Austria 2002: When unnecessary team orders rocked F1

On May 12 2002, Ferrari was the centre of controversy at the Austrian Grand Prix when Rubens Barrichello was asked to hand the win to teammate Michael Schumacher.

Austria 2002: When unnecessary team orders rocked F1

Pole sitter Barrichello was comfortably leading the race in the closing stages, until he was asked by Ferrari to move over for team leader Michael Schumacher.

Barrichello initially refused to budge, but ultimately let Schumacher past coming out of the final corner of the final lap. Schumacher just edged ahead and took the win by less that two tenths, which made it one of the closest finishes in F1 history.

The events at the A1 Ring caused quite a stir, with both the press and the fans in uproar. First there was the premature timing of Ferrari’s call. The Austrian Grand Prix took place early on in the 2002 season and Schumacher had already won four out of the first five races of the season when the paddock arrived in Spielberg.

That made Ferrari’s call look rather unnecessary at the time, a point reinforced at the end of the season when Schumacher took the title with twice the amount of points as Barrichello.

Read Also:

It was also the manner in which the swap took place that didn’t sit well with any onlookers. Barrichello could have been subtle, but chose to ostensibly pull over at the last possible moment. That move was entirely understandable from the Brazilian's point of view, but also meant there could be no debate on what had transpired.

Amid booing from the crowd, the podium ceremony was suitably awkward. Schumacher broke protocol by insisting Barrichello take the top step on the podium and then handed him the winner's trophy.

In the aftermath of the Austrian Grand Prix, the FIA handed Schumacher, Barrichello and Ferrari a hefty fine for breaching the podium protocol, but not for the swap.


Later that year, the FIA decided to ban team order from the 2003 season onwards, but it was a rule that proved difficult to enforce. Teams would start using coded messages instead, which technically didn’t fell foul of the regulations.

When Felipe Massa was told by Ferrari during the 2010 German Grand Prix that “Fernando is faster than you”, everyone knew what those words really meant, and Massa soon let his teammate past. Again, Ferrari caused uproar and this time it was fined $100,000 by the FIA, although Alonso was allowed to keep his win.

Either way, the post-Hockenheim investigation by the FIA only reaffirmed that the rule was difficult to police and in December it was scrapped altogether. Team orders were allowed once again, and would be used at various times in the following decade.

Ironically, the biggest team orders controversy since 2010 occurred when drivers didn’t adhere to them: enter Red Bull’s infamous Multi-21 fiasco at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel, still enraged about teammate Mark Webber driving him towards the pit wall at the 2012 title showdown in Brazil, decided to ignore 'multi-21', an instruction to hold station. Vettel passed Webber for the lead and took a much-debated victory.

Fortunately for F1 fans, most team orders since 2013 have been issued in a similar vein: trying to secure a result by not letting squabbling drivers race tooth and nail, rather than actively manipulating a race result.

Mark Webber en Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing

Mark Webber en Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

What often gets lost however, is that team orders have been part and parcel of Formula 1 since its inception. In fact, the great Juan Manuel Fangio twice won a race in a teammate’s car. When Fangio’s Alfa Romeo broke down in the 1951 French Grand Prix at Rheims, Luigi Fagioli was asked to pull over and let Fangio finish the race in his car instead.

It was hard to accept for Fagioli, who already had a history of being the number two at Mercedes behind Rudolf Caracciola in the pre-war days of grand prix racing. At least Fangio did go on to win the race and his Italian teammate was credited with his first and only win in Formula 1. At the age of 53, Fagioli would also ended up being the sport’s oldest race winner.

That scenario repeated itself in 1956 when Fangio took over the car of Ferrari teammate Luigi Musso in Argentina. Musso also took his only F1 win while watching someone else drive the car across the finish.

When Fangio’s car broke down again in Monza, Lusso refused to step aside a second time. Peter Collins sacrificed his own world championship chances and handed his car to Fangio, who would seal his fifth world championship with second place.

Team orders would continue to be a regular and legitimate tactic over the next decades. John Surtees beat Graham Hill to the 1964 world title courtesy of Lorenzo Bandini, who moved over for Surtees in the Mexico season finale.

The ‘80s were marked by several displays of disobedience. Carlos Reutemann refused to answer calls from his Williams team to move over for Alan Jones in the 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix, a call which was particularly remarkable because Reutemann was actually ahead in the championship.

Then Renault found itself in a bit of a pickle when Rene Arnoux declined to move over for Alain Prost in the 1982 French Grand Prix.

The most infamous example was Didier Pironi’s decision to pass Ferrari teammate Gilles Villeneuve in the San Marino Grand Prix that year, despite Ferrari issuing its own 'multi-21' command to hold station. The move enraged Villeneuve, who was killed two weeks later while qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.

In 1989, Imola was the backdrop for another intra-team row over team orders. McLaren teammates Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna had agreed that whoever led after the first corner would not be challenged. Yet after a restart Senna swept past Prost, won the race and sparked a massive row between the pair, which would only get worse over time. 

The controversies above are just a handful of incidents from the F1's 70-year history. While team orders may be hard to accept for fans of the sport, blatant calls like Austria 2002 are fortunately few and far between.

Gasly: AlphaTauri “dropped back” compared to start of the year

Previous article

Gasly: AlphaTauri “dropped back” compared to start of the year

Next article

How long can Verstappen and Hamilton keep it clean?

How long can Verstappen and Hamilton keep it clean?
Load comments
Can Red Bull really win anywhere now it’s toppled a Mercedes F1 stronghold? Prime

Can Red Bull really win anywhere now it’s toppled a Mercedes F1 stronghold?

OPINION: Red Bull team boss Christian Horner reckoned Max Verstappen winning the French Grand Prix – an event where Mercedes had previously been dominant – would signal “we can beat them anywhere”. Here’s how that claim stacks up looking at the rest of the 2021 season

The IndyCar feature that Paul Ricard desperately needs in F1 Prime

The IndyCar feature that Paul Ricard desperately needs in F1

The French Grand Prix offered a surprisingly interesting spectacle, despite the headache-inducing nature of the circuit. But IndyCar's Road America race offered far more in terms of action - and the increased jeopardy at the Elkhart Lake venue might be something Paul Ricard needs in future...

Formula 1
Jun 22, 2021
French Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

French Grand Prix driver ratings

The French GP was a weekend decided by tiny margins both at the front of the field, as Red Bull inflicted a comeback defeat on Mercedes, and in the battle for the minor points places. That's reflected in our driver ratings, where several drivers came close to a maximum score

Formula 1
Jun 21, 2021
How Red Bull took French GP "payback" on a day of Mercedes mistakes Prime

How Red Bull took French GP "payback" on a day of Mercedes mistakes

The French GP has been a stronghold for Mercedes since Paul Ricard's return to the calendar in 2018. But that all changed on Sunday, as a clever two-stop strategy guided Red Bull's Max Verstappen to make a race-winning pass on the penultimate lap - for once leaving Mercedes to experience the pain of late defeat it has so often inflicted on Red Bull

Formula 1
Jun 21, 2021
The Mercedes lap that puts F1 victory fight back on a knife-edge Prime

The Mercedes lap that puts F1 victory fight back on a knife-edge

Red Bull led the way after the first two practice sessions for the 2021 French Grand Prix, but only just ahead of Mercedes. There was all the usual practice skulduggery complicating the performance picture, but one aspect seen at the world champion squad gave it a ‘surprise’ lift, as it looks to leave its street-circuit struggles firmly in the past.

Formula 1
Jun 19, 2021
How Ferrari got its F1 recovery plan working Prime

How Ferrari got its F1 recovery plan working

After its worst campaign in 40 years, the famous Italian team had to bounce back in 2021 – and it appears to be delivering. Although it concedes the pole positions in Monaco and Baku paint a somewhat misleading picture of its competitiveness, the team is heading into the 2022 rules revamp on much stronger footing to go for wins again

Formula 1
Jun 18, 2021
The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness Prime

The joy that exposes F1’s key weakness

Long-awaited wins for ex-Formula 1 drivers Marcus Ericsson and Kevin Magnussen in IndyCar and IMSA last weekend gave F1 a reminder of what it is missing. But with the new rules aimed at levelling the playing field, there’s renewed optimism that more drivers can have a rewarding result when their day of days comes

Formula 1
Jun 17, 2021
The F1 figures Red Bull and Mercedes can't afford to see again Prime

The F1 figures Red Bull and Mercedes can't afford to see again

OPINION: An interloper squad got amongst the title contenders during Formula 1’s street-circuit mini-break, where Red Bull left with the points lead in both championships. But, as the campaign heads back to purpose-built venues once again, how the drivers of the two top teams compare in one crucial area will be a major factor in deciding which squad stays in or retakes the top spot

Formula 1
Jun 16, 2021