Being a lifelong fan of Formula One, it was inescapable to not notice the Red Bull/Mercedes display last Sunday in the Malaysian Grand Prix of Team Orders and its popularity among the fans...
So as the title suggests, are Team Orders an integral part of Motorsport?
Based on the two examples from the Malaysian Grand Prix, here are my thoughts...
To be honest, it was clear to me that Red Bull had decided Webber should lead Vettel across the line by the last pitstops. However Sebastian had decided he was quicker and was going to exploit his advantage to take the win, despite being told to stay in formation and turn the engines back to keep the cars in working order.
Now this was a clear situation of Vettel over-ruling Car Designer Adrian Newey and Team Boss Christian Horner when they were worried about reliability and tyre life. To have the Team Boss say over the radio "This is Silly, Seb" is embarrasing enough, after Vettel dived up the inside of turn one squeezing himself into a gap that would have made Schumacher proud but also wiped out both cars had Mark defended more robustly.
Now the emotion was evident on Marks face in the post race pre-podium room and how he brushed off attempts by Seb to speak to him until blurting out the now infamous "Multi-21" phrase were perfectly understandable when, for a change, Mark was chosen to lead the Red Bull 1-2.
It was also a sign we have seen before from Seb where he has decided to ignore instructions from Rocky when advising about how fragile the car is. Recent examples include Spain 2012, Canada 2012 and Italy 2012 where he has been told the tyres or car are about to have a failure unless he eases off.
But we know Seb better than to slow down. Its just not in his nature. Hell even in 2011 when he'd sealed the title, he reluctantly moved over in the lead of the Brazilian GP to allow Mark pass to help his championship position, he still made sure he was close and Mark couldn't relax...
Besides its not as if we saw Dr Helmut Marko walk over to his young german charge and spank him hard for not obeying orders... Oh thats right... We wouldn't anyway...
Meanwhile at Mercedes, a similar situation arose. It was obvious that neither Mercedes was a match for the Red Bulls but they were a match for each other. With Hamilton ahead but having to back off because he'd used too much fuel, Rosberg was in a better position with Tyres and Fuel himself.
But again an embarassing radio conversation ensued, this time between Rosberg and Team Boss Ross Brawn, a tactical genius in F1 circles. But while there were no banzai moves took place, Rosberg made it clear of his position on the slow down lap... "This will be remembered." Hamilton did not celebrate as much as he could have, acutely aware of the sacrifice Nico had made for him. He also acknowledged this in the podium interview.
Lets hope Ross remembers Nico's sacrifice later in the season, otherwise commments will be rife about Lewis being Number One...
So, do Team Orders have a place in Formula One? For me, yes, they do and they have been in place for decades. Its simple. This is a Team Sport. Without a driver, the car doesnt move. Without a design team, the car for the driver isnt built and so on and so forth. So as its a Team Sport, the fact that orders are put in place to keep cars in position for maximum points or reliability issues makes sense.
People have debated this and will debate this for years to come but Team Orders are a part of Motorsport in general, whatever level it is at. At Le Mans, after 23 hours, both Peugeot and Audi have been known to order their cars to stay in formation to bring their cars to the finish. In Touring Cars, BMW and Alfa Romeo have been known to play the tactical game and ask drivers to swap positions for better points gain.
If there weren't team orders then drivers would race each other hard and fast, which we the fans want. But then cars would break, lives would be endangered and the team would breakdown due to not everyone pulling together for the common goal of lifting the championship silverware and glory at the seasons end.
Quite simply, Team Orders are a part of Motorsport...whether we like it or not.