Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2018

Mercedes “did the right thing” with team orders, says rival

2018 Russian Grand Prix

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Mercedes’ use of team orders in the Russian Grand Prix has been backed by one of their rival teams.

Valtteri Bottas was told to let Lewis Hamilton past, allowing the championship leader to win the race and extend his points advantage over Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton said accepting a win from his team mate “didn’t feel good” and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff also said he was reluctant to impose orders on his drivers. But Force India team principal Otmar Szafnauer backed Wolff’s decision.

“I think he did the right thing,” said Szafnauer. “I would have done exactly the same because you don’t know what tomorrow brings.”

“You can easily have some kind of car or power train failure and then you’re 25 points gone. Someone can take you out inadvertently at the start. Probably not, [but] definitely possible in five races.

“If you don’t finish two of them, there’s a battle for the championship. So I think you’ve got to take every opportunity to ensure you win both championships. They’re fighting for both the drivers and the constructors.”

Szafnauer, whose team is a Mercedes engine customer, also employed team orders during yesterday’s race. Force India pair Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez were told to swap positions twice so that Perez had the opportunity to attack Kevin Magnussen.

Perez wasn’t able to pass the Haas, and was told to give the place back to Ocon. However Szafnauer felt it was worth swapping their drivers around to give him the chance.

“You don’t know until you try so how do you know? We have to try it. Had it worked we would have been better off. You should do it if you’re no worse off.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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50 comments on “Mercedes “did the right thing” with team orders, says rival”

  1. Maybe we need to ban team orders again

    1. Jonathan Parkin
      1st October 2018, 12:43

      The problem is we’ve tried it once and it didn’t work. And any ironing out of potential kinks is going to end up with a list of rules longer than Harry Potter’s list of orders to his house elf in Book 6

      1. At least they will think twice, and beforehand won’t be able to predict every scnerario

        Giving out socks to everybody doesn’t feel like a good solution

  2. Force India team isn’t a Mercedes rival, they’re a Mercedes satellite team (or used to be before Stroll take-over). Their opinion about Mercedes is as relevant as Alfa Romeo-Sauber’s opinion with regard to Ferrari.

    1. So will you take the opinion of Seb? i mean he too said that Mercedes made the right call.

  3. Nope, still don’t agree.

  4. Oooh I wonder what rival said that. Better click to find out.


  5. Didn’t Vettel say it was a no brainer?

    (It is.)

    1. He did. But maybe some of the posters above don’t consider Vettel a rival either? :)

    2. Lols. If ferrari did it, and if LH is in SV situation, im sure 110% LH n mercedes will criticise ferrari harder as no brainer as well.

  6. Of course they did the right thing. They also did the sensible, logical, safe and legal thing.

    Arguing it silly.

    1. F1 is all about racing,
      F1 is a race car,
      A race car need a racer,
      A racer race to win the race,
      A racer wants to win every races,
      A real winner racer will never like to give way or chances for his/her opponent to win the race, even their own teamate! If did so, better dont call it racing!

      1. F1 is a business, race teams are companies, pilots are employees, employees must do their best to support the company.

  7. I don’t think it was the right thing to do. Mercedes has the momentum now over Ferrari, so the team order was unnecessary, and Lewis clearly didn’t want it either.

    I think it was not only unnecessay, but also a fundamentally wrong and unsporting decision, of which Toto Wolff must take full responsibility.

    It was wrong to take a deserved win and 7 championship points away from Valtteri and gift them to Lewis, who hadn’t earned them and thus didn’t deserve them. This means that if Lewis wins the championship because of the points that the team has gifted him via team orders, he would then become an undeserving and unworthy world champion. It is wrong for the team to do that to Lewis.

    It was also clearly wrong that the team took away a win and 7 championship points that Valtteri had earned and thus fully deserved. It’s just simply wrong to treat your driver like that.

    It was also the wrong and irresponsible thing to do because it stained the public image of Mercedes, which is in Formula 1 to market their road cars and to offer positive publicity to their sponsors. Giving unsporting and unfair team orders will not help to create good will toward the brand of Mercedes or their sponsors.

    It was also wrong because team orders clearly go against the team’s own public image. They have repeatedly told in public that the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport F1 Team has passion for motorsports and that this is why they give their drivers the freedom to compete against each other. After this, they can no longer take the higher moral ground over teams like Ferrari, that are known to manipulate the race results via using team orders.

    It was also wrong because team orders make F1 races less interesting for the viewers and thus dilute the value of the sport.

    I think it’s a no-brainer to conclude that it was NOT the right thing to do, and those who say that it was need to think harder about the bigger picture of what accepting team orders as a common and frequently used practice would actually do to the image of Formula 1.

    1. You are just full of yourself and your opinions.

    2. OK now imagine Merc not doing this , then have a couple of DNF’s and lose the title by one point. Everyone would jump on them saying that not letting Lewis through in Sochi was the worst decision in F1 history. So yeah, your argument is pretty much invalid.

    3. Don’t agree with every point and I’m a little closer to the fence than you, but I agree with the overall message.

  8. Around this time last year, Vettel dropped 50 points in two races. Stuff happens.

    Formula 1 is built around a twin mythology of supreme drivers and dominant teams. The problem is both at the same time. As Vettel put it, from a team perspective the decision was a no brainer. Except everyone, including the team, well most of it, ‘felt’ for Bottas as a driver, giving the sense that he’d been deprived and maybe humiliated. In a team sport that would be nonsense, like an attacker passing the ball to another to score the goal, or a cyclist leading the peloton and then letting the championship leader finish first. But the fact nobody really saw or felt it like that tells you Formula 1 is really more about the individual drivers. But should Bottas have felt aggrieved or humiliated? Actually I don’t think so. He hasn’t really been there since Spa and the fact he suddenly performed well in Russia isn’t really enough to make heavy demands on the team. Really he’s been owing them some performance.

  9. I have thought about this. With hindsight I actually think it was a bad decision. Bad for the sport, bad for team harmony and bad for Mercedes’ image.

    Bottas has not had a win all season. This was a really good opportunity to allow him that win, which he had put himself in a position to take, based on the fact he outqualified everyone including Hamilton. He was also driving a good race. If Hamilton had caught him and passed him then that’s a different matter but at the time he had not.

    A win would obviously have helped Bottas to feel a sense of achievement and valued by the team. Hamilton would have still increased his lead over Vettel in the WDC. With this decision Mercedes are just storing up trouble for themselves and they can no longer lord it over Ferrari and their approach, having so brazenly implemented team orders.

    I completely understand why they did what they did but I think it was wrong in these circumstances. I am also very surprised they had not discussed this possible scenario with the drivers before the race.

    1. Sums it up perfectly.

    2. A reasoned argument. I would say unnecessary rather than wrong but maybe that’s just semantics?

    3. I disagree. Not that I am an advocate for team orders, but understand them at times, and I certainly will always be disgusted with MS/Ferrari, but I think you are overstating a few things, imho of course. Bad for the sport? Not really as it happens all the time and is part of the game as the seasons wind down. Bad for team harmony? Not really as they all understand that for all intents and purposes VB did everything he needed to win that race, but he is not in the WDC chase, and it will be great team harmony once they have sealed up both Championships, perhaps even early as usual. Bad for Mercedes image? Continually winning the Championships is a pretty good image to have. If Ferrari can be as popular as they are while openly admitting their one-rooster philosophy at certain times, then that shows that even a team order on one driver from race one of a season does not hurt their image, at least not so far as they are willing to change. I don’t see how Mercedes are ‘storing up trouble’ for themselves and I don’t think they have lorded anything over Ferrari.

      1. Well we both have our opinions but in the circumstances of this race, and the season as a whole, I just don’t think the decision was justified. Hamilton had passed Vettel and it did not look like he was any threat. He was also 40 points ahead in the WDC already and was going to increase his lead. If the gap had been 10 points for example or even 20, it may have made a lot more sense.

        My other point is that I have seen several interviews over the years where Toto has said words to the effect that they allow their drivers to race each other. He has made quite a point of it thereby I think, implying Mercedes are somehow more fair because they do this and Ferrari don’t.

        1. @phil-f1-21 I think the difference with TW is that when he had LH and NR dominating every race, the WDC fight being only between those two, obviously on the same team, he felt a duty to F1 and the audience to let them race, for otherwise it would have been more years of MS/Ferrari, where you had only two cars winning every race practically, but only one driver on the team allowed the wins….and the lost audience ensued.

          Now that Ferrari have been in the mix to help the show along TW has had the luxury or perhaps had the necessity to start to consider backing one driver over another or risk the two taking enough points of each other that SV would come right up the middle as per how Kimi won his WDC.

          So I don’t think it is at all hypocritical of TW to have said in the past let them race, and then in more recent years resort to team orders. It all depends on what is going on around them.

    4. As Bottas put it during the after race interview (on grid), they had discussed it. He said they review lots of scenarios, so I don’t think this was completely a surprise.

  10. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
    1st October 2018, 15:15

    The only way they can enforce another ban on team orders is if they also ban non-safety critical radio commentary. It’s not as wild as it sounds.

  11. Pretty much everyone seems to have missed the point here, it’s all about the timing of the M-B team order.

    Toto Wolff clearly thought Vettel made a double move defending from Lewis and that the stewards bottled the decision, again. His swift answer was to say, right, if you don’t play by the sporting rules, then we will use everything in our power to ensure we win the WDC, including spoiling the spectacle, because you’re assisting our rivals.

    Three laps after the ‘no further action’ stewards decision was the call to swap the leading cars. It’s blindingly obvious what prompted that and it’s the reason they chose to discuss it in private to avoid openly disrespecting the stewards, which never works out well.

    The loser, unfortunately was an innocent bystander, Bottas, who would otherwise have been left to contest a real race.

    1. Maybe, especially as Mercedes thought Hamilton had damaged his tyres fighting to regain position – sad though that is to think that the one decent bit of front-of-the-grid action could potentially ruined his race. For me that was actually the main takeaway of the race. High degrade tyres mean drivers won’t normally risk precisely the driving we want to see. Formula 1 really is a mess.

    2. @frasier I disagree that this is about some alleged revenge by TW because the stewards didn’t penalize SV and TW was therefore going to ‘show them’ for assisting their rival. Perhaps you should write articles for tabloid entities.

      1. @robbie you make the mistake of not joining the dots. In any situation it’s often what isn’t said that’s most important and likely that Bottas was appraised post-race of the reason for the team orders decision. In the C4 interview he said “I don’t want to tell exactly what we discussed before the race”, “it was just quite confusing how it happened and I wasn’t expecting that”.

        F1 is a business and if it merely seems that decisions are being made simply to keep Vettel in the hunt for the WDC, then M-B must counter that with a more ruthless approach. Regardless of whether the stewards decision was right or wrong it’s the impression that will win out in the heat of the moment, hence the snap decision and subsequent hand wringing from everyone in the M-B camp. No-one liked doing it that way, but they are professionals in a tough sport

      2. @frasier I simply reject your notion that the stewards decision to not penalize SV for an action that was marginal at best, had anything to do with their decision to favour LH for the win. There are no dots to connect other than in your mind. There was no ‘hand wringing.’ Probably half the folks around here wondered if VB would even be allowed to lead LH through the first corner, let alone have the win, once we saw their starting order. But the fact is LH got by SV quite quickly and easily, so Merc saw a one-two opportunity and made the call to give the higher points spot to the one in the WDC fight, as much as they hated it for VB. That was surely always a possibility in their pre-race discussions.

        1. @robbie

          There was no ‘hand wringing

          are we talking about the same post-race M-B gloom fest? Never was there such a subdued 1-2 ‘celebration’ full of talk of not doing it the right way.

          the fact is LH got by SV quite quickly and easily, so Merc saw a one-two opportunity and made the call to give the higher points spot to the one in the WDC fight

          And what about about the first stint on the ultras? Are you going to ignore the fact that no team orders were given during this spell?

          Typically selective ‘analysis’ on your part.

          1. @frasier Sorry but I really don’t think you are making much sense. I think you are likely alone in the thinking that the decision to not penalize SV had anything to do with anything. Whether or not SV kept it clean, the fact is it was clean enough for the stewards, and LH got by in no time. What looked like might have been really interesting, with LH behind SV after the first pits, was so short lived it was disappointing. Are you actually trying to suggest that had SV not been investigated had he clearly left plenty of room for LH, Merc would have let VB have the win? This was all a snap decision out of revenge toward F1. We’ll show you, you F1 you. We were going to let VB win until you didn’t penalize SV. Na Na, Na Na Na.


          2. @robbie sigh!

            Are you actually trying to suggest that had SV not been investigated had he clearly left plenty of room for LH, Merc would have let VB have the win?

            What on earth are you on about? If you’re going to put up a strawman for heavens sake make it intelligible.

          3. @frasier Well perhaps explain yourself more clearly then. I’m trying to make sense out of your ‘spoiling the spectacle’ theme that is ‘blindingly obvious’ after the non-call by the stewards. Are you not implying that TW decided in a ‘snap decision’ to swap his drivers only after the non-call on Vettel, like that was going to teach F1 a lesson or something?

  12. So I’m a team owner, I spend hundreds of millions too prepare two cars. I employ 500 to 600or more team personnel. my only return on my investment is to win and score points. Then I allow my two drivers who ate paid handsomely, to crash into each other while fighting for the win.
    F1 is strange sport like any other sport

  13. Which brings a very interesting tidbit about the MB drivers:

    Lewis is at its best around tracks that are not smooth surfaced,
    while Bottas is very good when the tarmac is smooth as in Sochi.
    Elsewhere he doesn’t work that good because line and braking point
    modifications because of terrain are not his best ability.

    So, come another smooth track, Bottas might win deservedly. He would not
    like it to come as a gesture from his teammate, though.

  14. Bottas lost the right to complain by being out of the championship picture with 5 to go. But he should not feel bad. He is doing the job he was paid to do very well. He is quick enough to run with Hamilton in critical times like this and protect his leader, whereas his counterpart at Ferrari was no where to be seen yesterday. He was quick enough to keep Vettel from undercutting him as well as Hamilton. He didn’t make any dumb mistakes and hand second place to Vettel, who was hounding him most of the second stint. He should get a raise.

    In this race, you can see why MB is beating Ferrari this year–their drivers are simply better. Hamilton passed Vettel on the track with roughly equal cars, and Bottas was fast enough to thwart Vettel, while Raikkonen was AWOL again. I thought Vettel did a cracking race himself—he made a couple goofs but kept the pressure on Hamilton all race. But two vs. one in even cars was a tall order for him.

  15. On The Other Hand,
    Maybe Valtteri should feel a little pleasure in knowing he was at least in a position to give that place to the team.

    1. @robcacox Oh I think he does. I think he said as much. But for the order, he did everything right all weekend and deserved the win, again, but for the points circumstance. For sure VB can and imho will think of Russia 2018 like a win in terms of his own personal abilities and performance.

  16. 100% wrong – still shaking my head at the thought of it. Bottas deserved the win, Lewis would have got 2nd and, oh dear, he would have only been 42 points ahead 😱. That might have made the title fight interesting for the fans and we wouldn’t want that would we. Despicable.

    1. 100% wrong? What rules were broken? None. I feel your pain but F1 rules are clearly laid out. F1 is about money and money comes from winning. They need to win to pay the 1000s of staff we never see. Imagine come end of season they lose by 1 point, what would you say to all the staff?
      ‘To please random internet posters who have no clue how a team is run we failed to maximise on points to secure the championship and our future. Them’s the breaks, pick up you P45s at the door… ‘
      Toto made the correct call. Live with it.

      1. 1. ‘F1 is about money’ is not a good thing although not a lot we can do about it I admit
        2.’what would you say to all the staff?’ some team have got to come second, Ferrari have had their fair share of silver place in the past and I didn’t see them shed myriads of staff last season?! Besides 50 points is not exactly a dangerous margin for driver or constructor. I fear you are exaggerating just a little Mr @anon-e moss 😉😄

    2. So if we were at Abu Dhabi and Lewis needed the extra 7 points to win the WDC then you still say it’s wrong?
      Either you still think it’s wrong – which is ridiculous and not worth arguing about, or you think that is okay so we’re just talking about degree. Even Mr 100% wrong must admit that a couple of DNFs and Lewis could be in a position that those 7 points are needed so even if you don’t like it I don’t see how you can say it’s 100% wrong.
      MB have 2 trophies to aim for, this manoeuvre didn’t change the points for the constructor’s championship (and if LH tyres were damaged may have protected him from SV) but did enhance their chances in the WDC – no brainer I’m afraid

  17. I’m sorry, but at Ferrari, Michael Schumacher won a whole series of championships with Team Orders as a key part of his strategy. We only have to look at Austria in 2002 to see that. Mercedes did exactly the right thing, Bottas is the no.2 driver there as is Raikkonen at Ferrari. They are both paid handsomely for it too.

  18. “Mercedes “did the right thing” with team orders, says rival. Click here to find out!”

  19. Conspiracy theory: suppose some betted 100.000 dollars on Bottas to win this race, they would go crazy…. But suggest there are a group of really bad guys and some betted f.i. 1 million dollars on Ham. Halfway the race the bad guys need to pull a couple of strings and what happened next?

    1. Not really as FIA doesn’t support betting if bookies accept bets on F1 the bookies have to pay and know they were screwed!
      So Bad guys have no influence on teams for 1 million now if they bet 1 billion now are we talking but which bookie accepts that knowing that they can be teamorders…. Noone will take that bet.

  20. This whole “Mercedes Team Orders”-thing would be much less of a news story if they did not use deception in ordering Valtteri to step down. The entire F1 circus and it’s fans has known this moment will come for months now.

    Why on earth did they use such a ridiculously obvious:
    “His tyres may, or may not, have blisters! (or they may or may not develop during the race) Terms and conditions apply*”-excuse to sneak Hamilton ahead!?

    A simple, “Valtteri, it’s Toto, I’m sorry to ask this but please let Hamilton by.” That would have been a much more respectful way to treat a driver who has been “owed” a victory this season since Baku. This is the biggest negative I can think of about these team orders, the disrespect they showed by being dishonest about it.

    -a Finnish F1 fan.

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