Team orders are tricky. As a driver, you are looking out for numero uno. Why would you give up the better track position on purpose? If the guy behind you is faster, let him prove it on the track. As a team manager, things look a bit different. The real money in Formula One is in the constructors championship. You want to bring home both cars with the maximum amount of points. Then again, you may have to answer to your “number 1” driver. If this sounds familiar, it is. We have seen the drama of team orders play out the last few seasons with Hamilton ignoring orders in last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as well as Perez ignoring orders to allow teammate Ocon to pass in this year’s Canadian Grand Prix. So do you enforce team orders as the boss and do you listen to team orders as the driver? Those were the questions needing answers during the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix.
To set the stage, it was the sixth race of the 2002 season and Micheal Schumacher stood atop the Drivers’ Championship standings with a 21 point lead. Ferrari had a dominant car and two superb drivers in Michael Schumacher and Ruben Barrichello. So where is the drama? Well, the answer didn’t come until the final few laps of the race. Barrichello was in the lead with Schumacher struggling to keep up in second place. Then the fateful call came over the team radio. “Ruben, it is the last lap. Let Michael pass for the championship.” Ferrari wanted their number one driver, Schumacher, to win the race and collect the maximum points (only 10 back in 2002) for the Drivers’ Championship. So as the two red Ferraris came around the very last corner, Barrichello let off the gas and let Schumacher pass for the win. The crowd started to boo.
When the teammates finally reached the podium the crowd was in a frenzy. Schumacher, who was obviously embarrassed by the situation, insisted that Barrichello take the top spot on the podium. By that point, however, the damage was done. Team orders had resulted in an artificial race result. The FIA came down hard and decided to ban team orders that would affect the race result. But as you can tell, teams are back at it — the ban on the practice ran from 2002 to 2010. Team are once again free to ask drivers to switch positions whenever it serves the team as a whole. So where do you fall on this issue? Team orders or no team orders. Tweet us you answer @TheF1Newsletter.