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F1 And Team Orders

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We're getting close, not only to the end of the season, but also to the review of the rules concerning team orders. Here are some thoughts of mine on the issue.

I think that the main problem- certainly the one that gets up many fans' backsides- isn't so much team orders, but rather team favouritism, in particular requiring one driver to defer to another while the "number two driver" still has a significant mathematical chance of winning the Drivers' Championship. In seasons where one team runs away with it, it denies fans the possibility of an in-house battle for the title. In close seasons, it puts the lead driver at an advantage in the Drivers' Championship (as opposed to team-mates taking points off each other) and thus rewards non-competition.

Most F1 insiders see F1 as a team sport and the drivers as employees who should do as they're told, point out that F1 has always been a team sport, and argue that the fans are deluded if they think otherwise. In fact, I think they're the ones who are being deluded, via the black and white assumption "either it's a team sport OR it's about the drivers". F1 has always been both, and most fans don't like the way its emphasis shifted towards "teams over drivers, business over sport" between the mid 1990s and the mid 2000s.

Just because the current rule is haphazard, too broad-brush and impossible to enforce, I don't think that's a conclusive argument for abolishing it completely- it can just mean that the rule needs to be reduced in scope, and made clearer, more specific and easier to enforce. I reckon that teams should be prohibited from ordering one driver to defer to another unless it will clearly lead to the loss of the Drivers' Championship, or one driver is in with a mathematical chance of the title and the other isn't, while other team orders should be legalised. I think that would be easier to enforce against and would still prohibit the two main instances that got the fans' backs up in the last decade (Austria 2002, Germany 2010) as well as recognising that driver swaps in the last race of the season, when the championship is at stake, are usually considered acceptable by a large majority of fans.
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