Following the 2015 Monaco GP, Christian Horner praised his drivers for “great teamwork” after they switched positions twice, due to team orders.
Under the late safety car Danial Ricciadro had put on a new set of super soft tyres which saw him breeze past Kimi Raikkonen at Mirabeau and then quickly catch his team mate who was in fourth place at the time.
Danny Kvyat was on older soft compound tyres and following Sebastian Vettel – also on older soft tyres. Kvyat was clearly not able to challenge Vettel for the podium so the team took the decision to give Ricciardo the opportunity to do so.
“He managed a brave move to get past Kimi,” said Horner, “and then it made sense to switch the drivers on the understanding that if he couldn’t pass the cars ahead he would have to give the position back.”
The Aussie was unable to make a move stick on Vettel, so with a lap to go the team ordered him to give back the place to his team mate.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained was the Red Bull pragmatic philosophy.
At the 2015 Singapore GP, Toro Rosso found themselves in a similar position with a handful of laps to go.
Verstappen was stuck behind Force India’s Sergio Perez, with Carlos Sainz on fresher tyres behind him.
The team made the call to Verstappen to let Sainz through and attack Perez, but the response from Max was a point blank “no.”
Carlos Sainz explained after the chequered flag, “I saw what Red Bull did in Monaco [where Ricciardo and Kvyat swapped positions] and said ‘this is the best thing you can do’ – play the team game and let the guy on a newer tyre, that was me, try, at least have one shot.”
“If I can’t [pass Perez], Max finishes P8 and me P9, not a problem. I just wanted one shot, he never gave it to me”.
Having made the call to allow Sainz though, you would think the team Principal would be at least irritated by Verstappen’s refusal to play the team game.
However, Franz Tost explained this was not the case. “Carlos had new tyres, [and asked] therefore [if he and Verstappen] can switch positions.
“But Carlos was too slow, he was too far behind – and then we said no, Max is right, because Carlos was too slow and could not have caught Perez.
“Therefore we said no, it doesn’t make sense. Carlos was also three to five tenths behind [Verstappen]; he had to be closer for us to switch positions.”
Williams attempted the same thing in 2014, telling Massa to allow Bottas threw and the Brazilian refused. However, Williams later admitted that the call to Massa was the wrong decision by them.
Yet Tost justifies the call being made but in the same breath refuses to criticise Verstappen for failing to obey the team order.
One has to wonder whether a certain Dr Marko had a quiet word at the end of the race and whether Max Verstappen is now their ‘No 1 driver’.