Formula 2 – Still wondering why team orders are used?

Formula 2 – Still wondering why team orders are used?

This past weekend’s Formula E race, the Marrakesh ePrix, served as a perfect example as to why team orders are used in Formula 1.

Whenever team orders are used in Formula 1, many fans criticize the team issuing them and the driver whom they benefit. This was the case multiple times in the 2018 season, especially when it came to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport teammates Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton was in a better position in the driver standings than Bottas throughout the season. As a result, in the 11th of 21 races on the season’s schedule, the German Grand Prix, Bottas was told not to challenge Hamilton for the victory following a late restart.

Hamilton led the race on old tires since he did not take advantage of the safety car period to pit while Bottas did come into the pits during this safety car period and ended up in second place after coming back out onto the track.

Then in the 16th race of the season, the Russian Grand Prix, Bottas was in a position to secure his first victory of the season when he was told to let Hamilton pass him before the race even reached its halfway mark. Hamilton won the race while Bottas was forced to settle for second place yet again.

The ending of this past weekend’s Formula E race, the Marrakesh ePrix, serves as a perfect example as to why team orders are used in Formula 1.

With slightly under nine and a half minutes of the race’s 45-minute time allotment remaining in the race, BMW i Andretti Motorsport teammates Antonio Felix da Costa and Alexander Sims were well ahead of the rest of the field, with da Costa leading and Sims trailing close behind him in second place.

Da Costa opened up the 2018-2019 season by winning the Ad Diriyah ePrix, scoring 28 points for BMW i Andretti Motorsport in the process, while Sims finished this race back in 18th place and scored no points.

With da Costa set to deliver BMW i Andretti Motorsport their second victory in the season’s first two races and pull away from the rest of the field in the driver standings and Sims set to assist him in delivering the team their first ever 1-2 finish, they made contact.

Here is a video of this accident.

Instead of da Costa scoring 25 points with a victory, Sims scoring 18 points with a second place finish and the team scoring a total of 43 points as a result of their first ever 1-2 finish, da Costa ended up out of the race with no points while Sims was able to somewhat recover and finish in fourth, thus scoring 12 points, the team’s only 12 points of the race.

A crash such as this one in the second race of the 13-race Formula E season is bad enough. A crash such as this one later in the Formula 1 season would be even more disastrous for the team involved.

Formula 1 teams invest too much money to get in their own way. They invest too much money into winning, both from a driver and from a team perspective, to risk all of both drivers’ points and all of the team’s points just so, at best, one driver can gain the same amount of points that the other driver loses, especially late in a race with a 1-2 finish seemingly locked up.

I’m not saying that Formula E teams don’t invest a lot into it; there is no question that this was a disastrous result for da Costa, Sims and BMW i Andretti Motorsport as a whole even in just the second race of the season, and there is no question that team orders should at least be considered for the future between these two drivers.

But at the highest level of motorsport, there is especially no reason not to at least try to prevent this kind of risk. The crash between da Costa and Sims shows what can happen when it is 100% preventable yet is not prevented in the least.

Bottas and Hamilton making contact, which they almost did several times before team orders were issued, in the German Grand Prix would have been disastrous for Hamilton and especially for Mercedes as a whole. Bottas winning the Russian Grand Prix over Hamilton could have ended up being the difference in Hamilton winning or losing his fifth championship.

In hindsight, of course, neither set of team orders mattered, at least not to any major extent aside of the avoidance of potential crash damages. But in that moment, teams have to do what is best for the them, and that is maximizing points earned, capitalizing on the opportunity to help your primary championship contender and bringing home both of their cars without damage.

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Sure, you might argue that the crash involving Mercedes teammates Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to open up the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix is enough to have already proved this point.

However, both of those drivers were proven championship contenders at that point and Mercedes really had no competition as far as the constructor championship was concerned despite the fact that this race was just the fifth of 21 races of the season. Rosberg was leading the driver standings over a then three-time champion Hamilton and no one else was even close.

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