Over the years team orders has left a sad and bitter legacy in Formula 1

Gilles Villeneuve one of the most popular drivers in the history of the sport died in the aftermath of a team orders gone wrong saga

Gilles Villeneuve one of the most popular drivers in the history of the sport died in the aftermath of a team orders gone wrong saga

Sebastian Vettel’s ‘stab-in-the-back’ Malaysian Grand Prix win revived an age-old debate about team orders in Formula One but trust, or the lack of it, could be more of a headache for champions Red Bull in the weeks ahead.

“If you get a situation where there’s no trust between the drivers within a team, that is quite corrosive,” Britain’s 1996 champion Damon Hill said on Sunday after world champion Vettel ignored his team’s instructions and passed Australian Mark Webber to snatch victory at Sepang.

Formula 1’s past is littered with examples of teams riven by internal feuding, with drivers taking matters into their own hands on the track in dramatic and sometimes catastrophic fashion.

Admirers of the late and great Gilles Villeneuve will always blame Frenchman Didier Pironi for contributing to his death by ‘stealing’ a victory from the Canadian at the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix.

1982 San marino GP winner Didier Pironi celebrates as an angry Gilles Villeneuve looks on

1982 San marino GP winner Didier Pironi celebrates as an angry Gilles Villeneuve looks on

Villeneuve was incensed by Pironi overtaking him while the Canadian, leading a Ferrari one-two, slowed to manage fuel and tyres.

He never spoke to Pironi again, declaring “From now on, it’s war”. Two weeks later, in Belgium, the father of 1997 champion Jacques died in qualifying at Zolder as he tried to beat his team mate’s time.

The headline-grabbing animosity between champions Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at McLaren in the late 1980s, which was thrilling for fans, engendered some superlative battles but also rash and reckless moves.

Bad blood between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2007 led to the Spaniard impeding his team mate in qualifying and picking up a grid penalty that cost him pole. Without the sanction, McLaren would have swept the front row. (Reuters)


  • Hooters

    This action by Vettel was so crap that we have to go back to 1982 to find a similar example. 31 years ago. Nice work Vettel.

  • Henk

    “Bad blood between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2007 led to the Spaniard impeding his team mate in qualifying and picking up a grid penalty that cost him pole.”

    The article could be more precise about the cause of the bad blood. It was Hamilton disobeying an agreement about track time for each driver during qualis. It wasn’t even a team order: he screwed up Alonso’s lap by taking up the position that had been agreed before the sessions. So he tried to reap off an unfair advantage over his teammate. Very Vettel-like. It always seems to start with an inexperienced and selfish driver, taking advantage over a gentleman’s agreement. Unsporting. I fear Webber there is no way for Webber to get justice. Alonso tried with his own hands but Ron Dennis turned his back and ended up losing a race (and the WDC) he could have won. Giles Villeneuve decided to get justice on the track, but the situation got to his head so bad that the end was tragic.

    For once, a difference could be made if Vettel were punished. But Red Bull doesn’t seem to have the character.

  • iKobus

    Vettel, is nothing but a spoiled little brat who can only perform if things are totally going his way. If he doesn’t get it his way he starts whining and moaning and as seems now even ignores straight orders… Horner should give him a nice thorough beating as every self respecting ‘father’ would!

  • seeing scarlet

    Team orders I can understand at the end of the season when one drivers winning the championship by 4-5 points and the other driver doesn’t have a chance. (unfortunately I agree with Bernie on this) but with the top 4 positions being set for the last quarter of a race is absurd. I can’t stand Vettle’s spoiled a** but he did have the fastest car and why should Webber be coddled? Same with Nico, that was a WWE wrestling script. Embarrassing race, fully embarrassing.

  • Kimster

    The real problem here is team orders. Did we see the real outcome of the race? No because then Vettel would have won fair and square and Rosberg taking 3rd after begging to let him pass. I don’t agree with team orders so early in the season and it does not make sense. If Ferrari was behind Webber would they still have slowed him down as the need to “preserve tyres”. The hell no, they would have given him full ref’s to protect his space. Vettel has got nothing to be sorry about – stupid call by the team and if this is how racing is going to be for the rest of the year it is gonna be artificial and very boring. Who enjoyed Rosberg behind Hamilton although he was miles quicker. Was it fun???? Then why crucify Vettel.

  • Apex Assassin

    Legal or illegal, fair or unfair, it’s always been there. At least now it’s in the open and no one has to pull some fake gearbox issue to let their teamie ahead.

    This who story with RBR is just hype.

  • pitwall

    @ Hooters ha ha ha classic.

  • F1 Fan 4 A Long Time


    Nice piece. However I think the title in 2007 was settled by the spygate scandal, and the subsequent removal of McLaren from the championship.

    A smart move by Bernie to throw the cars out of the constructors but leave the drivers in (otherwise Kimi would have won the title immediately)

    I strongly believe that when Lewis famously ended up in the gravel while entering the pit lane (China?), it was meant to be.

    How could F1 justify a world champion in a banned car? For me, Kimi’s title had to be the only outcome, and was.

  • Jimbo

    Also, let’s not forget the Turkish GP of 2010. And I’m NOT talking about Red Bull.

    Hamilton was leading Button when the team ordered Lewis to slow down (once again, to conserve fuel and tyres). Proceedings and radio went as so:

    LH “Jenson’s gaining on me, guys!”
    PW “It’s ok, Lewis. Jenson knows the situation”.

    LH “Is Jenson going to pass me or not?”
    RD “No Lewis, no”.

    2 corners and a start / finish straight later, Button makes a successful move on the inside into turn 1 to go ahead of Hamilton. Incensed, Hamilton fights back immediately and passes Jenson again a few corners later.

    LH “What the hell is going on!?!?”

    It was claimed that there was a mis-communication between pit wall and the 2 McLaren drivers.

  • Torque

    Vettel did the right thing in taking the win, Poonando was out of the race and it was a perfect opportunity to gain 25 pts on what will likely be his main challenger for the WDC. Vettel and probably just about everyone knows that it will be him and not Webbah who will be fighting for the WDC at the end of the season. Smart dude! I wish there weren’t team orders but it’s something that won’t go away and if you ban it they’ll just be more clever about implementing them.

  • Hristo Itchov

    Had they not told Webber to slow down and preserve the car/tires, Vettel wouldn’t have been able to attack immediately after the final pitstops. Webber had some 4 seconds lead over Vettel when the latter pitted a lap earlier and I very much doubt he would have been 4 seconds quicker over a single lap if Webber hadn’t slowed down. And without DRS and KERS, Vettel simply wouldn’t have been able to attack, because during the whole race Webber was on par or even quicker than Vettel. So in short – Webber had the pace to win it. After Vettel passed him, Webber’s tires were probably in much worse conditions because he had to defend and go onto the dirty part a couple of times, so he dropped back.

  • JA Martinez

    I would not compare the Pironi/Villeneuve to this one. Vettel is a spoiled brat who is the best of his time perhaps…But in the time of Villeneuve and Pironi you had to drive the car, change gears by hand, manage your tires, preserve the car, AND race the other drivers. Wins were rare!!!! This guy know he can win on any given sunday. And to those that say he is behaving as champions do and that that is the reason he is a 3 time champ…I say only this…Last year you enjoyed watching Alonso come up short more than watching what was basically an inevitable championship by another Newey designed beast being driven by two men with a 10 year age difference and a completely different view of sport and sportsmanship….There was a time when the cars were driven by geniuses…this is not that time. If you needed to win a race to save your life…you went and got Gilles…If you needed to win a championship to save your life…you went and got Prost….if this driver had to be the same person….Senna….it’s not that I dont like Vettel…its that people compare him and Schumacher to these guys…and that is wrong…