Sepang is now well and truly the team orders capital of Formula 1, as this last edition of the Malaysian Grand Prix again featured high drama between teammates.
Last year, not only did Red Bull’s infamous ‘Multi 21′ affair make the headlines, Nico Rosberg was also controversially ordered to stay behind his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
The same did not happen in 2014, as Hamilton easily dominated the grand prix ahead of Rosberg.
The new ‘team orders’ storm has been triggered by a tussle over mere seventh place, after Felipe Massa was asked by Williams to move over.
“Okay Felipe, Valtteri [Bottas] is faster than you, do not hold him up,” the Brazilian was told over the radio.
The order was eerily similar to the infamous ‘Fernando [Alonso] is faster than you’ issued by Ferrari some years ago, but this time Massa was not listening.
Having ignored the order once, Massa was told again: “Valtteri has better tyres, we need to let him go. Do not hold him up.”
Massa again ignored the order, holding station ahead of his Finnish teammate and failing to pass McLaren’s Jenson Button for sixth by the finish.
“I have nothing to say,” Massa, breaking his silence, told the BBC afterwards. “I was just fighting to the end, that’s the way I wanted to do it and I will fight for my career and for what is right.
“I don’t regret what I did. I have very good respect for the team and I believe they respect me and that is very important,” he added.
Speaking to Britain’s Sky, deputy team boss Claire Williams refused to publicly rebuke Massa, saying only that it had been “a difficult situation”.
“It’s racing. It’s such a difficult situation,” she said. “You’ve got to do the best job for your team at the end of the day, it’s a team sport, and that’s what we are here to do to maximise the points for our team in the Constructors’ Championship. That’s the way it is. At the end of the day Felipe finished ahead of Valtteri.”
Williams replied to persistent suggestions that Massa ignored team orders, “He didn’t ignore them, but both cars were getting really hot at the end of the race, and they were both told they needed to make sure they got both cars across the lines rather than overheating them. Valtteri was also told to cool it off as well.”
“I’m very happy we are ending the race in P7 and 8, which is a great result for Williams. Much better than anything we did last year so I’m happy,” concluded Williams.
Bottas suggested that he thinks that Massa should have obeyed, “I was approaching quicker than him. We should speak with the team, look at the data and see if I could have caught Jenson and I thought I could have.”
“We need to learn from today for the future, we always have to keep learning,” added the Finn.
Niki Lauda, the Mercedes Team Chairman and also a triple drivers’ world champion, indicated that he thinks that Massa “did nothing wrong”.
“It is something that could be a problem for us [at Mercedes] in the future,” he said. “Racing drivers are racing drivers – they race for themselves. I would do exactly the same and my drivers would do the same.”(GMM)
Subbed by AJN.