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Formula 1 Australian GP

Times F1 team-mates were not equal – car changes and team orders

Logan Sargeant will not race at the 2024 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix after his team-mate Alex Albon crashed out of FP1.

Logan Sargeant, Williams Racing, Alex Albon, Williams Racing

Williams has made the decision to put Albon into Sargeant’s car for the remainder of the weekend after the British-Thai driver suffered a big crash at Turn 6 in Melbourne.

Albon’s car was damaged beyond repair and the team does not have a spare chassis, meaning it can only run one car for the rest of the weekend.

Sergeant has said it is the “hardest moment” of his F1 career, with team principal James Vowles praising the American “for his graceful acceptance, demonstrating his dedication to the team; he is a true team player”.

It’s not the first time a team has chosen one driver over the other, making for some dramatic F1 moments.

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel – Front wing swap (2010)

Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing RB6

Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing RB6

Photo by: Sutton Images

Red Bull faced controversy in 2010 when Christian Horner made the decision to remove Mark Webber’s new front wing and give it to Sebastian Vettel for qualifying at the British GP. Horner said it was a “difficult decision” to prioritise Vettel over Webber in the hopes of keeping the German’s third place position in the championship.

Red Bull had two of the upgraded front wings, and one was damaged when it suddenly detached itself from Vettel’s car during the final practice session. This left just one newly-designed front wing for the two cars, and a decision was made to fit it to the German’s RB6 based on Vettel’s practice performance.

Vettel took pole position in qualifying ahead of his team-mate and when asked about the situation, he said: “I think the team is happy with the result today”. Webber was left furious by the decision and entered immediate talks with the team to clarify his position, although Horner attempted to play down the decision, saying: "We are more together as a team than we have ever been.”

Webber told the press that he “would never have signed a contract for next year” had he known that the team would have made those decisions, adding that he was “disappointed” but would “keep doing what I am doing”. Webber went on to win the British GP, ahead of team-mate Vettel in seventh, and reacted over team radio saying: "Not bad for a number two driver" before adding, “I don't want any favouritism; just a fair deal”.

Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher – First place swap (2002)

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari

Photo by: Motorsport Images

During the 2002 Austrian GP Ferrari ordered Rubens Barrichello to allow team-mate Michael Schumacher past in order to win the race. The decision was made shortly before the end of the race, and both drivers were unhappy about the team’s decision.

Barrichello initially refused to allow Schumacher by, but eventually did so out of the final corner of the last lap, allowing the German driver to take the win by just 0.182 seconds - making it one of the closest finishes in F1 history. Many were left upset by the decision and boos rang out from the crowd during the podium ceremony.

The eventual seven-time world champion - who had already won four out of the first five races - broke protocol when he refused to stand on the top step of the podium, insisting that Barrichello stood in his place, before also handing him the winner’s trophy. Both drivers were fined by the FIA for the action.

It was later that year the FIA ruled that “team orders which interfere with a race result” were banned.

Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa – “Fernando is faster” (2010)

Felipe Massa, Ferrari F10, Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10

Felipe Massa, Ferrari F10, Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Despite a ban on team orders that could impact the race result, many teams achieved decisions by relaying more subtle messages to their drivers. Ferrari notoriously attempted to dodge the team order ban at the 2010 German GP when Felipe Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley told him “Fernando [Alonso] is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand that message?”.

Shortly after the message, Massa - who was leading the race - allowed the Spaniard to pass, with Smedley telling the Brazilian: “OK mate, good lad. Stick with him now. Sorry". Alonso eventually went on to win the race, four seconds ahead of his Brazilian team-mate.

Ferrari was later fined $100,000 for the team orders, but the FIA allowed the race results to stand. In 2016, Smedley shared that he “did not agree” with the team orders and his initial reluctance to send the team orders to Massa caused issues with the Maranello-based team.

The former race engineer also said that Massa “found it difficult from then on” adding that it was “difficult because it was kind of a turning point, and understanding where the team’s focus was.” In 2013, when the Brazilian announced he was leaving Ferrari, he revealed that the messaged had knocked his confidence and was the “toughest” moment of his eight-year career with the team.

Nelson Piquet Jr and Fernando Alonso – 'Crashgate' (2008)

Nelson Piquet Jr., Renault R28 crashes into the wall

Nelson Piquet Jr., Renault R28 crashes into the wall

Photo by: Sutton Images

The most controversial use of team orders occurred during the 2008 Singapore GP, during the eight years where there was a ban on team orders. The Renault F1 team ordered Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash his car at Turn 17 of the fourteenth lap, which forced the safety car to be brought out.

Alonso and Piquet had qualified 15th and 16th respectively and the Spaniard was the first driver to pit during the grand prix, which left him at the back of the grid. The subsequent crash came at a part of the track where there was no way to quickly remove the debris, meaning a safety car was deployed. Many of the leading cars came in for a pitstop resulting in them rejoining behind Alonso, who then went on to win the race.

Following the race an investigation resulted in Renault receiving a two-year suspended disqualification and two major figures - Flavio Briatore, the team principal and Pat Symonds, Piquet Jr’s race engineer - were banned from F1, however this was appealed, the decision was reversed, and they were not allowed to return for five years.

In 2023, Massa revealed he was pursuing a lawsuit against the FIA, FOM and Bernie Ecclestone for not promptly investigating the crash and refusing to void the results of the grand prix.

The Brazilian missed out on the 2008 F1 drivers’ title to Lewis Hamilton by one point and believes the result of the race should have been dismissed - which would have resulted in Massa winning the drivers’ championship.

Ecclestone, who was F1’s CEO at the time, told F1-Insider: “We wanted to protect the sport and save it from a huge scandal,” before adding “we had enough information in time to investigate the matter. According to the statues, we should have cancelled the race in Singapore under these conditions” - which hinted at a potential cover up by F1.

Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin – Chassis weight disparity (2021)

Nikita Mazepin, Haas VF-21

Nikita Mazepin, Haas VF-21

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Haas was faced with chassis issues in 2021, with one car running heavier than the other. Nikita Mazepin felt he was being given the heavier chassis over the lighter car and was being outperformed by his team-mate Mick Schumacher.

It was revealed by team principal Guenther Steiner that the drivers had interchanged the use of the heavier chassis, although Mazepin claimed he had faced the disadvantage more than his team-mate. The Russian driver was then given a new, lighter chassis at the Belgian GP but was forced back into the heavier car after suffering damage during practice.

Ahead of the 2022 season Mazepin’s father Dmitry threatened to pull his funding from the team over a disparity in the chassis weight. However, Steiner confirmed that there was only a slight difference in the weight, with a clip featuring in Drive to Survive where the team principal told the Russian driver: “It’s the same car, as much as you believe it’s not, it’s the same car”.

Damon Hill and Ralf Schumacher – Team order disagreement (1998)

Winner Damon Hill, Jordan 198 on the podium with team-mate Ralf Schumacher, Jordan 198

Winner Damon Hill, Jordan 198 on the podium with team-mate Ralf Schumacher, Jordan 198

Photo by: Sutton Images

Team orders at Jordan during the 1998 Belgian GP saw tensions rise when Ralf Schumacher was told not to overtake his team-mate Damon Hill, to allow the British driver the win. During a wet race at Spa-Francorchamps, a multiple car collision saw the event stopped and further collisions resulted in the two Jordan’s leading the race.

Schumacher was chasing Hill for the victory in the last 12 laps, but his race engineer told the German: "You can catch him, just push like hell. You can catch him, you can win."

After a persuasive message from Hill, the Jordan team made the decision to not allow their drivers to compete against each other. Team boss Eddie Jordan admitted to being in the middle of contract negotiations with Schumacher, but ultimately decided to allow Hill the victory over the faster car.

Schumacher and his race engineer Sam Michael faced a tense series of radio messages, where the German refused to acknowledge the team orders, before Michael “barked” at the driver to respond.

Following the race, Ralf’s brother Michael Schumacher “came charging” into Eddie Jordan’s motorhome, where he said: “You've screwed my brother. He will never drive for you again, forget the management contract”, before being reminded of the buy-out clause in Ralf’s contract.

The seven-time world champion then bought out his younger brother’s contract for £2 million, telling Jordan he would never race for the team again. Ralf finished the season with the team before moving to Williams in 1999.

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