Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton finished third in a thrilling Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday. However, in an era when the sport is arguably as competitive as it has ever been, some teams still persist in utilising the archaic means of telling a driver to move over and allow their ‘faster’ team-mate through.
Not only does this seriously damage the watchable nature of the sport, it sends mixed messages to the drivers themselves.
History of team orders
From the embarrassing situation when Michael Schumacher pulled Rubens Barrichello up onto the first place podium with him after the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, to the infamous "Fernando [Alonso] is faster than you, can you confirm you’ve understood that message?” that led to Felipe Massa being overtaken at the 2010 German grand prix, team orders have been a fixture of the sport for years, but it is time for the FIA to crack down on it further.
Indeed in those two instances, it is almost understandable, given that the team had a clear number one driver. However, for Mercedes to ask Hamilton, who is behind in the standings due to mechanical inconsistency but has been consistently faster than Nico Rosberg, to move over and let his only serious competitor pass him is frankly ludicrous and damages the integrity of the sport.
Damaging the sport
Rosberg was unable to pass Hamilton in a fair race given the racing conditions and that ought to have been the end of that. Fans want to see a fair but exciting race, and, due to Hamilton, Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo’s brilliant drives, along with Hamilton’s refusal to accept the team’s poorly reasoned decision, that is exactly what they saw.
For Rosberg to extend his championship lead in such a manner after Hamilton had recovered 17 places from starting in the pit lane would have left a bitter taste in the mouth of all who follow the sport. This is why the FIA need to insist on either the existence of a clear number one driver, or the drivers must be allowed to race each other, even if they are on the same team.
Comparisons to cycling
Indeed, the only place where similar circumstances of teams favouring one member of their outfit is in cycling, and the problems that causes are obvious when you examine the dramatic fallout between Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins. The rivalry has basically led to one of the best riders in the world in Wiggins no longer being able to be a part of the best team in the world due to one of them having to be subservient to the other.
This cannot be a scenario the teams want to carry over into Formula One as each team wants to attract the top drivers. As such there needs to be a level playing field in terms of favouritism, even for those driving under the same banner, and racers must be left to race.