Mark Webber (right) didn’t even have a chance alongside Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull at the time… Source: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Mark Webber (right) didn’t even have a chance alongside Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull at the time… Source: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Six cases in F1 where the drivers were anything but equal

F1 OlyBet 02.04.2024

This year’s Australian GP vividly proved that even though drivers should be equal in F1 teams, in truth, they are not.

The Williams team’s decision to remove Logan Sargeant from his car and instead give the American’s car to Alexander Albon, who crashed his car in free practice, may have shocked newer fans, but for ardent ones, it was only a whiff of nostalgia.

Because that’s how things have always been in F1. Olybet.TV now gives you some examples of how F1 teams have favoured one driver over another.

2010 – Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)

Red Bull came under heavy critique at the 2010 British GP when they decided to remove the new front wing installed on Mark Webber’s car – just ahead of qualifying – and give it to Sebastian Vettel.

According to Christian Horner, who already acted as team leader at the time, it was a difficult decision, which was necessary to support the German who was chasing the World Cup title (and finally got it) at the end of the season.

Namely, Red Bull came to Silverstone at that time with two new front wings, but the one on Vettel’s car broke loose from the machine in the last free practice for some reason. Thus, he would have had to start the qualifying with the old front wing – which would have meant a loss of time.

The team thought about it a bit and decided that it would still be more expedient to send Vettel to the track with a new front wing. So, they went hard on Webber’s machine.

The result? Vettel won the qualifying, Webber was second. The German’s brief comment after was: “I believe the team is happy with today’s result.”

The team might have been, but Webber wasn’t. After the qualifying, he immediately rushed to Horner to sort things out. The Australian said that he would never have signed a contract with Red Bull if he had known that Vettel was preferred over him.

The talk didn’t result in much, and Webber told the press after visiting Horner that he was disappointed but would continue to do his job.

Well, this doing his job culminated in victory at the British GP on Sunday, while Vettel finished seventh. “Not bad for the second driver, or what,” Webber snapped at the press conference.

2002 – Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)

The 2002 Austrian GP is one of the most infamous in F1 history, as the Ferrari team ordered race leader Rubens Barrichello to let Michael Schumacher pass him on the last lap.

Initially, the Brazilian refused to do so, but in the last corner of the race, he took his foot off the gas pedal and let the German pass him. In the end, the two giants were separated by 0.182 seconds, one of the narrowest victories in F1 history.

Understandably, such a move caused a lot of indignation in the formula circles – both drivers were also disappointed: Barrichello and Schumacher, the latter of whom refused to step on the top step of the podium during the award ceremony and also handed the first-place trophy to the Brazilian. A gesture for which he was fined by the FIA.

Shortly after the Austrian GP, the FIA banned team orders that could affect the outcome of races.

2010 – Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa (Ferrari)

Although in 2010, team orders affecting the course of the race were still prohibited, teams still used them. Just not in such an obvious manner anymore.

For example, at the German GP, Felipe Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley told the driver: “Fernando [Alonso] is faster than you. Can you confirm that you understood this message?’

After a while, Massa, who was leading the race, let his teammate pass him, after which Smedley said on the radio: “Okay, fine. Stay on his heels now. Sorry.”

Alonso won the race. Massa finished second, four seconds later.

Because it was still a hidden team order, the FIA fined Ferrari $100,000, but they still didn’t overturn the results.

When Massa left Ferrari in 2013, he said the incident in question robbed him all his confidence and was the absolute low point of his F1 career.

2008 – Nelson Piquet jr and Fernando Alonso (Renault)

One of the most curious team orders in history was given at the 2008 Singapore GP when the Renault team ordered Nelson Piquet Jr to crash on purpose at the 17th turn on the 14th lap of the race.

Alonso and Piquet started the race in 15th and 16th respectively, and the Spaniard was the first driver to pit in Singapore, resulting in falling at the end of the pack.

However, Renault saw an opportunity in this and then ordered Piquet to crash at turn 17 – it was a part of the track that took a long time to clear, thus ensuring the safety car came onto the track.

And when Piquet crashed, the safety car was sent to the track indeed. After that, the rest of the drivers quickly came to the pits, but Alonso, who had already refueled and changed his tires, stayed on the track, rising from the last place to the leader. He finished the race in this position.

However, after the race, the FIA began to investigate the matter, and when it became clear that it was a deliberate delay by Renault, severe fines were issued. Team principal Flavio Briatore and Brazilian race engineer Pay Symonds were initially banned for life from F1 but this was reduced to five years following appeals.

However, the saga in question is not yet over, as in 2023 Massa announced that he had sued the FIA. Namely, the Brazilian was just one point behind world champion Lewis Hamilton at the end of the season, and in retrospect believes that the results of the Singapore GP should have been cancelled due to Renault’s behavior.

The FIA had and still has a different opinion, but the courts decide where the truth lies. Or how much money the Brazilian would deserve if the answer was no.

2021 – Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin (Haas)

The Haas team had various weight problems with the chassis in 2021, and Nikita Mazepin felt at one point that he was given the heavier of the two racing machines in every race, which is why he was not able to match his teammate Mick Schumacher.

The then team leader Günther Steiner tried to claim that the men raced alternately with the heavier chassis, but this did not convince the Russian. He continued to believe that the team preferred the German.

Before the 2022 season, Mazepin’s father Dmitri, whose company Ural Kali was a major sponsor of Haas, threatened to withdraw his funding if the weight issue was not clarified. And done so transparently!

However, Steiner continued to stand by his words: the chassis were exchanged equally, and overall, there was a very small difference. Whether that was the case or some kind of special deal was reached afterwards – in any case, the topic died down.

1998 – Damon Hill and Ralf Schumacher (Jordan)

At the 1998 Belgian GP, Ralf Schumacher became furious when Jordan’s team, led by team lead Eddie Jordan, did not allow him to pass teammate Damon Hill.

On the rain-soaked Spa-Francorchamps circuit, there were many (chain) accidents at the time, because of which the two Jordans suddenly found themselves in first and second place.

With a dozen laps to go, Hill was leading, and Schumacher was a long way behind him, but German race engineer Sam Michael then said on the radio: “You can catch him, push like crazy! You can catch him and win!”

Schumacher then started to fight back and in a couple of laps reached Hill – only until the Briton started complaining to the team about it. And just a few moments later, Eddie Jordan had slammed his fist on the table: no rush!

Schumacher then had a very heated conversation on the radio with the team but eventually agreed to take his foot off the gas pedal. While at first, Eddie Jordan thought that was the end of it, it wasn’t.

Namely, after the race, Ralf’s brother, then two-time world champion Michael Schumacher, burst into his office, and snapped: “You messed with my brother. He will never drive for you again; you can forget about any contract negotiations.”

The result? Schumacher bought his younger brother out of the contract for two million pounds, and the next season he was racing in the ranks of Williams.


When the next (in)famous team orders and incidents where a team favors one driver over another will take place is hard to say at this point. However, the first opportunity for this is already this weekend in Japan, at the famous Suzuka circuit.


This piece of content has been lovingly crafted by the hard-working sports people of OlyBet. Hope you like it!


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