Romain Grosjean, Haas, Red Bull Ring, 2020

“I’m very unimpressed”: Drivers’ mixed responses to team orders in Styrian GP

2020 Styrian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Three drivers were told to let their team mates overtake them during the Styrian Grand Prix – but two of them took quite a bit of convincing.

Half of the 10 teams had to cope with the often fraught sight of watching their two cars dice for position during last week’s race. But not all of them resorted to instructing their drivers on what to do.

Alfa Romeo were among those who did. Antonio Giovinazzi was told to let Kimi Raikkonen overtake him for the second race in a row.

Giovinazzi wasn’t keen on the idea, however, as he had his sights fixed on Daniil Kvyat ahead of him. It took four laps for Giovinazzi to respond to the instructions, while also being reminded to respect track limits as he was shown the black-and-white flag for running wide too often.

He was being told to make way for Raikkonen at the very moment his team mate’s car was nosing ahead of him on the climb up towards turn four:

52To Giovinazzi:Antonio push otherwise we have to swap positions. Push now.
55To Giovinazzi:Swap positions, swap with Kimi turn four.
55To Giovinazzi:Swap positions with Kimi behind in turn four now. Swap positions now.
55To Giovinazzi:We are racing for points as a team. Swap positions with Kimi, if he’s not pulling away we will swap again.
56To Giovinazzi:Swap position now, Grosjean behind is getting closer. Swap positions.
56Giovinazzi:I tried.
56To Giovinazzi:Swap positions now.
56Giovinazzi:I’m trying to overtake Kvyat.
56To Giovinazzi:Kimi behind is quicker than you, swap positions.
57Giovinazzi:I want the position back if he cannot overtake Kvyat.
57To Giovinazzi:Yeah, copy.
57To Giovinazzi:Antonio swap position now.
58To Giovinazzi:Swap position now.
58Giovinazzi:Yeah, I understand, I understand, OK.

Letting Raikkonen go dropped Giovinazzi into the clutches of the two Haas drivers. As Romain Grosjean struggled to make an impression on the Alfa Romeo, Haas decided to let Kevin Magnussen have a go.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

This was also not a popular suggestion:

63To Grosjean:OK Romain we’ll swap positions in three, swap positions.
63Grosjean:Oh, guys.
63Grosjean:He’s too far.
63To Grosjean:Copy.
64To Grosjean:Let Kevin through this lap into turn three please.
64Grosjean:OK I’ll do it but I’m very, very unimpressed with this.

Both Haas drivers passed Giovinazzi on lap 68, prompting Grosjean to ask: “Can we swap back?” There was no reply. On the final lap he remarked: “I don’t understand why we don’t swap,” and made his dissatisfaction clear as he drove back to the pits, though not without complimenting his team on the improvements to his car’s handling since Friday.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Giovinazzi has team orders for the second race in a row
In both these cars the drivers who had to give up places were obviously unhappy as they were on the same strategies as their team mates and the exchange of positions came late in the race, meaning they finished lower than they otherwise would have done.

In the case of McLaren, when Carlos Sainz Jnr was told to let Lando Norris by the circumstances were somewhat different. Although they exchanged places two laps after the Alfa Romeo drivers, Norris was on a different tyre compound to his team mate, who had lost time earlier in the race with a slow pit stop.

Sainz was told “no fight with Lando, we have to let him go in turn four, let him go, it’s a team decision.” He acceded, and despite some confusion over which lap he was supposed to let Norris through, the places were swapped smoothly. That proved vital, as Norris eventually took fifth place at the very final corner, which might not have been possible had he lost more time passing Sainz.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

The driver Norris passed for fifth was Sergio Perez. He had lost some time earlier in the race running behind team mate Lance Stroll. In the first stint, Racing Point left Perez out longer, giving him five-lap fresher tyres for the second stint. When he caught Stroll the team didn’t interfere, but Perez passed his team mate with little difficulty.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, McLaren, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Sainz aided his team mate’s rise to fifth place
Renault’s drivers also fought for position on track. Daniel Ricciardo made three attempts to pass Esteban Ocon before finally making a move stick on lap 19. By that time he was growing concerned about the time he was losing, as he explained afterwards.

“If I didn’t get by that lap, I honestly was expecting to get a call to swap cars,” said Ricciardo. “I think I would have been a little bit surprised if I hadn’t got that.”

The team had indicated to Ocon they were growing concerned about how much time he was costing his team mate: “OK Esteban we’re getting a threat from Stroll behind Danny, need to pick up the pace,” he was told shortly before Ricciardo found his way ahead. Whether that call would have eventually come, and early enough for Ricciardo’s liking, remains to be seen.

Judging when and when not to impose orders on drivers is always a tricky and contentious call. In the case of the Alfa Romeo and Haas drivers, the forced exchanges of positions arguably generated ill will to no real gain, as none of their drivers finished in the points. McLaren supplied an example of how and when to do it well.

2020 F1 season

Browse all 2020 F1 season articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

7 comments on ““I’m very unimpressed”: Drivers’ mixed responses to team orders in Styrian GP”

  1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    18th July 2020, 10:45

    I tried to follow Grosjean and Magnussen very closely on the timing screens this race and it looked like they overtook each other several times. However, it is looking like the only one that wasn’t on merit was the final one that was an instruction for Grosjena to let Magnussen by. Given grosjean had started from the pits, I think he’d done pretty well from the pit lane to 13th. He would have been one place higher had the team swapped back the positions though which I think it was only fair to do. Grosjean understandably can be unhappy about this, but I also think that if anything does ever get broadcast from him, it is his moaning. I reckon he will give far more positive feedback and comments than people realise. it even mentions here that despite his frustration that he praises his team for the improvements it made compared to practice. He’s not the best driver out there but I easily think he’s good enough for F1 and he should get more respect than he does. I think haas would be completely lost without having had him driver from when they joined f1. Plus he’s got many more years experience and at least will be able to describe if the car isn’t like it used to be. His feedback in the past has clearly been respected by the team.

  2. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    18th July 2020, 12:33

    If I were the team boss of Alfa Romeo or Haas I’d have told Giovinazzi/Grosjean to move out of the way. Giovinazzi’s not really shown much pace and a tendency to throw the car off the track – if points are possible, I’d have bet on Raikkonen to deliver them. Same with Haas – Grosjean’s developed a rather deserved reputation while Magnussen tends to deliver. If they have ‘one chance’, then take it with the driver with the better chance of success. That’s not to say GIO/GRO are bad, just lately, not as reliable as RAI/MAG. Given at the moment both teams look like they’ll only score points if they’re rather lucky then I can see why they did what they did.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      18th July 2020, 13:25


      I would question why Grosjean deserves his reputation based on the past couple of years. He was terrible in the first half of 2018. But from the mid season point then until now, looking at his performances, he actually has barely been at fault for any of his in race accidents or retirements (his total of 0 penalty points also may help point this out). His luck has been horrendous. But if you look closely and factor in his retirements, He quite comfortably will have been ahead in the standings last year. He had 7 retirements last year vs 3 for Magnussen. He also had an Mgu-k failure in brazil and without that alone, he likely will have been tied with magnussen in the standings or possibly ahead. To my eyes, it is quite easy to see that grosjean has the edge. He managed to get ahead of Magnussen who started in 15th despite starting in the pits the previous race.

  3. Not letting Ric past Ocon, on utterly different strategies, possibly cost Renault at least two places. There’s an off chance Ocon may have not pushed his car to breaking either. They’re need to decide if they’re serious about beating McLaren (& RP if the adjudication runs their way).

  4. A bit of a weird article or at least conclusion to it.
    Its all a matter of who is in position to lose their seat in F1. Giovinazzi looks to be on the way out with Shwartzman én route unless Raikonnen calls it quits. Even if that was the case I would lose Giovinazzi and replace him with an experienced driver to matchup against a strong talent like Shwartzman – Perez or Magnussen perhaps, if Perez stands to lose his seat at Racing Point. Grosjean likewise has been on his way out since 18′, lack of talent and experience in F1 makes him a viable driver though as he is still better than 3-4 other drivers. But now it looks to be at the end as he wants the car in another direction as the team and his recent comments doesn’t fare well with the management.
    In McLarens case, Sainz is already gone to a better seat and last year Norris did this a lot for him to get those results. There is no stress for either driver as they are safe. McLaren is also the strongest tactical team on the grid with what they have to work with and the drivers knows this, which makes it easier for them to listen. Haas on the other hand is the worst and only fare well when the drivers make the decisions.

  5. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    18th July 2020, 13:40

    I really am baffled by the number of people that think Grosjean has gone downhill in the past couple of years. He is not at the level he once was and the first half of 2018 admittedly was truly was dreadful. I probably would have rated him about the worst on the grid at that stage. But for the rest of the season when haas wasn’t as competitive, he actually looked better than Magnussen most of the time. But the points didn’t show that.

    In 2019 despite the rankings on this site that I also strongly disagree with, I think Grosjean was quite convincingly better. Many people just assume his lack of points was down to clumsy moments, but that is not true. I think his worst mistake was crashing in the pit lane in practice – but this is practice! The race is what matters. He had 7 retirements this year and the only one where he can possibly share some blame was britain with Magnussen. All the others, he was blameless. Magnussen just had 3 retirements compared. And if Grosjean hadn’t had an MGU-k failure in brazil, he will have finish 3rd or 4th as he was on the same strategy as Sainz. And with that, would likely have beaten magnussen in the standings despite having 4 more retirements. Grosjean got severely under rated last season in my opinion.

    Both drivers deserve more respect than they get. It is the car that is often dreadful and often extremely unreliable especially on Grosjean’s side. The vast majority of the time, I think the team are to blame for the lack of performance, not the drivers.

  6. Does describing something involving Carlos as going about smooth qualify as a pun yet?

Comments are closed.