Team orders have always been a controversial aspect of motorsport and especially Formula One. The controversy has been reignited by the clumsy manner in which Ferrari swapped the lead between Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in last weekend’s European Grand Prix at Hockenheim for which they were fined a knuckle rapping $100,000.
Team orders used to be a permitted aspect of the sport and it was customary for the top teams to have number one and number two drivers. No team was as practiced as this as Ferrari during the days when Michael Schumacher was winning world championships. Frequently Rubens Barrichello, the number two driver was ordered to give way to Schumacher and at times this became so blatant that fans protested that it was unfair.
The protests were so vehement that eventually the FIA, the sport’s governing body, outlawed team orders. Some believe that this simply forced them underground. Teams adopted two ways of controlling which driver finished ahead of his team mate; these were coded messages and underhand tactics such as delaying a car during a pit stop to pass the advantage to the other driver.
Now several teams, and particularly McLaren, believe that team orders should continue to be outlawed whilst others maintain that they are a necessary part of the sport. Even the F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone has come down in favour of allowing the teams freedom to control their drivers.
No doubt the whole issue will be debated yet again by the FIA, but a ban on team orders will still be in place for this weekend’s race in Hungary. Fernando Alonso is the favourite to win the race and is priced at 12/5 with Extrabet. Second favourite is Sebastian Vettell (5/2) followed by Mark Weber (11/2), Lewis Hamilton and Lewis Hamilton (both at 7/1).