“Valtteri is faster than you”
There seems to be a curse on Malaysia at least for now. For the second consecutive year, we’ve seen some controversial team orders. Last year, we had the "Multi 21" situation in Red Bull Racing and the situation at Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel disobeyed his team, and snatched the win from Mark Webber. Both drivers were told to tune down the engines and cruise to the finish. In Mercedes, it was a similar situation, but it was dealt with it differently. Lewis Hamilton was in 3rd followed by Nico Rosberg. The British driver was struggling with his tyres and Rosberg was told to stay behind. He argued that he was faster and could catch the Red Bulls, but the team’s decision was final. Later on the podium, Lewis Hamilton admitted that it should be Rosberg standing there. Both drivers of the silver arrows behaved very mature, and respected each other and the team’s decision.
This year, the team orders came from Williams. Felipe Massa was told to let Valtteri Bottas through, who was on fresher tyres (by 2 laps only). The Brazilian didn’t do so. He was told "Valtteri is faster than you" which reminded us all of the German Grand Prix in 2010. In those words, Felipe was told to hand the lead to Fernando Alonso, in the other Ferrari. Massa was very upset about that situation and when asked about his best and worst moments with the Italian team, he nominated that moment as the worst, over even his crash in Hungary 2009.
As we can all imagine, Felipe was probably extremely upset when his new engineer at Williams used those exact words. To add to that, Felipe was pulling away out of corners, while Valtteri only gained in the braking zones. It was a very uncomfortable situation for the team, and the decision was quite surprising, looking at the fact that Felipe was taken out at the start in Melbourne, missing out on points, and as Bottas would have struggled to overtake Button. Really, the decision should have been to stop Valtteri from overtaking, so Felipe can make up for the lost point, as again, Bottas didn't seem to have the pace to overtake Button.
After the race, both drivers spoke to the press about the incident, expressing different views.
"I think I did the best I could in the race. That was my target, to score as many points as I can for the team and for me. We are fighting for the championship, we’re in the second race," said Felipe Massa.
"I don’t really want to comment on that [team orders]. I don’t know what happened there, and what message they [the team] gave to Felipe so we should speak to the team first," Explained Valtteri Bottas. "I think there was a really good chance for me to get Jenson. I was approaching really quickly but overall we need to be happy. We got both cars into the points, hopefully more to come in Bahrain. We just need a better qualifying," he added when asked if he thought he could catch Jenson.
Claire Williams spoke about the incident in a far more positive way. She explained:
"At the end of the day, Felipe finished ahead of Valtteri. He didn’t ignore them [team orders]. Both cars were getting hot at the end of the race, and we needed to ensure that we got both cars across the line rather than overheating them. Valtteri was also told to cool it off, so they were both told to cool it." She also told us that Felipe replied "But now I’m a bit quicker" to the radio message to let Valtteri through.
Written By: Jakub Kot