Last week’s British Grand Prix served up one of the great F1 races in the circuit’s long history. Sadly, the pinnacle of Motorsport was tarnished for many fans with the Formula 1 season’s first example of team orders this year. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was Sunday’s scapegoat, issuing instructions to Mark Webber to ‘maintain the gap’ between Sebastian Vettel and himself. The incident was detrimental to racing and stole from the paying fans a grandstand finish.
Horner defended his decision, stating the team orders were in the interests of the team and prevented a repeat of the embarrassment Red Bull suffered in Turkey, 2010, when their two drivers collided mid-race. As Horner generated excuses during the BBC’s post-race interview show, the F1 Forum, former F1 team owner Eddie Jordan applauded, backing the Red Bull boss up on what he viewed as “the right thing to do”.
Jordan continued to reiterate his opinions that are in stark contrast to those of his own one year ago. Similarly to Silverstone last week, in 2010 the Nurburgring played host to a perfect example of why team orders should still be out-ruled, just as they were in the 2010 season. After a mostlythrilling German Grand Prix, team orders robbed fans of a head to head race to the chequered flag, similar to what happened last Sunday. With a few laps to go, race leader Felipe Massa was issued coded team orders. Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley radioed his driver saying, “Fernando is faster than you – do you understand?”
Title contender and Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso needed the points more in the eyes of Team Principal Stefano Domenicali, to increase Ferrari’s hopes of winning the driver’s championship. Massa, in a move that would later cost Ferrari a $100,000 fine, moved aside to let Alonso take the win. “Good lad. Just stick with it now – sorry” was Smedley’s consolation.
Interestingly, Eddie Jordan, rather than defending the ‘team’ decision as he did at Silverstone, lambasted the move in a damning interview on team orders; “It was unlawful and theft”, raged Jordan. “They stole from us the chance of having a wheel to wheel
contest between two drivers”. His views are a far cry from the reassurances he gave to Horner one week ago.
As a former Team Principal and team owner, Jordan must stand on one side of the fence or the other – not both. If Horner’s desire was to avoid the embarrassment of Turkey, then the ‘team decision’ should have been for Sebastian Vettel to let the faster Mark Webber through.
But this wouldn’t happen. Horner’s decision was not for the team – it was for golden boy Vettel, who has the highest chance of bringing the team success. The same intentions forced Massa to yield for Alonso in Germany.
Eddie Jordan’s U-turn on the matter is baffling. How his perceptions on team orders can fluctuate from one season to the next is ridiculous for a person who’s supposed to provide a voice of reason as the BBC’s lead analyst. More reassuring is that one member of the BBC’s F1 coverage team called it right. Whether or not being a former F1 driver is an easier position to analyse the affair, I don’t know, but Martin Brundle drew it up in black and white with a play on words of the Ferrari team orders from Germany:
If Red Bull wanted the high ground this time the call should have been:
Sebastian, Mark is faster than you.