes to be told what to do, especially not if you’re a racing driver wanting to win a Grand Prix, that’s for sure. After Mark Webber was asked by Christian Horner to “maintain the gap” from team-mate Sebastian Vettel on Sunday, the ugly notion of team orders has come back into the picture in F1. The Badgerometer looks through the ages to see where team orders have affected Grand Prix for the worst.
As Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel squabbled over the lead at the start of the 2010 German Grand Prix Felipe Massa took full advantage to sneak ahead in to P1. Nice work, Felipe.
But despite holding top spot the Brazilian was ordered to allow team-mate Alonso through, engineer Rob Smedley delivering the now-famous sentance ‘Fernando is faster than you.’
Cue total farce. Smedley was quite plainly giving Massa a coded message to move over and made little effort to disguise his frustration at this; Massa, for his part, made Alonso’s overtake look as blatant as possible.
“Ok good lad, just stick to it now,” said Smedley following the position switch, adding a very guilty sounding, “Sorry.”
Fernando won, much to the anger of many fans (and the odd team boss). Ferrari were later fined one-hundred thousand dollars for their actions, but faced no further punishment.
Before we get into this one, let us ask you a question; if you were leading your home race in a team based in your country, you’d want to win no matter the cost, right? That’s what faced Rene Arnoux on home soil in 1982, and seeing as the Frenchman hadn’t won for nearly two years, it was a sweet feeling. Only, Renault had other ideas.
With the manufacturer desperate to power a French World Champion, they had put all their eggs in the basket of Alain Prost, who was 20 seconds behind Arnoux in the race but was the chosen driver when it came to promoting the team. Arnoux ignored frantic pit calls to move aside and won the race, only for all hell to break loose.
Many team members claimed that Arnoux had wanted to move aside for Prost, something the elder Frenchman denied. Alain, although upset about the mess, claimed that he thought the team provided equal status, which – of course – Arnoux also believed. It didn’t rumble on for long; Arnoux left the team at the end of the season.
San Marino 1989
Many other tomes have been written about the great rivalry between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. The two McLaren legends ended their time as team-mates with their hands metaphorically around each others throats, but the breakdown of their relationship can be traced back to a few earlier events, notably their spat at Imola in 1989.
The race began as normal, with poleman Senna getting away well while Prost struggled to hold off the Ferrari of Nigel Mansell. The race was red flagged after 4 laps though, as Mansell’s team-mate Gerhard Berger speared off the road at Tamburello and burst into flames, the Austrian very lucky to escape with only broken ribs and second-degree burns.
At the restart, Prost had a better start than Senna and led, but the Brazilian passed him into Tosa Hairpin. Both McLaren’s romped away, with Senna winning from Prost. After the race, it transpired that McLaren had agreed with both drivers that whoever led into the first corner would be allowed the place and, understandably, the victory. Prost saw Senna’s pass as a break of this deal, and the war for supremacy between the two began in earnest.
Heading to the Austrian Grand Prix of 2002 Michael Schumacher’s scorecard read four wins and one third place from five races. His world championship lead was huge, his car faster than anyone else’s and a third successive world title already looked assured.
So when team-mate Rubens Barrichello – who’d had a trying start to the season – led the race from pole you’d have been fair to assume they might just let the Brazilian have this one. After all, Michael was second and so wouldn’t lose any points to chief title rival Juan Pablo Montoya. Surely, with Rubens leading on the last lap, the number two Ferrari would cross the line first.
Nope. Barrichello was ordered to let Schumacher past to aid the German’s world title bid (which needed no help) and, as countryman Massa would so eight years later, Rubens made the move look as obvious as possible.
The podium ceremony was farcical, both drivers looking embarassed and Schumacher feeling the need to hoist Rubens on to the top step. There were boos from the fans, a deluge of bad press and a hefty fine for the team.
Five races later – on July 21st – Schumacher sewed up the championship.
San Marino 1982
When two team-mates bicker and argue it can be entertaining for the fans, but when it’s a friendship that turns tragic, it’s a completely different story. In early 1982, a season already hit with exclusions, protests and a driver strike, events at Imola would lead to the loss of one of the sport’s leading lights.
With many of the FOCA (Formula One Constructor Association) teams boycotting the race due to Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg being disqualified a round earlier, only 14 cars lined up to take the start. This boosted Ferrari’s chances on home soil and the tifosi were there in their droves to support drivers Didier Pironi and Gilles Villenueve. With the Renaults being faster, the reliability issues that blighted the French team reared its head again and both dropped out, leaving the Prancing Horses far out in front of third place man Michele Alboreto. Ferrari ordered the cars to slow to minimise risks.
It was then that the confusion set in. Villenueve was leading and saw the call as “hold position”, while Pironi thought it meant both drivers were allowed to race. He passed his Canadian team-mate, but Gilles only saw it as a way of entertaining the crowd, taking the lead back soon after. On the final lap, Pironi sneaked past again, and with Villenueve unable to catch up and repass, won the race.
At the podium, it was clear Gilles was not happy. With him thinking that the race was his, he saw Pironi’s last lap pass as a betrayal of sorts, and vowed never to speak to the Frenchman again. Two weeks later, he was killed in practice at Zolder.