What the FiA should do about team orders in Formula One

Posted on July 28, 2010


A debate is about to be had in Formula One about whether or not team orders have any place in the sport, with some huge names joining both sides of the argument.

Red Bull Racing have been happy to let their drivers race this season. Credit: Getty Images/Red Bull Racing

Ferrari are unrepentant over the actions on Sunday – which is better than lying about it, as they did after the race – and they have found clear support from figures including Ross Brawn, principal at Mercedes.

But Christian Horner at Red Bull has made clear his drivers race each other, with the catastrophe in Turkey the unfortunate but acceptable result. More significantly, Martin Whitmarsh at McLaren believes team orders should stay banned which is a remarkable change for a team guilty of similar in 2008 when Heikki Kovalainen yielded to Lewis Hamilton to ensure the Briton could secure the title.

This whole debate comes down to whether you believe Formula One to be a team or individual sport. In truth it has always been both, but which is more important?

The modern sport is about finding the best driver. Yes, the champion needs the right car beneath him put viewers follow the drivers. And in this season, with teams packed with champions, it looks more cynical than ever to see Ferrari swapping their drivers while both are mathematically in with a chance at the championship.

When we arrive in Abu Dhabi, I want to know if Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso or Felipe Massa is the best driver in the field. In each case, the winner should have to beat his team mate first.

But Ross Brawn has said the only sensible measure is to allow team orders. Credit: Mercedes GP

To that end, I would suggest regulation 39.1, banning team orders, should stay in the rules but with an amendment. If a team’s driver is mathematically out of the championship race – as was the case in the controversial McLaren incident in 2008 – then the team can switch the drivers. This shouldn’t need a team order really as the driver’s all know the score but it would remove the outcry when the switch happens.

Felipe Massa is still a contender in the 2010 championship. He has a very remote chance of winning the title but if the Ferrari really is back on the pace of the Red Bull and ahead of the McLaren, stranger things have happened. That is why Ferrari had no business switching its drivers on Sunday.

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