Team orders vs. free racing: The debate rages on

I'm not the first to give my take on this issue and I'm sure I will not be the last.

The new radio clampdown placed on the teams has also conjured up talk concerning team orders and how the FIA should deal with them.

Banned, but ignored

Rob Smedley to Felipe Massa: “Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand that message?”

This message made international headlines during the 2010 German Grand Prix. Right when Massa was leading the Grand Prix, Ferrari radioed the Brazilian to move aside and let Alonso pass him. Subsequently, team orders were made legal by the FIA from the 2011 season. Although, it was banned at the end of 2002 season, it was always in practice by the teams, albeit indirectly.

During the banned years of team orders, Formula 1 history witnessed a catastrophic use of them. In the 2008 Singapore GP, Nelson Piquet Jr was asked by the Renault F1 team to deliberately crash, which triggered the safety car. This was done to aid Alonso and allow him to win the race. It was probably the most dangerous use of team order in recent history.

The debate of team orders vs. free racing has been around for years. Many remain divided on the issue, but a large contingent cringe at the very use of the term. There will always be some who justify the use of team orders and others who oppose it. In reality though, team orders and free racing depends a lot on the race situation and most importantly, the championship situation.

Remembering why they are used

Has anyone wondered why team officials use team orders during races? It is not that they feel happy doing it, everyone needs to remember that these people are racing fans first. They are in the business largely because of their love for the sport. They use team orders, largely because of the constructors’ championship and for the commercial interest.

The teams have a global reputation and the sponsors who put in the money have a large brand value. And so, both parties don’t want to see two drivers crashing into each other while fighting for position. Yes, they would want to see a fair wheel-to-wheel fight, but there can always be a situation like that of Belgian GP ... A minor incident causing huge dramas within the media, as well the team itself. Instability has been the downfall of many teams in the past. In order to limit those unwanted incidents and bring home a decent haul of points, they utilize team orders.

From the driver's perspective

The drivers are in a different situation in this regard, they do as they are asked to do, by the their team. There are instances like 2010 Turkish Grand Prix and 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix where the drivers do what their gut tekks them instead. Even in the current season, we have seen such instances. The drivers are racers at the end of the day, and they want to race, they want to fight for position and not adhere to team orders.

Certain situations demand control sometimes, and thus the team order is used. One shouldn’t forget, team order are only used against teammates. Other than that, a driver is always fighting against his rival competitors. The free racing element is always there, it is seasons like 2014, where the teammate rivalry is so intense, that the debate for free racing or team orders is always being discussed.

The fan's take

The fans are in a unique dilemma all together. It is a situation, where some say it is alright when his/her favourite driver is aided through the use of it. And the driver losing out has his fans against the orders. Naturally, there is this divided opinion amongst the fan base. The fans mostly want to see free racing but, the divided opinions do come into play when their favoured driver is in need of team orders. It's a double-edged sword.

There will be fans speaking out about team orders and also tacitly justifying them at other times. Although, there is of course the contingent that opposes it with a passion, no matter who they may favour. There will never be one answer in this debate of team orders vs, free racing. You will always find divided opinions and said opinions are not restricted to the fans, but even the officials and drivers alike.

Which side are you on of this debate?

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Felipe Massa , Nelson Piquet
Teams Ferrari
Article type Commentary